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Nanochemical technology: a new field for Delft’s chemists


The chemical engineers at Delft University of Technology are entering the new discipline of nanochemical technology. Building upon their solid background in chemical and process engineering, they want to build a bridge between the new fundamental concepts involved in nanotechnology and the process technology needed to turn them into practical applications. A recruitment campaign for three new academic chairs begins this week in Dutch and international journals.

Until now, Delft has concentrated mainly upon bulk chemical technology. Nanoscale products have attracted only limited attention. But that is going to change, says Peter Appel, Head of the Department of Chemical Technology (Delft ChemTech). “We want to widen our focus to include nanochemical technology,” he explains. “Around the world, this is regarded as the next phase in the development of chemical technology as a discipline. It is also an excellent match for other activities here in Delft, such as those of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience.”

From molecule to product

To take Chemical Technology in this new direction, the university is creating three academic chairs complete with infrastructure. They are in Supramolecular Chemistry, Self-Assembling Systems and Process & Product Engineering. As a result, the department will cover the entire production chain – a focus encapsulated in the slogan ‘from molecule to product’. Nanoscale molecules and structures are at the heart of the production processes. The research is fundamental in nature, but driven by practical applications.

Chemical Technology’s new course represents an expansion and a reinforcement of process engineering at Delft. The university’s activities in this field are now anchored in more than ten academic chairs spread across four departments and two faculties.


The prefix ‘nano’ refers to things happening at the level of a millionth of a millimetre: the nanometre. This is the world of atoms and molecules. The technological progress of recent years has finally made it possible to study particles and create structures at this level. Many of the properties of materials are determined at the nanoscale. So the nanosciences make up a promising branch of modern research, with potential applications in every conceivable field – from medical techniques to revolutionary materials. Whereas advances were mainly confined to demonstrations of spectacular theories until the recent past, we are now on the threshold of useful applications in the public domain. According to the Department of Chemical Technology, nanochemical technology has an important part to play in this.

Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
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