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Biweekly magazine of the Eindhoven University of Technology For the latest news: and follow @TUeCursor_news on

6 March 2014 | year 56

Bachelor Built Environment now offered in English Friday 28 February - In an attempt to stop inflow of students from dwindling, and steer a more international course, the Built Environment bachelor program will be offered in English from September 2015. The agreement in principle was reached by the departmental board in late January. With the switch, for the first time English is now used more than Dutch in TU/e majors. The current Dutch-English ration is 8-7. Managing director Lilian Halsema expects the change to result in a notable increase of international students. Students of Built Environment mostly welcome the idea as well. Recently, 78 percent of a group of first-year students of Built Environment who filled out a survey said they’d have enrolled had the program been offered in English.

E-bikes availab

le for testing

Monday 24 Februa ry - This week seve ral employees en bike in the springjoyed a test ride on like sunshine. Up an electric on handing over th to take a test ride eir staff pass they on one of the electr we re free ic bikes with peda a discount. Nine mo ls that can be purch dels were on offe as ed at r, in cluding a cargo bi long lines in the Me ke. Although ther taForum hall, thre e were no e representatives were answering qu of bike supplier pi estions and instruc ECObello ting those bold en The TU/e mobility ough for a test rid team was also pres e non-stop. ent to provide info arrangements avail rmation on the va able for staff memb rious ers who want to pu rchase an ‘e-bike ’.

‘A happy wife is a happy life’ Friday 21 February - On Friday, TU/e hosted an event in light of the Get in Touch program, which was graced by an international dance, percussion, and personal stories. The program, meant for partners of international employees, arranges joint activities - and it’s a success. A film about the program was just completed and will be used for the recruitment of new employees all over the world. If you want to keep your international employees, you better make sure their partners enjoy their stay here as well, said Personnel and Organization (DPO) internationalization employee Willem van Hoorn in his opening speech. To make that work, Carola Eijsenring of Indigo-Wereld and TU/e developed the program Get in Touch with People & Places in Eindhoven, and its first activities were organized in 2011. Partners as well as employees are very happy with the program. As an employee from Iran jokingly put it: “A happy wife is a happy life”.


and tuecursor on

Helix tests LED lighting Wednesday 26 February - Helix, home to the Department of Chemical Engineering, has started experimenting with LED lighting recently. On part of the third floor of the TU/e building, the static, yellow-ish, and especially energy-consuming traditional fluorescent tubes will be replaced. DH has calculated that using LEDs may reduce energy consumption by up to 63 percent. The current pilot is a way to find out whether or not that percentage can be reached. The project will be evaluated in midApril. After that, other older buildings on campus will receive the same treatment. All new buildings are already fitted with LED lighting.

Frits Wester opens record edition Career Expo Wednesday 26 February - Students who attended the opening of the TU/e Career Expo in De Blauwe Zaal were treated to an entertaining speech peppered with fascinating anecdotes by journalist Frits Wester. He feels the end of the financial crisis is near, and his thoughts seem to go hand in hand with the record 134 companies that applied for this year’s Expo in the Auditorium and Hoofdgebouw. For the first time, stands were set up on the walkway between the two buildings as well, all blatantly trying to reel in talented students. In order to stand out amid the company logos and suited recruiters, companies came up with creative solutions: Neways was giving out free, delicious waffles with a topping of your choice in exchange for your contact details and Glomidco constructed a model race track to demonstrate their product.

More news on

Elles Raaijmakers

Elles Raaijm akers, Electrical Elles alway Engineering studen t. s tries to se e the fu of things an d reproduc nny side es this in cartoons and comic s.

People | 19

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And how are things in Los Angeles? More and more TU/e students go abroad for their studies to follow courses, internships or a doctorate path. What is it like to find your way in a new country? Students tell their stories.

It was mid-November. I was on my way to Schiphol when the first snowflakes swirled down. I had seen enough of winter. Los Angeles was my destination. A successful internship at UCLA was my goal. Succeeding in Hollywood my dream. And that dream has remained. But let’s get back to the internship: the plan was to do an internship of a little over three months at one of the groups of the Department of Bioengineering at UCLA. Among other things, my group studied the interactions between all kinds of peptides and proteins with specific membranes. These peptides and proteins can induce unique phases in membranes. Via Small Angle X-ray Scattering experiments, we looked at the structure of these induced phases in these membranes. The goal of the study is to improve the understanding of a number of specific diseases and find possible ways to cure them. All this was slightly different from what I was used to, looking at my major, but it was great to find a way to apply my knowledge of physics to these kinds of problems. Experiencing daily LA life was another facet of my internship I really enjoyed. I never expected to get used to living in a metropolis so easily. I’d go out in Downtown LA or Beverly Hills or stop by Santa Monica Beach, and see the Hollywood sign at the horizon - that’s pretty amazing. Things you usually only see in movies, were now part of my daily life.

M studeanarten van t of Ap Drune plied P n, hysics

There is one thing I enjoyed more during my time in LA though, but it’s difficult to put into words. The fact I could consider people I had only just met as good friends in such a short time is part of what I mean, I think. Without good friends who are willing to help you and show you around, it’s impossible to experience a city like LA. I am very grateful to have met these amazing people, because they are the main reason my time in Los Angeles has been unforgettable.

Would you also like to write an article about your time abroad? Please send an email to

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Life after TU/e Name: Sreejit Nair Place of Birth: India Date of Birth: 22 April 1978 Studied at TU/e: December 2000 - December 2004, PhD Electrical Engineering/Chemical Engineering Current position: Research Scientist at Unilever R&D, India

Why did you choose to go to TU/e and how do you look back? I had an opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary area of research that always attracted me as a student, which is why I chose to do my PhD in Eindhov en. On top of that, TU/e is considered one of the top universities in Europe. In addition, the city of Eindhoven is synonymous with Philips Researc h. So all in all, the area of research, the university department and the opportunity to experience a new city were the reasons for me to choose TU/e. How did you find this job? I’ve always wanted to see my work in real products and processes, so ideally, I wanted a career in industrial R&D. After my PhD I was keen to explore my own subject area, so I did a postdoc in Japan as well. One of the things that helped me find a job was to focus on my core skills (i.e chemical engineering). I decided to focus on this aspect in my research work, and explored my expertis e in various directions.. And, more importantly, I showed how my work could ultimate ly lead to improvement.

What happens to international students after they graduate from TU/e? Do they go job hunting in the Netherlands, pack their bags and explore the world, or return to their home countries? International TU/e graduates talk about their lives after TU/e.

What are your plans for the (near) future? I am currently enjoying my work and it helps me to look at ways to solve various technical challenges to develop new products and processes. This has been my long term goal and I intend to continue what I am doing. I will stay in India, because I always had the desire to settle back. What advice would you give current students? Do what you like to the most and give it your all.

20 | Research

6 March 2014

Four birds with one stone for paper production

Maaike Kroon

Interview | Tom Jeltes Photos | Bart van Overbeeke Maaike Kroon is the new heroine of the paper industry: the young professor discovered vegetable solvents that can be used to extract the most important component of paper, cellulose, from wood at lower temperatures (and so possibly much cheaper). On top of that, the process releases a raw material that can be used for bioplastics and environmentally-friendly fuels. Fourteen European paper factories are so excited about the discovery they are funding two doctoral candidates to do further research.

“Paper is mostly cellulose”, says Maaike Kroon. And that cellulose is extracted from wood, she tells us. “However, wood is a complex mixture of cellulose, lignin, hemicelluloses, water, salts, and several other elements.” The challenging part of making paper is separating the cellulose (the fibers that make wood and paper firm) from lignin (the glue that keeps those fibers together). “Lignin gives wood its color, too”, Kroon explains. “It’s visible in the knots of trees especially, which is why knotty wood isn’t great for making paper.” To separate lignin from cellulose today, wood pulp is dissolved under pressure in a hot bath (about 150 degrees Celsius) consisting of water and chemicals. “Unfortunately,

the high temperature causes part of the cellulose chains to fall apart, and that’s detrimental to the quality of the paper. For that same reason, recycled paper is of a lesser quality. If we can lower the temperature in the separation process not only do we save energy, but it would yield better paper as well.”

Today, lignin is considered as a waste product of biomass On top of that, drying the paper pulp is the most energy-consuming part of the process, Kroon says.

“To evaporate the water, the waste products are burnt - especially lignin. People call it energy recycling to make it sound fancy, but it’s a shame really, because lignin can be used to make high-grade chemicals and bioplastics.” Kroon, the youngest female professor of the Netherlands upon her appointment at the Department of Chemical Engineering at TU/e in 2011, now seems to have discovered a solvent that kills not two, but four birds with one stone: it’s environmentally friendly (vegetable and non-toxic), works at relatively low temperatures (60-80 degrees Celsius instead of 150-200), doesn’t contain water that must be vaporized, and on top of it all pure lignin is a

Research | 21

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From left to right: 1) Solid glycolic acid 2) Liquid mixture of glycolic acid and choline chloride: one of the deep eutectic solvents (DES) Maaike Kroon wants to use to extract cellulose and lignin from wood. 3) Solid choline chloride (a salt) 4) Same solvent as shown left, here with chemicals dissolved from biomass (mostly lignin) 5) Pine wood after treatment with solvent (lighter color as a result from lignin extraction) 6) Untreated pine wood 7) Glass filter with residual solid from a similar mixture as the one shown in test tube 4.

byproduct that can be used as raw material for other products. Still, there’s not really a market for lignin yet, Kroon comments. It’s still considered biomass waste mostly, and only if there’s a way to extract sulfur-free lignin on a large scale -and Kroon’s method may be just that- the polymer will be seriously interesting to the industry. But that doesn’t mean researchers aren’t working on it already. Kroon’s colleague Emiel Hensen, who works at the same department at TU/e and was granted a prestigious Vici Grant recently, is working on catalysts that can convert lignin into useful products. And at Mechanical Engineering, Michael Boot developed the CyclOx for which lignin is essential. These types of research projects are just up the alley of the Chemelot Institute for Science and Technology (InScite) that started last February, according to Kroon. At the InScite institute, located in South Limburg, TU/e, Maastricht University, and major

chemical company DSM will be researching ways to find chemical building blocks from biomass, among other things. What’s special about Kroon’s method is the use of a special type of solvents, deep eutectic solvents (DES). They are created by mixing two solids. “We’re talking plain granules, like sugar and an acid. But when mixed, they form a liquid because of interacting hydrogen bonds: one solid is a hydrogen bond donor, the other a hydrogen bond acceptor.” Kroon expected a solvent like that to be perfect for dissolving lignin, so she started searching for new combinations that could form a DES. She instructed her doctoral candidates and students to mix six hundred chemicals in all kinds of combinations for three weeks straight. They found some fifty of these special liquids that way, and a number of those proved suitable to dissolve lignin. Kroon patented the method.

How the dissolving of lignin works exactly, Kroon can’t say, by the way. “We’re trying to figure that out right now with quantum chemical simulations, but we’re almost certain it involves the hydrogen bonds that play a vital part in the DES.” The separation process knows several steps: when the lignin is dissolved, the cellulose can be strained from the solution. Water is then added to the remaining mixture. “Then the lignin simply settles, because it doesn’t mix well with water at all”, Kroon says. “And so what’s left is the solvent with a bit of water and residue.” How well the deep eutectic solvent will work depends on what the wood it’s used on is made up of exactly. Kroon expects different types of DES to work best with different trees and biomass - and each DES can be created from biomass. All in all, the method seems perfect for smaller paper factories that process local crops. “The required installations are much cheaper, and the wood

Microscope images showing how a granule of lignin dissolves at room temperature in one of the new solvents. The process takes 3.5 hours.

doesn’t have to be transported over long distances, which is another advantage.”

Paper companies expect to cut energy costs by forty percent eventually Early February, Kroon and TU/e joined forces with fourteen European paper producers, half of which are based in the Netherlands. All these companies are members of Cepi, the confederation for European paper industries. They learned from Kroon’s method when she participated in a contest organized by the confederation to find a way to lower the energy consumption in the industry drastically before 2030. Paper companies expect to cut energy costs by forty percent eventually, a prospect that made

them decide to fund two doctoral candidates for Kroon, without any government grant. In four years’ time, hopefully they’ll have come up with ideas for a pilot plant. One doctoral candidate will be dealing with the perfecting of lignin extraction and the other with the recycling of the solvent. The latter is important, says Kroon, who’s a little more reserved than her commercial partners. “I feel that first we should be able to recover the solvent in its entirety, or almost, before we can implement this method on a large scale. That’s the point where it becomes commercially viable, after all.”

22 | Research

6 March 2014

4 burning questions

Maarten Kuenen | Electrical Engineering

Finding prostate cancer with tiny bubbles

1 ’s on f your o r e ov the c rtation? disse What

2 Wh a peo t do y ou t ple a t par ell whe n t abo ut y they a ies our s rese k arch ?

3 What person, technology, or device has been essential for your research?

1 | cover The two images show the local dispersion of injected microbubbles in a prostate, each based on a different analysis of contrast-enhanced ultrasounds. The distribution depends on the local properties of the structure of the capillaries. The red areas show anomalies in the capillaries caused by aggressive cancer. The curve represents the development of the echo intensity after microbubbles were injected. These curves are the basis of my dispersion analysis.

2 | parties I often start by explaining the current diagnostic method: according to a regular pattern, a biopsy is done, where pieces of tissue are taken from the prostate with a needle. It’s a procedure that often needs to be repeated. Most people are convinced new imaging methods that are better at detecting aggressive types of prostate cancer, and in an earlier stage.

3 | essential


does w o H efit n e b ty socie our work? y from

(edited by Tom Jeltes)

The contrast-enhanced ultrasounds are a must, because it’s an imaging technique that allows us to distinguish between ultrasounds from microbubbles and ultrasounds from tissue. Because microbubbles travel through the narrowest of blood vessels, you need a technique that can visualize data from those capillaries.

4 | society benefit If this method proves to work in tests with patients, the diagnosis of prostate cancer will become more patient-friendly and cheaper, because doctors can make do with fewer biopsies. On top of that, the method can form the basis for more specific treatments that don’t include the removal of the entire prostate. Unwanted side effects such as incontinence and impotence may be prevented that way.

Research | 23

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Benjamin Bory | Chemical Engineering

Smaller and faster computer memories 1 | cover The cover of my thesis shows a winter landscape of Lake Myvatn in Iceland, taken during a recent trip. I picked it in hopes of inviting the reader to look inside my thesis.

2 | parties The amount of information people want to store and have at their disposal at all times is ever-growing. The actual solid-state memories used in most of our mobile devices are based on floating-gate transistors (three terminals). This technology shows some fundamental limitations that could be overcome by moving to the memristor (RRAM) technology. Memristors are two terminal memory devices that could be made smaller and operate faster. The study described in my thesis aims to understand the working mechanism of memristors made of organic and inorganic layers.

3 | essential Simple electrical and spectroscopic characterization techniques have been used. The organic layer used is in fact a light-emitting polymer. We opted for this light-emitting material as a reporter tool so we could detect any presence of electrons and/or electron holes during the RRAM operation.

4 | society benefit Understanding the working mechanism of RRAM is crucial in order to improve current solidstate memories. In that respect, we learned about RRAM integrating an organic semiconductor and inorganic materials such as oxides and alkali halides. These materials can also be employed in the fabrication of OLEDs, making their advanced characterization highly valuable.

Elena Torta | IE&IS

Robots as caregivers 1 | cover The cover of the thesis depicts the robot -used for my thesis- and a human walking towards a city together (the skyline is that of San Gimignano, a beautiful city in my home country, Italy).

2 | parties The thesis investigates how robots can be introduced in intelligent homes with the purpose of complementing the work of caregivers by helping people to live independently for a longer time. Robots that enable independent living need to be able to interact with people in order to provide useful services. The robot can provide those services if connected to a distributed sensory network that can gather important information about the elderly person. The robot can then use this information to adapt its behavior. For example, in our research project the robot was able to suggest health exercises for the person in front of them. The exercises are selected by the robot based on that person’s blood oxygen level measured with a pulse-oxymeter.

3 | essential For our research project we used humanoid robot NAO, which could display typical human non-verbal interaction cues including gazing and gesturing, to improve the quality of interaction.

4 | society benefit In the near future the number of elderly people will increase, and there will be a shortage of professional and informal caregivers. Because of that, society needs innovative solutions to provide assistance to the elderly.



and Wednesday , Tuesday Monday March, 20:00 - 21:45h, Filmhuis de Zwarte Doos, TU/e campus


Inside Llewyn Davis

In ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ the Coen brothers let their natural pessimism run rampant against the backdrop of the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early 1960s.

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20 March, 16:00-19:00, all over TU/e campus

ProZAc’s Annual Pub Crawl



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On March 20th the yearly pub craw people will visit 5 pubs on the cam l will take place on the TU/e campus. Your group of max. 8 pus in which you will receive two drin great? This is your chance to visit othe ks! Doesn’t that sound other studies. This year all study asso r pubs than your own and to get to know students from ciati ons part icipa te! You can sign pub crawl at the study association of your choice, which costs 8 euros up your group for the to be at least 18 years old to participa per person. You need te and registrations will close on March 17th If you have any questions, e-mail us at 12:00. at

Entrance fee: 8 euros

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