• 5970 Citations
  • 44 h-Index
1986 …2019
If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Personal profile

Leon Lefferts (1960) was trained as a chemical engineer at the University of Twente (1983) and received his PhD in 1987 also at the University of Twente. He continued to specialize on heterogeneous catalysis and joined the DSM Research laboratories (1987-1999), working on catalyst characterization, hydrogenation, slurry phase catalysis, carbon supported metals and kinetics. He acted as research scientist, project leader as well as senior scientist.

He was appointed full professor “Catalytic Processes and Materials” (CPM) at the University of Twente in 1999. He has been visiting professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2005-2007. He was appointed as Finnish Distinguished Professor in 2011-2015, and is continuing as a visiting professor at Aalto University in Helsinki till 2019.

Research interests

The first theme is heterogeneous catalysts in liquid phase, motivated on both technological challenges, striving for minimization of concentration gradient in porous catalyst particles, as well as fundamental challenges, developing new experimental techniques for studying the catalyst surface in contact with liquid reactant mixtures and solutions. Most important results include the development of a new class of micro-structured catalyst supports (hairy foams) and more recently structured membrane contactor reactors based on CNFs, as well as pushing the borders of application of in-situ IR spectroscopy in aqueous phase with dedicated cells that enable Attenuated-Total-Reflection IR spectroscopy, recently even at elevated temperatures and pressures e.g. for aqueous phase reforming. The group is in the forefront of this technology and our work was highlighted in Chem. Soc. Rev.. Most of the work done so far was using hydrogenation of nitrate, nitrite and bromate as model reactions, that are also societal relevant in the realm of purification of drinking-water.


Second theme is activation of stable molecules, including selective oxidation. This work is exploring breakthrough technologies for activation of alkanes, e.g. via using soft oxidants, non-redox catalysts at high temperatures, electrical fields or plasma-catalysis. A cluster of three recent projects in close cooperation with DIFFER (FOM institute on energy, Prof. van de Sanden c.s.)) is aiming at combining plasma technology with heterogeneous catalysis, implying the need to build mutual understanding and cooperation with the plasma-physicists community. Joint workshops have been organized on this emerging theme, interacting with University of Antwerp (Prof. Bogaerts, dr. Meynen, TUe (Prof. Hessel) and in future also DIFFER will be involved. Furthermore, the use of water as a soft oxidant is of special interest and the role of oxide materials for activation of water is subject of investigations. The work on zirconia and ceria, both at Twente and at Aalto, is highly appreciated by the field, is frequently cited, and Leon delivered invited lectures on the subject. This work relevant is for steam reforming of hydrocarbons and oxygenates, as well as for water-gas-shift.


Finaly, catalytic upgrading of biomass, e.g. upgrading of flash-pyrolysis oil, both during flash-pyrolysis as well as down-stream has been an active research theme for quite some time. This direction was highly inspired on the early activities at University of Twente of prof. Wim van Swaaij, who explored the technology of flash pyrolysis at an early stage. The group has been a trendsetter in this field and early work on e.g. reforming of acetic-acid is an over-200 times cited research (non-review) paper. Also aqueous phase reforming of oxygenates and carbohydrates is studied in a number of projects. The most important result, next to a significant number of papers, is the development of a basic heterogeneous catalyst improving the quality of flash-pyrolysis oil, based on which KiOR decided to develop this technology to demonstration level.

External positions

Visiting Professor at Aalto University

2011 → …


  • QD Chemistry
  • TP Chemical technology
  • Heteroeneous Catalysis
  • Liquid Phase
  • Mass Transfer
  • Plasma Catalysis
  • Activation of stable molecules

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Leon Lefferts is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 13 Similar Profiles
Catalysts Chemical Compounds
Carbon nanofibers Chemical Compounds
Nitrites Chemical Compounds
Catalyst supports Chemical Compounds
Hydrogenation Chemical Compounds
Reforming reactions Chemical Compounds
Carbon Monoxide Chemical Compounds
Hydrogen Chemical Compounds

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 1986 2019

68 Downloads (Pure)

Structure-sensitivity in CO2 methanation over CeO2 supported metal catalysts

Sakpal, T. R., 7 Jun 2019, Enschede: University of Twente. 153 p.

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UTAcademic

Open Access
Particle size
Catalyst supports

Bubble formation in catalyst pores: curse or blessing?

Brunet Espinosa, R., Duits, M. H. G., Wijnperle, D., Mugele, F. & Lefferts, L., 24 Sep 2018, Reaction chemistry & engineering, 3, 5, p. 826-833 8 p.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticleProfessional

Open Access
Bubble formation
Reaction rates
Catalyst supports

Catalysis: An Integrated Textbook for Students

Lefferts, L. (ed.) & Hanefeld, U. (ed.), 2018, 1st ed. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH Verlag. 370 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook editingAcademic

3 Citations (Scopus)

Catalytic Oxidative Cracking of Light Alkanes to Alkenes

Boyadjian, C. & Lefferts, L., 24 May 2018, In : European journal of inorganic chemistry. 2018, 19, p. 1956-1968 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Steam cracking
6 Downloads (Pure)

Competitive Adsorption of Nitrite and Hydrogen on Palladium during Nitrite Hydrogenation

Postma, R. S., Brunet Espinosa, R. & Lefferts, L., 7 Sep 2018, In : ChemCatChem. 10, 17, p. 3770-3776 7 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access

Activities 2002 2019

  • 192 Oral presentation
  • 7 Invited talk
  • 5 Editorial work
  • 1 Membership of network

Combining Plasma and Catalysis

Leonardus Lefferts (Speaker)
13 Mar 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Ni/CeO2 Catalysts for CO2 Methanation: Effect of CeO2 Morphology and Ni Particle Size

Leonardus Lefferts (Speaker), Tushar Sakpal (Speaker)
26 Jun 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

Ru/CeO2 Catalysts for CO2, Methanation: Effect of CeO2, Morpholoy and Ru Particle Size

Leon Lefferts (Speaker), Tushar Sakpal (Speaker)
20 Aug 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

ChemCatChem (Journal)

Rolf Sybren Postma (Editor), R. Brunet-Espinosa (Editor), Leonardus Lefferts (Editor)
15 Jun 2018

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial work

Mass transfer inside porous catalyst bodies in liquid phase operation

Leonardus Lefferts (Speaker), Pengyu Xu (Contributor), Roger Brunet Espinosa (Contributor), Shilpa Agarwal (Contributor), Friedrich Gunther Mugele (Contributor)
20 Aug 201824 Aug 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation