Jeroen Spooren obtained his PhD in the field of solid state chemistry in 2005. He currently holds the position of senior researcher at the unit “Sustainable Materials Management” within the team “Waste Recycling Technologies”. His main field of expertise is the recycling of (inorganic) waste materials and their treatment by physicochemical processes. (30.11.2020)
What are you working on?
In the TARANTULA project I am developing novel more sustainable ways to extract W, Ta and Nb from low concentrated primary and secondary ores. To do so in a more energy efficient way we apply microwave energy to physically treat ore materials to set free the desired minerals and to dissolve selectively the desired element from the ore in water. Generally, I research novel waste recycling technologies to treat (mainly) mineral waste streams with a particular interest in extracting valuable and hazardous metals that allow to recover value from the waste and at the same time clean up the material so that it can be safely used (for instance as construction material).
What attracts you in the research project you are working on?
I work in a large range of different project types: industrially, nationally and European funded projects (such as PLATIRUS, CHROMIC, SULTAN), ranging from applied to basic research. In such projects, collaboration is key to work towards a common goal with the project partners that can have very different points of view due to their background and expertise. This allows for cross contamination of ideas and particularly for placing your own research into perspective: not only the science needs to work but it needs also to be applicable on industrial scale, be sustainable and fit in a circular economy.
As a scientist, to propose (new) ideas in a project proposal and, when granted, being able to realize and develop the ideas into practical applications gives of course a nice satisfaction. …and at the same time more questions and ideas pop up to be researched…
Where do you work? What do you like about your organization or the city you live in?
I work at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, but most people know us by our abbreviated name: VITO. The mission of VITO is “to provide knowledge and technological innovations that facilitate the transition to a more sustainable society”. Well, isn’t it nice if you could contribute to a more sustainable society? The main VITO offices and most of the laboratories are located in a remote location in the middle of nature, which provides a nice tranquil setting to perform research and to collaborate with very nice and competent colleagues!
How do you recharge?
I have no outspoken hobby, but I recharge mainly by doing the simple things in life: meeting with friends and family, listening to music (I am interested in a wide variety of genres and play piano and guitar, but I keep that in-house as it on a very amateur level), going out for a nice dinner. I do enjoy also travelling very much. And finally, since three years, I organize in the city where I live yearly a TEDx event with the aim to spread new ideas to the local community. This is very time and energy consuming but gives a rewarding feeling when you can bring people together to work on the event as a team and to make the public discover things they might have never thought of.
Jeroen Spooren was born and raised in Lommel (Belgium). He studied chemistry at the KU Leuven (Belgium) and graduated in 2001, after which he moved to the University of Exeter (U.K.) to obtain his PhD in the field of solid state chemistry in 2005. Next, he took up some postdoc positions at the University of Messina (Italy), one of which was within a Marie-Curie training network on complex matter, where he used advance nuclear magnetic resonance measurements to study the fundamental physical properties of water. In 2009 he started to work at VITO, where currently he holds the position of senior researcher at the unit “Sustainable Materials Management” within the team “Waste Recycling Technologies”. His main field of expertise is the recycling of (inorganic) waste materials and their treatment by physicochemical processes. Sustainable materials management taking into account the impacts on the economy, the environment and human health is the key driver in his research.