Sustainable chemistry for the future: behind the scenes of VITO

15 November 2022 18:00 – 22:30
Location: VITO, Boeretang 200, Mol, Belgium
Category: Central division

Language: English


  • 18h-19h Registration
  • 19h-20h Visit of VITO Pilot Facilities
  • 20h-21h Plenary Lectures
    • Bert Bouwman – Sustainable chemistry: will alternative resources and process transformations change the future?
    • Maarten Rubens – Polymers for a world ahead: from sustainable design, over reuse, design to reuse
    • Jan Vaes – Electrochemistry to transform the industry of tomorrow
    • Jasper Lefevre – 3D printing as a platform technology
  • 21h-22h30 Network reception with the possibility to inquire about internships, doctorate, postdoc, job


  • Participation rates
    • KVCV-Members: 2 euro
    • Non-Members: 6 euro
  • Buy here your entrance ticket(s) before 31/10/2022.
  • For group registrations more than 10 persons: contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  • Bus transport from Antwerp is optionally available. Other boarding locations are cancelled due to insufficient demand (refunds will be provided). Buy your ticket before 31/10/2022.
  • Boarding locations: (exact locations and times subject to change, update with definitive info will follow soon)
    • Antwerpen (Crowne Plaza) - Departure estimated at 17:00
  • Fees bus transport
    • KVCV-Members: 5 euro
    • Non-Members: 10 euro
  • Route description to VITO:


Interested in launching your career within VITO? This is already possible in quite a few ways:

  • For students, VITO is a popular company to start an internship for your bachelor’s or master’s thesis. You work on your thesis in a team, carrying out a part of the VITO research independently.
  • The next step can be the start of a PhD, in which you study a research topic in collaboration with a university supervisor and a VITO co-promoter.
  • In recent years, our organization has also strongly focused on post-doctoral positions, where you apply the knowledge you have gained from a doctorate to research challenges within VITO.
  • VITO also has a regular need for technicians, lab technicians, engineers and researchers with a chemical background.

More information about VITO:



Sustainable chemistry: will alternative resources and process transformations change the future?

The world we live in, is in transition. More and more, humanity has to deal with immense economic, environmental and societal challenges. To address these challenges, a modern framework in which sustainability is placed at the heart of all solutions is required. The chemical industry is a crucial element and critical actor of almost all strategic value chains and supplies products to all sectors of the economy. As such, the chemical industry is a key player in enabling sustainable development in an environmental, economic, and societal context and is therefore at the forefront of the transition to a more sustainable world. But despite the huge economic success of the past and the efforts exerted, the European and Flemish chemical and chemistry-using industries, however, are facing major challenges. The European and Flemish chemical industry are at a crossroad and need to boost competitiveness, jobs, and inclusive growth, while at the same time they must deal with climate change, resource depletion and their impact on human life. This can only be achieved by transformational actions.

In VITO, we are developing different technologies and products that contribute to sustainable chemistry, on the one hand via alternative resources for the use of the ‘old’ fossil based oil. On the other hand via process transformations where the existing processes can become more efficient by lowering the resource use – whether that is energy, solvents, catalyst,… The use of biobased feedstock, with its inherent functionalities can substitute part of the current fossil based carbon. The direct use of electrons in chemistry allows efficient conversions and production of chemical building blocks – that’s where electrochemistry plays a vital role! Energy efficient separations, without exhaustive use of energy to distill off certain chemicals but rather use membranes to separate different fractions has a serious impact on the process footprint. Different examples will be given to clarify what sustainable chemistry can do…


Polymers for a world ahead: from sustainable design, over reuse, up to design to reuse

For decades we comfortably lived in a "throw-away" culture until images of floating garbage raised public alarm. We need a cultural change in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastics. But how can scientists contribute to this change? And what is the future of polymers in general?

Polymer design and development as well as technologies for its recycling are the mission of VITO’s research team SPOT ( Improving the footprint of materials is targeted by replacing fossil feedstock or building blocks in the design of the polymers by more sustainable resources like biobased or recycled ingredients. This delivers materials that are more safe or deliver a lower CO2 footprint, but also where the performance - when benchmarked against the current fossil based material - is preferentially better due to the inherent use of functional features of the biobased ingredient like UV blocking, thermal stability, flameretardant. Besides the use of these more renewable building blocks, the need for materials and polymers that are easier to recycle is the next thing to improve the end-of-life of many everyday products.

Working together with different actors, both industrial as well as others, on renewable building blocks allows to develop polymers and move beyond g scale. VITO itself invested in a pilot facility for the production at ton scale of bioaromatics derived from lignin. These bioaromatic fractions are alternatives for different fossil based derived aromatics like phenolics, polyols and bisphenols for material development like adhesives, polyurethanes and epoxies.


Electrochemistry to transform the industry of tomorrow

Electrochemistry is the mastery of chemical reactions that involve an external electron transfer. This allows (1) Electrosynthesis, i.e. steering reactions with electrical power; and (2) Harvesting reaction energy as electrical power.
In contrast to “conventional” chemistry, the reaction energy, either endo- or exothermal, is fed or harvested directly though electrical power in an external circuit. As such, it offers an extra degree of freedom to steer reaction rates by regulating power, with an extra cost of added complexity (partitioned reactors, membranes, current connections, etc.). Therefore, it sits in the core of the energy and industry transition towards a defossilised, sustainable society since it allows (i) to use green electrons as a direct feedstock to drive reactions (as opposed to fossils), and (ii) to store green power in a chemical form (energy carriers).
The Electrochemistry Excellence Centre (ELEC) at VITO develops electrochemical processes together with the enabling materials, components and installations. It requires a multidisciplinary approach from material science, physical chemistry towards materials and process engineering. The major focus within ELEC is on Power-to-molecules, which translates in three strategic program lines: green hydrogen generation, CO2 electroreduction, and electrosynthesis of platform chemicals as high impact areas of this technology.


3D Printing as platform technology

3D printing offers a wide range of opportunities for different applications in the future. In comparison with traditional shaping technologies it allows for much more freedom of design and material efficiency. 3D printing has long been considered as a prototyping technology but now starts to find its way towards in production processes.

At VITO, 3D micro-extrusion technology is used for as platform technology to shape materials for a wide range of applications such as catalysis, sorption, heat exchangers, batteries and chromatography. In this technique a viscous paste is pushed through a nozzle that follows a predetermined movement, in this way a structure gets build up layer by layer. Each application has its unique challenges resulting in different materials and designs to be printed. When shaping the different materials, it is crucial to control the properties from macro to nano scale, from design to surface behavior.

The results are promising for the application of 3D printing in industry. However, in parallel with printing new materials and discovering the benefits in application, an effort is needs to be made in the upscaling of the 3D printing technology. In the field of catalyst printing first steps have been made with the build of a pilot production line to prove the scalability and do the techno-economical assessment.