Sam Eggermont successfully defended his KU Leuven/VITO PhD on the 8th of May. He revealed fundamental and mechanistic insights of the gas-diffusion electrocrystallization (GDEx) process, enabling the sustainable recovery of metals and their valorization.

GDEx is a proprietary technology of VITO, with patent granted in Europe. It works by the reactive precipitation of metal ions with intermediaries from the oxygen reduction reaction carried out on VITO CoREĀ® gas-diffusion electrodes. GDEx enables the removal of highly-dilute metal ions from aqueous streams, that can otherwise not be separated and transforms them into recoverable precipitates. The later can be valorized as functional materials. Thus, GDEx can be used as a synthesis method to prepare (nano)particles or as a metal removal and recovery process. In this way, GDEx enables value chains making our future economy more sustainable. GDEx does not require the addition of chemicals, has a low-energy consumption, and can operate using renewable electricity. GDEx is, therefore, a highly versatile, economic, and sustainable process for treating industrial wastewaters, side streams, geothermal and other brines, and leachates. In his PhD, Sam Eggermont unraveled the mechanism through which GDEx works when using oxygen reduction, and presented comprehensive models that explain its phenomenology. In this way, he was able to control the selective separation of metals from diverse streams and to apply it to successful industrial cases.

Sam Eggermont conducted his PhD research at the Materials Engineering (MTM) Department of the KU Leuven and the Sustainable Chemistry (SCT) Unit at VITO, funded by the Get-A-Met project within the SIM MaRes Programme. His promoters were Prof. Jan Fransaer (KU Leuven) and Dr. Xochitl Dominguez-Benetton (VITO).

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