ACiDo Catalysis

The project

Nowadays, 90% of the overall chemical processes are developed with the aid of a heterogeneous catalyst. Acid-catalyzed reactions are among the most investigated class of processes since they cover a plethora of applications as alkylation, isomerization, hydrocracking, alkene polymerization, CO2 conversion and a series of reactions related to biomass transformation. It is known that the overall Brønsted /Lewis acid balance of the solid influences strongly the final catalytic properties. Moreover, in order to improve the efficiency of chemical reactions and processes a crucial step is a molecular understanding of the surface activity.  Brønsted acidity in zeolite was already extensively investigated but quantification of the strength of Lewis acid sites is more challenging. Moreover, porous materials with an amorphous SiO2 skeleton bring additional complexity to this analysis.

Despite the various attempts to understand the respective role played by the Brønsted and Lewis acidities, there is a lack of fundamental knowledge on the ideal Brønsted/Lewis acid balance that a catalyst formulation should present to enhance the overall performances (activity/selectivity). Herein, we propose a multidisciplinary approach starting with the fine tuning of a series of catalyst features (Design), combined with an in-depth characterization associating experimental tools with quantum chemical simulations (Understanding). The solids will be tested as heterogeneous catalysts targeting environmentally sustainable reactions, with the two other tasks serving as basis and integrated approach for the enhancement of the catalyst performances (Improvement).

The main goal is to improve the fundamental understanding via the rationalization of a series of parameters, in order to unveil a precise design of heterogeneous catalysts with the desired Brønsted/Lewis acid balance. The approach will concern mainly SiO2 based materials but will be extended (within the project) to other solid acid systems. The knowledge acquired can be useful for other acid-catalyzed processes.

Our team

The members of the consortium

  • Prof. Carmela Aprile, co-PI & spokeswoman (UNamur)
  • Prof. Benoît Champagne, co-PI (UNamur)
  • Prof. Eric Gaigneaux, co-PI (UCLouvain)

The Phd students involved

  • Noé Laloux (Eric Gaigneaux, PI - Carmela Aprile, co-PI)
  • Vittorio Marsala (Carmela Aprile, PI - Benoît Champagne, co-PI)
  • Charles Rubirigi (Benoît Champagne, PI - Eric Gaigneaux, co-PI)

Our collaborators

  • Dr. Luca Fusaro (UNamur)
  • Dr. François Devred (UCLouvain)
  • Prof. Michaël Springborg (UNamur)
  • Hao Xu (UNamur)


  • Noé Laloux: Thematic school MECAREACT 2023 - Poster presentation - "Modified heteropolyacids as innovative catalysts for the gas phase methanolation of toluene into xylenes" - NoéLaloux, Carmela Aprile, Eric M. Gaigneaux
  • Vittorio Marsala: Young Belgian Magnetic Resonance Scientist 2023 - Poster presentation - "Towards the understanding of the formation mechanism of hollow silica nanotubes and nanospheres: an NMR approach" - Vittorio Marsala, Loraine Soumoy, Luca Fusaro, Carmela Aprile
  • Vittorio Marsala: Namur Institute of Structured Matter (NISM) Annual Meeting 2023 - Flash talk + poster presentation - "Towards the understanding of the formation mechanism of hollow silica nanotubes and nanospheres: an NMR approach" - Vittorio Marsala, Loraine Soumoy, Luca Fusaro, Carmela Aprile

AC-DC | An ARC project

Funded by the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles (FWB), ARC projects are Concerted Research Action projects that aim at developing university or inter-university centres of excellence in fundamental research axes and, where possible, that carry out basic and applied research in an integrated manner and aim to make economic and social use of research results. They are awarded based on academic excellence of the applicants, the added value of each research group to achieve goals of research project,  complementary skills of research teams and the methodology of  proposed research program. They typically last for 4 to 5 years. In case of inter-university project, each team is financely supported by its own institution

More information on the FWB website