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Leiden research addresses energy challenges

Climate change and energy transition were an important theme of the Dutch provincial elections: how should we invest in new sources of energy? Leiden University conducts multidisciplinary research into renewable energy solutions. Read more about this in the ‘Renewable Energy’ research dossier.

The public and political debate is dominated by the transition to new sources of energy. In the meantime, the clock is ticking fast: most scientists agree that the energy transition will have to have taken place by 2050. This requires new methods that make the best possible of clean, renewable energy sources, such as the sun.

The lab of chemist Irene Groot. Her research into catalysis is unique: it is performed under high pressure and at high temperatures (Photo: Irene Groot).

Fuel production

Chemists from Leiden are looking into how to make chemical processes, which play an important role in the conversion of sunlight into useful products, as efficient as possible. Professor Marc Koper is an authority in the field of CO2 reduction and how electrolysis can be used to convert water and CO2 into products such as hydrogen. Irene Groot focuses on the process of catalysis. If we want to convert CO2 into clean fuels on an industrial scale, we will need the right catalysts: surfaces on which the chemical reaction takes place. But we know too little about catalysis to be able to say what the perfect catalyst is. Groot is one of the first scientists to research catalysis under genuine industrial conditions: under high pressure and at high temperatures.

Biochemist Huub de Groot has spent years working on a revolutionary system that mimics how plants use photosynthesis to transform sunlight into various chemical products. If we can copy that process, we will be able to produce fuels from sunlight.

Public perception

The provincial elections were also about the public reaction to wind and solar farms. Leiden is already devoting a lot of attention to such issues. Psychologist Emma ter Mors conducts research into the public perception of energy projects and how policymakers can take this into account if they want to avoid public resistance to their projects. Geographer Bríd Walsh (LUC The Hague) believes that people should be encouraged as energy citizens: citizens with a personal interest in energy transition. 

Smarter use of materials

If we want to safeguard our future, we will also have to be more careful with our raw materials. The Leiden Institute of Environmental Sciences has the world’s largest database of raw material flows and collects valuable information on the use of raw materials.

Read the research dossier on Renewable Energy to find out more about the insights and progress being made at Leiden University when it comes to energy transition.

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