Sammy Verbruggen obtained his Bachelor degree in Bioscience Engineering – Chemistry in 2008 at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and his Master degree in Bioscience Engineering – Catalytic Technology in 2010 at KU Leuven, Belgium. In 2014 he obtained a joint PhD degree from both institutions, for which he was awarded the Belgian Industrial R&D Multidisciplinary PhD Award in Science and technology in 2015. Since then he has been working as a senior researcher at the University of Antwerp where he was appointed lecturer in 2017.
Sammy is working on the central theme of (plasmonic) photocatalysis and photoelectrochemistry for environmental and energy applications. Following a holistic bottom-up approach, every aspect of this research theme is addressed. The first focus is on the fundamental level of surface chemistry. Here, the main research goal is to boost the photocatalytic activity of metal oxide semiconductors by improving their solar light conversion efficiency and photon utilization capacity. One of the primary strategies is surface modification with plasmonic nanostructures that act as little antennas for light energy. Secondly, these insights are merged with other facets such as chemical reactor design, activity testing, social and economic aspects. As a result, sustainable chemical technology is developed that utilizes solar light as a freely available and clean source of energy to drive air purification reactions.
In a particular recent application, this process was integrated in a photoelectrochemical cell that not only enables the degradation of air pollutants, but also recovers part of the energy stored in such molecules as hydrogen gas. The work hereby directly relates to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 13 (climate action). Turning fundamentals into applications is what this research stands for. This requires a multidisciplinary approach through close collaboration and open-mindedness towards every scientific discipline.