I am a bio-engineer with a PhD in chemical engineering, developing adsorption based methods for the recovery of renewable chemicals, the capture of CO2, or the removal of trace contaminants from gas streams. I use both experimental methods to understand adsorption mechanisms, as well as modelling methods to understand their efficiency in a separation process. I obtained my PhD in 2021 from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels, Belgium) under the supervision of prof. J. Denayer, focussed on the adsorptive recovery of biobutanol from dilute fermentation broths. I was awarded the Ilya Prigogine prize in 2016 and a Gustave-Boël Sofina fellowship in 2021, for a research stay in the group of prof. S. Brandani (Edinburgh, UK). In 2021, I obtained the 3rd place at the Vlaamse PhD cup. Subsequently, I joined Ghent University (Belgium) as a post-doc, investigating mass transfer in ceramic membranes for organic solvent nanofiltration. Afterwards, I moved to the MADIREL laboratory at Aix-Marseille Universtiy, where I investigated the adsorption-based separation of propane and propylene. Currenlty, I am a Maître de Conférences (Associate Professor) studying the application of zeolites and Metal Organic Frameworks for the capture of CO2, gas storage and the purification of gas mixtures.
A complete list of scientific publications can be found here or on google scholar. I have published 10 articles, 1 book chapter, given 6 talks and 2 poster presentations.
Sept. 2023 - Now
Maître de Conférences / Associate Professor (Aix-Marseille Université, France)
- Research on adsorption phenomena in zeolites and MOFs
- Teaching in the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Aix-Marseilly University
Oct. 2022 - Aug. 2023
Post-Doctoral Researcher (CNRS, MADIREL, Aix-Marseille Université, France)
- Investigating the use of zeolites for the adsorptive recovery of propane and propylene
- Part of the ANR SAAMM project, consisting of 4 university partners in France
Mar. 2021 - Oct. 2022
Post-Doctoral Researcher (PaInt & BIOMATH, Ghent University, Belgium)
- Investigating mass transfer in ceramic membranes for organic solvent nanofiltration
- Part of the EASICHEM project, involving 5 universities and 1 research institute.
Oct. 2016 - Feb. 2021
PhD researcher (prof. J. Denayer, VUB, Brussels, Belgium)
- Enhancing biobutanol recovery via adsorption.
- Research stay in the group of prof. S. Brandani (University of Edinbrugh, UK)
Jul. 2015 - Aug. 2015
Internship at Johnson & Johnson (Belgium)
- Evaluation of an at-column dilution system for preparative supercritical chromatography
2016 - 2021
Doctor of Engineering Sciences (VUB, Brussels, Belgium)
- Greatest distinction with special congratulations of the reviewing committee
2014 - 2016
Master of Science in Bio-Engineering Sciences (VUB, Brussels, Belgium)
- Greatest Distinction
- MSc thesis: multicolumn adsorption for the vapor phase recovery of acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation products
2011 - 2014
Bachelor of Science in Bio-Engineering Sciences
- Greatest Distinction
- Vapor isotherm measurements (gravimetric)
- Volumetric gas adsorption equilibria measurements (coupled to microcalorimetry)
- Liquid isotherm measurements
Mass Transfer in Porous Materials
- Gravimetric uptake measurements
- Zero length column chromatography
- Crossflow membrane filtration
Pore Size Characterisation
- Ar / N2 physisorption
- Hg intrusion porosimetry
- Gas, liquid and supercritical chromatography
- Scanning Electron Microscopy
- Simulating dynamic separations in fixed-bed adsorption columns.
- Implementation of Method of Lines using a Finite Volume scheme.
- Implementation of thermodynamically consistent equilibrium models (IAST, RALF).
- Simulation of steady-state velocity profiles in structured adsorbents.
- Running simulations on the high-performance computing cluster of the VUB.
- Drawing of structural models for CFD simulations.
- Design of cover art for two journal articles.
- Development of organic solvent nanofiltration modelling module.
- Using NumPy, pandas, matplotlib modules.
- Object-oriented implementation.
- Running these codes on the high performance computing cluster of UGent.
D. Illana González (2021 – 2022, UGent)
Modelling of ion exchange column dynamics
L. Smets (2022 - 2023, UGent)
Investigating solvent-membrane affinity effects in OSN.
E. Strybol (2021 – 2023, UGent)
Investigating solute-solvent-membrane affinity in OSN
M. Verstraete (2021 – 2022, UGent)
Adsorptive recovery of phenol from steam cracker blowdown water
M. Coolen (2020 – 2021, VUB)
Development of a Vapor - Liquid – Solid Equilibrium and Dynamic Model for Displacement Desorption
E. J. Beckwée (2020 – 2021, VUB)
Carbon monoliths for the adsorptive separation of biobutanol: liquid versus vapor phase separation performance
S. Elibol (2019 – 2020, VUB)
Adsorptive recovery of bio-isobutanol in liquid/supercritical CO2: frontal analysis and model development
G. R. Wittevrongel (2018 – 2019, VUB)
All-silica Beta zeolite for the vapor phase adsorptive separation of bio-isobutanol mixtures
M. De Staercke (2017 – 2018, VUB)
Adsorbents for the Recovery of Isobutanol: Identification, Characterization and Evaluation of Desorption Methods
N. Dubois (2017 – 2018, VUB)
3D-Printed Structured ZIF-8 Adsorbents for the Vapour Phase Adsorptive Recovery of Bioalcohols
71st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
One of 4 Belgian chemists selected by the FWO to participate in the yearly Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. At this conference, 600 young researchers are selected worldwide to attend lectures by and exchange ideas with Nobel laureates (~30 laureates attend the meeting).
3rd place at the Vlaamse PhD cup
National science communication competition. Goal is to present your PhD research in 3 min. to a broad audience. Open to PhD candidates from all possible fields.
Gustave Boël Sofina Prize
Fellowship (€21 800) awarded by the Platform for Education & Talent.
Funding of a 6-month research stay in the lab of prof. S. Brandani.
Best poster award
at the annual meeting of the British Zeolite Association.
Ilya Prigogine Prize
Award for most promising student finishing his degree in Bio-engineering or Chemistry at VUB and ULB, awarded by the International Solvay Institutes.
2021 – Now
Digitalization for resource recovery – Ghent University (2 h/y)
Teaching the basics of adsorption column dynamics for the recovery of organics from wastewater sources (adsorption / regeneration) to 2nd Master bio-engineering students.
2017 - 2020
Thermodynamics – Vrije Universiteit Brussel (39 h/y)
Weekly 3h exercise sessions to 2nd bachelor bioengineering, physics and chemistry students.
2019 – 2020
Development of 3rd Bachelor project – Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Development, from scratch, of a student project (72 h/y) for ca. 40 bio-engineering students, in collaboration with 6 colleagues. Based on my PhD research topic. Students have to build their own, medium scale adsorption column to recover biobutanol from model mixtures. They have to analyze samples, perform Aspen simulations and compare different purification technologies.
2016 – 2019
Unit Operations lab sessions – Vrije Universiteit Brussel (48 h/y)
Teaching weekly 4h lab sessions on gas / solid fluidization to students of 3rd bachelor bio-engineering, 3rd bachelor chemical engineering and 1st Master chemical engineering.
2016 – 2019
Heterogenous Catalysis lab sessions – Vrije Universiteit Brussel (42 h/y)
Teaching full-day lab session on adsorption column dynamics, using n-butanol adsorption in ZIF-8 as a case study. Audience were 1st Master chemical engineering and bio-engineering students.
Responsibilities & Services
2023 - Now
Board member of the Groupe Française des Zéolithes
Representative of PhD students and Post-docs in the board of the GFZ. Co-organizer of the GFZ 2024 meeting
Healing Water - member of selection committee - Z33 (Hasselt, Belgium)
Art center Z33 was organising an exhibition and residency for artists (designers, architects, ...) around the theme "water in our society". I was part of the jury selection committee, evaluating project proposals and selecting candidates.
Reviewer for the IWA World Water Congress
Member of Scientific Committee 7th Young Water Professionals meeting
Organizer of weekly seminars
Organizing weekly seminars in our research group at Ghent University. PhD students and post-docs present their latest research results or anything scientifically interesting they encountered in the past time.
2021 – 2022
Post-Doc representative at CAPTURE
I represented all post-doctoral researchers in the governing council of the new CAPTURE building in Ghent. In this building, 6 research groups merged their research activities in 2021, requiring quite a lot of finetuning between the different members.
2016 – 2022
I represented bio-engineering alumni in the educational council of the Bio-Engineering Sciences department at VUB.
2011 – 2016
Student representative in departmental and faculty council of the Faculty of Sciences at the VUB.
2013 – 2015
Vice-president and president of the bio-engineering student society.
Communication to a Non-Expert Audience
Since my participation in the PhD cup, I try to actively communicate my research results to a broad audience via social media posts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and blog posts on my personal website. I also give talks for a broad audience about my research. As a result of my participation in the PhD cup, I was invited to write a contribution to EOS magazine blogs and the alumni magazine of the VUB.
"Maken we binnenkort fietsbanden van ons GFT-afval?"
Dag van de Wetenschap (27/11/2022)
Talk about my PhD research at the science festival in Ghent.
"Van groenafval naar 'groene' verf"
PhD cup finale (11/10/2021)
Magazine & Newspaper Articles
"Van groenafval naar "groene" verf met ultraporeuze spons"
EOS magazine (13/09/2021)
EOS is the largest Flemish scientific magazine for popular scientific articles
"Van groenafval naar 'groene' verf."
BREA magazine ed. oktober – december 2021
"Van groenafval plastic maken, ik kan dat, zegt biotechnoloog Benjamin Claessens"
I gave an interview about my PhD work at Belgian radio station Radio 1. The program Nieuwe Feiten is focused on interesting new developments in science & society. Radio 1 is one of the largest national radio stations.
Membership of Professional Societies
Member of the International Adsorption Society (2019 - now)
The IAS is an international network gathering all researchers in the field of adsorption. IAS organizes the triannual Fundamentals of Adsorption conference.
Member of B-IWA (2021 - now)
B-IWA is the Belgian committee of the International Water Association and serves as a network for researchers and professionals in the water industry.
Member of the European Membrane Society (2021 - now)
The EMS is the European organization uniting all European researchers in the membrane field. EMS organizes the yearly EuroMembrane conference.
Member of ie-net and BrEA. (2016 - now)
ie-net and BrEA are the national and Brussels' based alumni network for Belgian engineers.
Member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2019 - 2020)
AIChE is the professional network of chemical engineers in the USA. Their annual conference is one of the most important conferences for Chemical Engineers.