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Chemistry is an interdisciplinary science focused on design, synthesis and analysis of molecules. The core objective of the Van 't Hoff Institute is to understand and predict the behaviour of molecules in increasingly complex processes and systems. In our research three distinct focus areas can be distinguished:

1. Chemistry of Complex Systems and Materials

The world around us is complex. Materials are rarely pure and often consist of many components, the environment contains mixtures of many chemical substations, industrial products exist of carefully optimized complex mixtures, often with emergent properties. Elucidating, characterizing, predicting, and eventually designing and controlling such systems and their properties provides a large challenge for chemistry in the next decade. At the Van 't Hoff Institute, several groups work on investigating such complex systems, with application in forensic science, the chemistry of artworks (paintings), complex soft matter and smart materials, and system catalysis.

Forensic science analyses traces left behind at a (crime) scene. To reconstruct events from the past, a wide variety of information, e.g. DNA, digital traces, fingerprints, explosives, etc. is investigated with highly advanced chemical analytical techniques. Click the image to learn more.
Paintings are very complex systems of mixed media, affected by chemical changes, when aged under different conditions. Characterization of materials originally used, and the understanding how they change is investigated by sophisticated spectroscopic techniques. Click the image to learn more.
Soft materials such as colloids, polymers and surfactants spontaneously organize into complex structures with striking emergent properties. Chemists try to understand, design and control such systems using computational modelling and machine learning.

2. Chemistry for Sustainability

The energy transition, the climate crisis and the environmental problems all call for a sustainable society. Chemistry provides new solutions to these problems. With efficient chemical processes and catalysts using earth-abundant, cheap and non-toxic materials. With investigations into chemical recycling and how materials age and degrade, making the circular society a reality. With solutions for the energy transition, such as solar fuels, using electrochemistry and electrocatalysis. Our research groups are working in all these areas to create tomorrow’s sustainable society.

Researchers at the Van 't Hoff Institute are developing efficient catalysts for synthesizing and separating chemical building blocks. Click the image to learn more.
The circular economy is one of the main ways to make a sustainable future. Our researchers try to develop new ways of reusing valuable elements from waste.
Electrochemistry is important for clean energy solutions. Our researchers are actively involved in developing and investigating new processes. Click the image to learn more.

3. Chemistry of biomolecular systems

The living world is an endless source of inspiration for chemistry research. At the Van 't Hoff Institute, chemists make and understand bioinspired, biological and prebiotic molecular systems. For instance, using biocatalysts to make highly specific molecules. Or by developing the synthesis, analysis, design and understanding of biochemical reactions, bioactive molecules and biomaterials, even leading to new processes for medical diagnostics and treatments. Last but not least, our researchers are also studying the origin of life.

Bioinspired catalysis and biocatalysis provide new ways of synthesizing complex molecules. This involves computational modelling, proteomics and biomolecular networks analysis.
Biomaterial- and biomolecular design involves the synthesis, analysis, and understanding of bio-active molecules, including those driven by light.
Origins of life is an interdisciplinary research theme involving astronomy, biology and chemistry. Our researchers are trying to find the fingerprints of life's building blocks in the universe.