Utrecht University: Master student Lars Killian wins Unilever Research Prize 2021

Lars Killian, Master student of Nanomaterials Science, wins one of this year’s Unilever Research Prizes. The Unilever Research Prize is an annual award granted to young scientists. Universities nominate their best Master’s students – those who have done exceptional work on topics that are relevant to one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

During his research Lars studied a catalyst that is of relevance for more efficient storage and transportation of hydrogen. This requires binding the hydrogen molecules to other liquid carriers, and releasing them again when the pure hydrogen is needed. Lars developed a new catalyst for this type of reactions, and discovered that the catalyst itself reacts with hydrogen in a surprising way.

This outcome is relevant to one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (number 7: affordable and clean energy). Both the catalyst that Lars developed and the new insights into its reactivity contribute to the development of a new type of catalyst for more efficient storage and transport of hydrogen. Hydrogen can be made from renewable energy and only emits water when used as a fuel, making it a strong contender for more versatile use of renewable energy. In this way, Lars’ research is of relevance towards providing cleaner and more affordable energy.

According to his supervisor Danny Broere, Lars is a scientist pur sang: “I have never encountered a student that could both analyze scientific problems and communicate his findings with as much rigor, detail and clarity as Lars can.”

After his bachelor in Chemistry and his Master Nanomaterials Science – both at Utrecht University – Lars now is working as a PhD candidate in the Organic Chemistry & Catalysis group at the Debye Institute for Nanomaterial Science. He is doing research on electrochemical transformation of CO2 in the group of Arnaud Thevenon.

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