Innovation grants for smart nitrogen filters, improved water purification and novel electrodes

A single research group from Eindhoven University of Technology receives nearly one million euros in research funding. These are chemists from the Membrane Materials and Processes research group, within which three NWO LIFT projects of 300,000 euros each have been awarded. Researchers Kitty Nijmeijer and Zandrie Borneman will develop smart membranes that can reduce the nitrogen emissions from animal manure. In addition, they will tailor membranes for the purification of wastewater and the production of drinking water. Antoni Forner-Cuenca will investigate how porous electrodes with functional coatings can improve the functioning of fuel cells. The projects integrate the development of fundamental knowledge with industrial impact.

F.l.t.r.: Kitty Nijmeijer, Zandrie Borneman en Antoni Forner-Cuenca

Fourteen LIFT projects have been awarded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) within the ENW PPP fund that fit the top sectors Agri & Food, Chemistry, Energy and ICT. Three of them go to researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e. They will lead the following projects:

No time to waste

Lead applicant: Prof. dr. ir. Kitty Nijmeijer (TU/e), dr. Zandrie Borneman (TU/e)

Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, Darling Ingredients International, Agrifirm, Van Drie Group, De Heus Voeders B.V., Agra-Matic B.V., ForFarmers Nederland B.V.

The Council of State’s recent ‘nitrogen ruling’ slammed on the brakes throughout the Netherlands. It brought airport expansion, road building, and home building to a grinding halt. In addition, the motorway speed limit was cut from 130 km/hr to just 100 km/hr. The urgent need to cut nitrogen emissions became painfully clear. The agricultural sector is responsible for more than 40% of these emissions (mainly from animal manure). The research will involve the use of ‘Lego chemistry’ to develop smart membranes that can selectively extract nitrogen components from aqueous manure streams. In this way, nitrogen emissions from animal enclosures can be substantially reduced. Furthermore, the valuable minerals extracted from manure streams can be formulated into ideal, crop-specific fertilizers, thus minimizing any runoff into groundwater and surface water.

Tailor-made membranes

Lead applicant: Prof. dr. ir. Kitty Nijmeijer (TU/e), dr. Zandrie Borneman (TU/e)

Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, Pentair X-Flow

Our Western way of life is consuming four times as many resources as are available on Earth. And that’s not all – we are producing enormous waste flows. The goal of this project is to develop a simple, generic method to produce membranes that are specifically suited to applications such as the purification of industrial wastewater, the recovery of valuable substances from aqueous streams, or the production of clean drinking water. The properties of these ‘tailor-made membranes’ can be influenced and manipulated by applying separate, ultra-thin selective layers to a porous support structure. These membranes will enable the researchers to close the water cycle.

Porous electrodes with functional coatings

Lead applicant: Dr Antoni Forner-Cuenca (Eindhoven University of Technology)

Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, Nedstack fuel cell technologies B.V.

Decarbonizing our transportation and electricity generation sectors necessitates new clear energy technologies, to which electrochemistry will play a central role in the near future. All electrochemical systems rely on porous electrodes who have a major influence on the performance of fuel cells, batteries and electrolyzers. Using smart choices of materials and conditions, this project will develop very thin coatings to manipulate electrode surface properties such as wettability and ion conductivity. Thanks to these new surfaces, the researchers expect to increase device performance and durability, thereby decreasing the cost for market penetration.

About LIFT

The Launchpad for Innovative Future Technology (LIFT) is one of several public-private partnerships within the Science PPP fund. LIFT is designed to stimulate public-private partnership between at least one company and one knowledge institution.

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