Open lecture by prof. dr. Emiel Hensen

23 november
16:00 - 17:00
High Tech Campus Eindhoven
TU/e Alumnirelaties

'The Role of Catalysis in the Clean Energy Transition'

We have far more oil, coal and gas than we can safely burn. Tackling global warming implies that we must leave most of our fossil reserves in the ground. This will require a completely different way of running our economy, shifting away from liquid fuels for mobility and deriving our chemicals and materials as much as possible from renewable resources. I will discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise from these changes and the enabling role that catalysis can play in the energy transition using examples of our own research. A view on the “catalysis by design” approach will be presented, which starts from molecular level understanding of reaction mechanism in relation to the atomic scale structure of catalytic surfaces. This approach is applied to the conversion of small molecules such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane as well as valorization of more complex biogenic resources such as lignin. A specific topic of importance for accelerated development of novel chemical processes relates to the integration of reactions, catalyst materials, reactors, and production processes at all length scales of importance.


Emiel Hensen received his PhD in 2000 from Eindhoven University of Technology. After a short stint at the University of Amsterdam, he returned in 2001 to Eindhoven as an assistant professor. He was appointed full professor in 2009. He was a visiting research scientist at the Shell Research and Technology Center Amsterdam from 2006-2008, visiting professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) from 2001 until 2016, visiting professor at Hokkaido University (Japan) in 2016 and distinguished professor at Xiamen University in China since 2016. Hensen is author of more than 350 publications, 2 patents, and 10+ book contributions. He obtained Veni, Vidi and Vici grants as well as a TOP grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Hensen is chairman of the Netherlands Research School for Catalysis (NIOK), management team member of the national gravitation program Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC), board member of the European Research Institute of Catalysis (ERIC) and board member of Chemelot InSciTe. He is member of the Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium. 

Hensen was appointed dean of the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry of the Eindhoven University of Technology in 2016.The research of Hensen focuses on the fundamental aspects of catalyzed reactions relevant to clean and sustainable processes for the production of fuels and chemicals with the aim to identify active sites and understand reaction mechanism. The working approach is to combine advanced characterization methods (synchrotron-based techniques such as X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction as well as vibrational and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies) with computational modeling (quantum chemistry, microkinetics modeling) and performance testing (kinetics, high-throughput methods, transient techniques) to guide the design and synthesis of nanoscopically organized and well-defined chemically functionalized catalytic solid materials. Catalytic target reactions are hydrocarbon activation by Brønsted and Lewis acid as well as redox centers in zeolites and related mesoporous materials, hydrotreating reactions by metal sulfides, the Fischer-Tropsch reaction, conversion of biogenic molecules such as sugars and lignin, and metal-support cooperativity in selective oxidation.