Using cutting edge technology to do chemistry faster, better and safer: that is the aim of Noël and his group’s research. Noël is developing new catalytic strategies and technologies for chemical synthesis, in order to build a bridge between technical chemistry and organic chemical synthesis. The ultimate goal is to develop technological tools that offer a solution to ‘old’ problems in chemical synthesis, including issues with scalability, gas/liquid reactions, photochemistry, electrochemistry and the production of hazardous substances.
Microreactor in an artificial leaf
Microreactors are at the heart of Noël’s research. A microreactor is a mini-laboratory that can fit in the palm of your hand, with channels typically less than 1 millimetre in diameter where chemical reactions occur. These small reactors have many advantages, such as faster mixing and high reliability, which makes them perfect for carrying out dangerous chemical processes in a controlled manner. They are also highly scalable, even up to industrial scale.
Noël has extensive experience with microreactors, including using them to work with catalysts, to produce pharmaceutical ingredients, and even to create an artificial plant leaf. In the pores of this artificial leaf, chemical reactions can take place with the help of sunlight. It’s a trick that nature has been using for ages, but Noël was the first chemist to effectively harness it to prepare organic molecules. Because the chemical processes in the artificial leaf only require sunlight, it is even possible to produce a malaria medication in remote areas where no electricity is available, for example.
As a professor at the UvA, Noël will also teach courses in organic synthesis, flow chemistry and catalysis, including within the Science for Energy and Sustainability (SfES) Master’s programme.
About Timothy Noel
Noël was an associate professor at Eindhoven University of Technology from 2012 until the summer of 2020. He previously worked as a researcher at institutions including Ghent University. Noël did his postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a prestigious Fullbright grant.
Noël has won several other prestigious grants from programmes like Veni, Vidi, Marie Curie Career Integration, FET Open and NWO OTP. He has also served as the coordinator of two large-scale Marie Curie ITN projects: Photo4Future and more recently PhotoReAct. He also works closely with the chemical industry, including major pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Eli Lilly and AbbVie) and SMEs (e.g. ThalesNano and Vapourtec). Noël’s research was awarded the Dechema Prize (2017) and the Hoogewerff Youth Prize (2019).
His research regularly appears in leading scientific journals such as Science, Angewandte Chemie and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.