In August 2018, Brecht Dewulf started his PhD in the Lab of Inorganic Chemistry supervised by Prof. Koen Binnemans. He is interested in non-aqueous solvent extraction for the separation of rare earths and wants to gain some expertise in mixer-settler operations. (Leuven 26/09/2018)

Why did you choose to work in Belgium?

It is maybe an obvious choice because I live in Belgium, but that would not have stopped to look further beyond the borders. However, I met Prof. Koen Binnemans and his research group and felt immediately ‘home’. I have now a lot of amazing colleagues and I am working on a very interesting project. Of course, the city of Leuven is amazing and there is so much to do around here (although I should not get too distracted by this 😉 ). Also, I am able to return to my hometown, Ieper, which is a beautiful city I will always cherish.

What are you working on?

I am investigating non-aqueous solvent extraction for the separation of rare earths. The great challenge I face is to gap the bridge between traditional metallurgical operations (hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, …) and solvometallurgy. Right now, I am working on the EU H2020 NEMO project, which envisions the revalorization of mining waste by extracting the (valuable) metals and using the residue in construction materials. In this way, the detrimental impact of waste disposal is avoided.

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

First, I am working on solvometallurgy, which is a relatively unexplored topic. It is always great to be able to pioneer in something. Secondly, we are working towards a real-life application of this new technology in the mining industry. To be part of this is amazing.

What do you like the most about doing research?

Doing research actually revives my ‘inner-child’. As a lot of colleagues might also have done when they were young, I have also experimented with stuff I found in the kitchen and mixed things together to see what would happen. I believe it is important to keep approaching chemistry with a sort of ‘childish’ wondering and curiosity since being able to change and control the properties and chemistry of materials is quite awesome.

What’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before?

One year ago, when I was in the train heading home after a week of studying in Leuven, I told a friend that if I would still be in Leuven in the next year, I wanted to learn to play music, I wanted to play the saxophone and would enroll myself. And as of September 2018, I enrolled myself at the music academy in Leuven and I just had my first courses in solfège. So I hope to be able to produce some sound out of my sax within a year of now.

How do you recharge?

I have several activities I do to relax during the weekend or holidays. I like to read a good book (historical fiction) or play computer games. When the weather is nice, I like to go biking, either with my mountain bike or on my race bike. Every week I go swimming at least once and I really like hiking as well. In the evening, I like to listen to music. Getting a drink or have dinner out with some friends is also a great way to relax.

BIO Brecht Dewulf

Brecht Dewulf was born in Waregem (Belgium) on July 12, 1995. He obtained his bachelor degree in chemistry in 2016 at the KU Leuven campus KULAK, after which he continued his master studies in Leuven, where he received his master’s degree in chemistry in 2018. During his studies, he focused on recycling and renewable materials. He is familiar with polymer chemistry, having worked on projects such as compatibilisers for reprocessing of mixed-polymer waste streams (VKC-Centexbel), the development of carbon fibers from renewable resources and the selective modification of cellulose nanocrystals. During his master, his interest in inorganic chemistry grew. He worked on the selective leaching of zinc from cathode ray tube phosphor waste and on the separation of yttrium and europium using non-aqueous solvent extraction, both projects supervised by Prof. Koen Binnemans. In August 2018, Brecht started his PhD in the Lab of Inorganic Chemistry, again supervised by Prof. Koen Binnemans. He is interested in non-aqueous solvent extraction for the separation of rare earths and wants to gain some expertise in mixer-settler operations.

 

Want to know more about other SIM² KU Leuven researchers?

You can read multiple interviews here.