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#CatalysisTweepsMeeting at Europacat 2017

The small community of researchers who are active both in the field of heterogeneous catalysis and on Twitter had an informal get-together during the Europacat conference in Florence. The meeting, held in bar down town on the evening of the second day of the conference was a great opportunity to meet our colleagues in person, long after having “met” them on Twitter. Some of us stayed relatively late…



Attendees (follow them!):

Damien Cornu @damienaberlin

Carlos Carrero @CarlosCatalysis @CarreroGroup_AU

Ewa Nowicka @EwaNowicka7

Damien Debecker @deuxbeck

Riikka Puurunen @rlpuu @AaltoCatalysis

Nishtha Agarwal @nishtha_14 @CCI_Cardiff

Pedro Castro @Piter_Castro

Juan M. Venegas @JuanMVenegas

Simon Freakley @Drsimonf

Sari Rautiainen @SariRautiainen

Kostas Goulas @goulas_catal


Also present at Europacat but not at our meeting (follow them 😉 ):

Michael Rowan @ChemCatChem

Hamid Arandiyan @HamidArandiyan

Victor Baldovino @vigabalme


I hope I didn’t forget anyone.


As a reminder, I have created a Twitter list for accounts which tweet about (mainly heterogeneous) catalysis. It is here. Nice way to keep up to date with what is shared and discussed in our field. I am happy to add people; just get in touch with me.




CiteScore: Elsevier’s new metrics for impact

In Elsevier’s words: “CiteScore metrics: a new standard that gives a more comprehensive, transparent and current view of a journal’s impact.”

Are you guys really sure about this? I just collected the Impact Factor and the CiteScore values for a range of journals in my field (chemistry, catalysis, materials science). Here is how the metrics correlate:

Like them or not, both metrics rely on similar calculation methodss, ultimately reflecting the average rate of citations for papers published in a given journal. Whether you love or hate Impact Factors, you can safely love or hate CiteScore in the same way.


Honored to receive the “Green Chemistry for Life” grant from UNESCO, IUPAC and PhosAgro!

A few days before the deadline for the call, I was about to abandon the preparation of the project, due to a lack of time (and, I confess, a little bit of procrastination). It is my colleagues from Halle, Martin Weissenborn, who sent me a few emails encouraging me to wrap up the application and offering his precious help to do so. Thank you Martin for the boost! As I couldn’t make it to St Petersbourg last week, it is Martin who represented the project, recieved the certificate and gave the awardee talk.

Martin Weissenborn recieves the award at the 21st International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2017), St. Petersburg, Russia

The grant programme aims to promote the implementation of innovative research projects in green chemistry by young scientists that respect the principles of green chemistry. A grant of ~ US$30,000 is awarded to support a one-year research project. This award will allow me to start an exciting collaboration with Martin’s excellent research group active in the development of enzymes. It will also allow us to follow up on promising results we are currently obtaining in the lab. I am also happy for my PhD student, Ludivine van den Biggelaar, who will have the opportunity to enrich her research experience with a stay in Germany and with stimulating new experiments.

Our project aims at developing greener ways to produce important drug precursors, in this precise case, chiral amines. These molecules can be obtained by classical multi-step processes, which involve the use of organometallic catalysts and harsh reaction treatments. These processes however require intensive purification procedures and have a relatively poor environmental performance. Enzymes can do the job in a much greener fashion, but they need to be immobilized on a suitable support to allow their recovery and reuse. Another way to make the process even greener is to switch from batch to continuous processes. To that end, we produce macroporous foams that can be easily used as an enzyme carrier in a flow process. The project supported by the programme is to use a combination of 2 or more enzymes to carry out a cascade reaction leading to the desired chiral amine, with high (enantio)selectivity. To do this, we have to engineer and select our own enzyme mutants able to make the targeted reactions. This is the job of our partner in Halle. The grant will allow us to team up for the development of a truly green and efficient continuous production process relying on enzymes.

I am thankful to the Green Chemistry for Life programme: this kind of tools supporting the initiative of young researchers is really precious. Multidisciplinary research is essential. Thus, fostering effective collaboration is key. I met Martin Weissenborn during a post-doctoral research stay at the University of Manchester in 2011. Since then we have been keeping in touch, always promising each other to collaborate “one day”. The grant offered by the Green Chemistry for Life programme allows us to finally make this happen.


Plus que 3 jours pour postuler à un mandat d’assistant

Les assistants sont une pièce maîtresse de notre système d’enseignement et de recherche universitaire. Ils réalisent un doctorat (PhD) et assistent les profs en se chargeant des travaux pratiques, labo, séances d’exercices, etc. La Faculté des Bioingénieurs ouvre 4 postes cette année. La deadline pour postuler est le 22 mai. Il y a 4 domaines couverts.

Pour ce qui concerne les enseignement dont j’ai la charge, c’est cet assistant qui sera concerné (chimie physique, matériaux et procédés): lien vers l’annonce

Le ou la candidat(e) devra choisir un(e) promoteur(trice) de thèse et un sujet. Si c’est moi, ça parlera de catalyse ou de biocatalyse hétérogène. N’hésitez pas à me contacter (damien . debecker @ uclouvain . be) ou à contacter la Fac.


Seminar: Methods for the Development of Novel Enzyme Activities: Carbonyl-Olefinations (May 9, 14.00)

In the framework of a collaboration – supported by the recently obtained “PhosAgro/UNESCO/IUPAC research grant in green chemistry” – we have the pleasure to host Jun.-Prof. Martin Weissenborn in our lab.

Martin comes from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, in Halle, Germany. I had the chance to work with him during my post-doctoral stay at the University of Manchester, in 2012. He was then a PhD student in the group of Sabine Flitsch and Nick Turner. Now, this collaboration will allow us to jointly to follow up on this work.

Martin will present a lecture on May 9 (14.00, LAVO 51, Place Louis Pasteur in Louvain-la-Neuve). He will focus on how to find novel enzyme activities.

Please join us!

Here is the abstract of the talk:

Biocatalysis has a growing ‘toolbox’ of commercially available enzymes which are capable of catalysing functional group interconversions with exceptional regio- and stereoselectivities. Biocatalysts for the formation of C–C bonds, however, are largely undeveloped. Due to their importance in organic chemistry and to build complex molecules for the use in synthetic biology, enzymes can be used as catalysts for C–C bond formations.  Organisms consist of a vast diversity of proteins which vary in size, structure and function. E. coli, for instance, contains 4400 proteins of which only 50 % have been experimentally characterised. Most of these proteins are presumably promiscuous. Screening organisms such as E. coli with non-natural substrates — like carbenes — could reveal new enzyme activities and promiscuities of thus far uncharacterised proteins.  Therefore, a general method to find novel enzyme activities has been employed which recently resulted in the identification of the first enzyme catalysed carbonyl-olefination reaction. This method is structured into three parts: 1) probing the natural repertoire of proteins by utilising concentrated cell lysates, 2) performing biocatalytic studies on the identified protein and reaction, 3) developing the corresponding protein towards useful and industrial relevant substrates and products by using directed evolution in combination with a cell growth selection assay.  This general approach is applicable to any organism and catalytic reaction of interest.  My talk will be about the employed method to find novel enzyme activities as well as the discovered enzymatic Wittig-type carbonyl-olefination reaction and its application.  

22 mars 2016 – Au cours, les étudiants s’agitaient autour de leurs smartphones

Je suis un prof plutôt zen. À l’étudiant qui regarde son smartphone plutôt que de s’attacher à déchiffrer ce que je griffonne au tableau, je ne fais jamais de remarque. Après tout, c’est son problème. Tant que ça ne dérange pas le bon déroulement du cours. De même, les petits chuchotements, dans un auditoire globalement calme et respectueux, ne me gênent pas. Et si d’aventure ils me gênent, un regard appuyé suffit à ramener les éléments dissipés au calme.

Mais ce jour-là, au cours, le 22 mars 2016, tout est différent. Je tente de me concentrer sur les explications que je dois donner à mon auditoire. Ce faisant, mon regard bute, à répétition, sur des étudiants anormalement distraits par leurs smartphones. J’applique mon susmentionné regard appuyé, sans succès. Les étudiants chuchotent. Se retournent pour montrer l’écran de leurs appareils connectés aux voisins. Mon regard désapprobateur devient insistant et sévère. C’est presque l’heure de la pause, mais je m’apprête à faire une remarque. Un étudiant le perçoit. Il sait que je ne sais pas. Il me toise d’un œil grave, perplexe, anxieux. Un regard que je n’oublierai jamais. Il y a un problème. Zaventem. Maelbeek. Bombes. Morts.

Quelques mois plus tôt, avec ce même groupe d’étudiants, la voix tremblante, j’interrompais le cours – comme partout – pour demander à tous de se lever et d’observer une minute de silence. Bataclan. Terrasses. Bombes. Morts.

Cette fois, c’est chez nous, à Bruxelles. Ça ne change rien ; c’est toujours ce même sentiment d’horreur. Simplement, ce jour-là il y a en plus une inquiétude pour les proches. Palpable. Chacun sort de la classe. Chacun appelle ses parents, ses amis.

La pause durera un peu plus longtemps que d’habitude ce 22 mars 2016.

“Sol–Gel Chemistry: A Toolbox for Catalyst Preparation” – Call for paper

Acting as a guest editor of a special issue entitled “Sol–Gel Chemistry: A Toolbox for Catalyst Preparation”, to be published by the open access journal “Catalysts“, I invite you to consider submitting your latest work on the topic!

Sol–gel chemistry encompasses a wide range of chemical routes that allow producing tailored solid materials starting form molecular precursors. Specifically in the field of heterogeneous catalysts preparation, sol–gel methods permit the design of advanced catalytic formulations showing unique properties. Taking advantage of the controlled synthesis conditions in sol–gel methods, chemists develop catalytic materials which exhibit improved catalytic performance thanks to their advantageous textures, structures, compositions, homogeneity, surface functionality, etc. This field is evolving quickly as, for example, new processing modes, new molecular precursors or new templating agents are proposed.

In fact, our ability to modernise industrial chemistry, strongly relies on our aptitude to design and understand new types of catalysts with specific properties and exhibiting remarkable catalytic behaviour. The challenges are numerous. The transition from a petro-based chemical industry to a bio-based one requires multifunctional catalysts that can withstand polar working conditions. Embracing the huge potential of natural or genetically engineered enzymes requires effective immobilization strategies to obtain efficient heterogeneous biocatalysts. Turning batch chemical processes into continuous flow mode processes requires catalysts that can be moulded so as to allow optimal mass transfer. In all these examples, sol–gel chemistry can help shape innovative solutions.

Catalysts MDPI - Damien Debecker - special issue - guest editor - sol-gelThis Special Issue aims to cover recent progress and trends in synthesizing advanced heterogeneous catalysts by sol–gel chemistry routes.

Assoc. Prof. Damien P. Debecker
Guest Editor


  • Sol–gel chemistry
  • Evaporation-induced self-assembly
  • Hybrid catalysts
  • Enzyme immobilization
  • Mixed oxides
  • Flow chemistry with heterogeneous catalyst
  • Porous catalysts
  • Monoliths and shaped catalysts
  • Multifunctional catalysts
  • Hierarchical porosity
  • Immobilization of organometallic complexes
  • Xerogel
  • Aerogel
  • Aerosol
  • Non-hydrolytic sol–gel
  • Sacrificial templates and surfactants



Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Catalysts is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs).

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