Meet our SIM² KU Leuven researcher: Joren van Stee

Joren van Stee is currently doing his PhD at SIM² KU Leuven in the research group of Prof. Tom Van Gerven who leads the SIM² research line on Process Intensification. Joren is working on solvent extraction in milliflow systems to be used in the metallurgical domain (recovery and  recycling of critical metals). Find out more about Joren van Stee and his work in the interview below. (PTJ, Leuven, 28/01/2019)

Why did you choose to work in Leuven?

Throughout my bachelor/master program I got intrigued by science and was committed to do research afterwards. During my master thesis at the department of chemical engineering (KU Leuven), I got in contact with exciting research in a dynamic and fun working environment. This is as important as the content of my work to me, which is why I wanted a PhD position at this research division. When I got offered a research position my current promotor, all pieces of the puzzle kind of fell together.

What are you working on?

My research focusses on the extraction processes in milliflow systems, which are basically tubes with a diameter around 1 mm. These systems can perform multiphase contacting much more efficiently and handle more complex mixtures than simple mixer-settlers. It is anticipated that this technology can open possibilities to new processes, such as the use of undiluted ionic liquids for hydrometallurgical processes in critical metal recycling. The first goal of my project is to investigate such new processes. In the second stage the objective is to increase the volumetric production of milliflow systems, which is a major barrier in industrialising this technology, by the use of ultrasound. At the end we’ll validate our findings by identifying several applications where the industry can benefit from the combined ultrasound-milliflow systems.

What attracts you in the research project you are working on?

I started my engineering studies to develop better technology for the future, today that wish has translated in doing research in the exciting field of process intensification technology. In addition, I am very happy that my project also involves recycling critical metals, which is a good thing from an environmental and economic perspective. But what intrigues me the most in my research is the sensitivity and complexity of what appears to be a simple system. It is fun to figure out how to get things to work and explain what is observed.

If you had a time machine, what point in the past or future would you visit? Why?

It would probably be 2100. We are currently facing a lot of technological, environmental and sociological challenges. As I hope to contribute a tiny bit to the solution, I am very interested to see if and how we will solve them in the future.

If you didn’t need a job, were healthy, and had plenty of time, what would you do?

I am the kind of person who wants to become everything when he grows up, so the plenty of time aspect interests me the most. I would probably still do this PhD, but also make more time to learn/do different things such woodworking, music instruments, start a company and hike the world.

What is the strangest talent you have?

Although I cannot do it deliberately, inventing words that do not exist but everyone understands their meaning.

Biography Joren van Stee

Photo Joren van SteeJoren van Stee was born in Leuven (Belgium) in 1994. He started a bachelor of industrial engineering (Groep T) in 2012 and switched to the bachelor of engineering sciences (KU Leuven) in 2013. In 2016 he obtained his bachelor’s degree and participated in a “Honours Program” project about metal valorization from wastewater. He obtained the degree “Master of Chemical Engineering” in 2018 and did his Master’s Thesis on anaerobic wastewater treatment. Currently, Joren is doing a PhD at the KU Leuven in the research group of Prof. Tom Van Gerven on solvent extraction in milliflow systems.

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