In the unusual setting of a fully on-line defense ceremony where all participants including the candidate joined from home, Mr Zhenghang Zhu from Hangzhou, China managed to successfully defend his PhD thesis and to leave the session as a full-flown Doctor.
His project, which was partially supported by Syngaschem BV and by InSolutions BV, was an extremely challenging one, namely to explore if catalytic reactions can be carried out at higher efficiency by heating the catalytic particles selectively with microsecond pulses, in which the catalyst heats up and cools down rapidly. Zhenghang’s succeeded in designing a new reactor for this purpose, in which small catalyst particles of any composition can be deposited on a heater platform that responds instantly to heating pulses in the microsecond range, while the products of reaction are monitored by a mass spectrometer. He also managed to find a clever way to determine the actual temperatures of the catalyst during the transient pulses, which is a noteworthy achievement in itself. As the Illustration shows, the rate of CO oxidation on platinum nanoparticles (left part of the figure) increases up to 25 times, while the power input (right part) stays more or less constant (or actually decreases somewhat).