New ammonia-separation method wins 2023 Henk Pijlman Innovation Award

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Bekendmaking winnaar Henk Pijlman Innovatieprijs 2023

During the opening of the academic year on Tuesday 5 September 2023, Claudio Cavalieri was presented with the Henk Pijlman Innovation Award for his graduation project on the subject of ammonia pollution in agriculture. Henk Pijlman himself, the Former President of the Executive Board, presented Claudio with the award.

To be able to build a healthy and sustainable future, we need to change the way we use the planet – our most important resource – or at least limit the impact our use of it has. Besides finding new, clean energy sources, smart technologies and data-driven decision-making can help us take on environmental challenges and point the way to a sustainable future.

Intensive cattle farming

The Netherlands is the biggest exporter of agricultural products after the United States. Almost 50% of our densely-populated country is used for agriculture. The Dutch agricultural industry, which specialises mainly in livestock farming, produces huge quantities of manure, which has been proven to have a negative impact on the biodiversity of flora and fauna. Many native Dutch species of flower and meadow plant actually prefer poor soil.

A technological solution

Claudio Cavalieri, a student of the degree programme in Electrical and Electronic Engineering who has chosen to major in Sensor Technology, wants to develop a technological solution that will pave the way for cleaner agricultural production and smarter waste management via an approach that is different to the much-debated political solution, which is to lower ammonia pollution by reducing the number of farms here in the Netherlands. Claudio was part of the EnTranCe research team and its sole electrical engineer.
The National Institute for Public Health and Environment Protection (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM) believes that 'Claudio Cavalieri’s research, entitled ‘Sensor Application For The Fermolyzer: To Calculate Ammonium Ion Concentration by Measuring Ammonia Gas, pH, & Temperature’, could be the first step towards helping the industry develop an ammonia-concentration measurement device that would benefit our environment'.

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Renewable energy source

Claudio concentrated on finding an efficient and reliable way to convert ammonium (NH4) into clean nitrogen (N) and hydrogen (H) – the chemical components of green fuels. Combining advanced mathematics, computer code and sensor technology, he created a prototype of the ‘Fermolyzer’, a measurement system that uses a mathematical formula to calculate the amount of ammonia (NH3) potentially released from a certain amount of ammonium hydroxide. The ability to monitor this chemical reaction brings us one step closer to breaking down ammonia and using it as a renewable energy source. The ultimate aim is to combat climate change.

The jury

The jury, led by Dina Boonstra, the Chair of the Hanze UAS Supervisory Board, praised Claudio for making a breakthrough and taking a very important first step. Although the jury acknowledges that Claudio’s research is only a small part of a larger whole, he is proposing an applied and alternative approach to the resolution of the nitrogen crisis. The content was written in an accessible manner that enabled jury members to grasp the background of this highly-technical work. The jury’s view is that Claudio’s research is groundbreaking, relevant to all four societal challenges that Hanze UAS is facing and contributes to two of them in particular: 'Working towards a more liveable and sustainable Netherlands' and 'Energy transition and circularity’.



The other nominees for the 2023 Henk Pijlman Innovation Award were:

Sanne Dijkstra
Student of Master Architecture at the Institute of Future Environments
De Nieuwe Wierde

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Frendion Marchena
Student of Biology and Medical Laboratory Research - Biological and Medical Research at the Institute for Life Science & Technology
The Use of Melt Electrowriting for Human Trabecular Meshwork In Vitro Models.

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  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering - Sensor Technology (full-time)