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Renske Donkers - A fresh look at droplet formation

Undaunted by the corona crisis, Renske Donkers, a student of Molecular Science and Technology, conducted her bachelor’s research in collaboration with an international university. Her contacts with her supervisors at the University of Limerick, in Ireland, were all online. Donkers contributed to resolving a problem in modelling droplet formation. She is one of the nominees for the Young Star Award 2020.

Essential

Even though Renske found Chemistry a rather abstract subject when she was in secondary school, she nonetheless opted for a degree programme that combines Chemistry and Technology. ‘Because of my bachelor’s in Molecular Science & Technology, I now realise that Chemistry is everywhere, and it’s essential to our survival,’ she says. ‘But it’s also becoming clearer that industry has a downside and it places huge demands on the world.’ Renske therefore believes that the chemical and technology sector is more relevant than ever. ‘To be able to supply people’s needs in the future, we’ll have to be more creative and make current processes more efficient and more sustainable.’

Renske with her bachelor certificate

Simple and realistic

Renske herself contributed to this by studying the possibilities of a new model for droplet formation. ‘With this relatively simple model we can do much faster simulations that would take a long time or that would even be unfeasible with the standard models for fluid dynamics,’ she explains.

Renske worked on what is known as the Lattice Boltzman model, a type of model that is relevant for all kinds of fluid dynamics applications, such as labs-on-a-chip, but also for industrial pipelines and reactors. ‘My research has also brought us a step closer to making realistic models of droplet formation,’ Renske says. ‘Once you have a good model, you can gain valuable information about the size of droplets in formation and particularly about how we can manipulate them effectively. This is important for use in designing very precise printers, but also for the delivery of medicines that are dissolved in small drops.’

‘With our new and relatively simple model we can do much faster simulations that would take a long time or even be unfeasible with the standard models for fluid dynamics.'

Expertise and a fresh view

During her research, Renske worked with experts from the Netherlands and Ireland.  ‘As a bachelor’s student, I had never been involved in modelling liquids, but I think this was an advantage because I was able to be open-minded in looking at the models.’  First, she coded a model herself, after which she had endless discussions with her supervisors. Renske: ‘There were a lot of critical questions back and forth, which brought out some new insights. I think this combination of expertise, a fresh view but more than anything else mutual respect and enthusiasm and good communication are what made this research so successful.’

Modelling for efficiency

In September 2020, Renske started the Master’s in Chemical Process Engineering at Delft University of Technology. ‘I really enjoy taking a solution-oriented approach and working towards realistic applications in industry.’ In her bachelor’s study, Donkers became aware of the enormous breadth of opportunities offered by numeric modelling. ‘And now I can see how we can apply these models in chemistry. I think it would be fantastic to use these kinds of models later on to make chemical processes as efficient and sustainable as possible.’

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