Professor Freek Kapteijn wins Hoogewerff gold medal

Professor of Chemical Catalysis, Dr Freek Kapteijn, specialises in catalysis and reactor design. His achievements have won him the Hoogewerff Fund Foundation’s gold medal, an oeuvre award that is granted every three to five years.

"Research requires patience, there are no easy wins" (Photo: Delft Chemtech)
"Research requires patience, there are no easy wins" (Photo: Delft Chemtech)

The Hoogewerff Fund Foundation was set up one hundred years ago by the Delft chemistry professor Dr Sebastiaan Hoogewerff (1847-1934) on August 29 1917 – his seventieth birthday. Its mission is to stimulate and reward excellence in research and education, and to recognise the value of chemical technology.

To this end, the Hoogewerff Gouden Medaille award is granted to a renowned person who has distinguished himself or herself in chemical technology. The gold medal is only granted occasionally and Professor Kapteijn of the Faculty of Applied Sciences is only the twenty-second recipient of the award in one hundred years. Many of his predecessors have ties with one of the technical universities, Shell or Akzo.

Professor Kapteijn responded from Japan, where he is attending a conference. "I feel honoured to receive the award, considering the illustrious company of predecessors, many of whom were celebrities from TU Delft. I understand that this is an oeuvre award, to which many people have contributed over the years. I regard my career as a decathlon, in which I used to compete. Just like in decathlons, in my work in combining catalysis and engineering, you need to master many different aspects to be successful. It requires patience, there are no easy wins. I regard the award as a confirmation of our approach."

In the press release, the jury explicitly mentions Kapteijn's work on structured catalytic reactors as being both of exceptional quality and highly valued in its applications. Kapteijn developed the decisive insight that the activity of a catalyst strongly depends on the reactor in which it is used. He postulated that only if the combination of catalyst and reactor is good will it lead to the optimum yield of the desired product with minimal waste and by-products.

In his recent work, Kapteijn has focussed on zeolites and metal organic frameworks (MOFs) as a means of intensifying processes in the chemical industry. Together with Professor Jorge Gascon, Kapteijn leads a ten million euro research project called M4CO2 which aims to deploy MOFs that selectively pass through CO2 molecules. One application could be for the European Union which hopes to develop filters that remove CO2 from exhaust gases.

Kapteijn studied chemical technology and mathematics at the University of Amsterdam, where he became Associate Professor after his graduation in 1980. In 1993, he moved to TU Delft, where he became Full Professor six years later. Since 2008, he has lead the Catalysis Engineering section at the Chemical Engineering Department of the Applied Sciences Faculty.

Kapteijn will receive the Hoogewerff Gouden Medaille at the Chains 2017 congress on Wednesday, December 6 2017. He will deliver a lecture on his work the following day.

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