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The Royal Dutch Society of Engineers (KIVI) awarded UvA student Rolf Beerthuis its 'best poster' award during the Symposium 'Engineering for a Sustainable Future' held in March at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Beerthuis, master student Molecular Design, Synthesis and Catalysis, presented research into 'Novel Biorenewable Routes to Acrylic Acid'.

Rolf Beerthuis
Rolf Beerthuis

Rolf Beerthuis is a master student in the Heterogeneous Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry group of the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS). His research, supervised by Dr N. Raveendran Shiju and Prof. Gadi Rothenberg is part of the UvA Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry.

Biorenewable feedstock

Acrylic acid is a versatile building block (monomer) for the synthesis of various products such as superabsorbent polymers (e.g. for diapers) and various acrylic esters (e.g. for synthetic rubber). In 2012, around 4.5 million metric tons of acrylic acid were produced worldwide.

The predominant industrial synthesis of acrylic acid is via a two-step gas-phase oxidation of propylene. The latter is a hydrocarbon derived from processing oil. Rolf is now researching the production of acrylic acid from biorenewable feedstocks, as an alternative to fossil carbon sources.