The European Ceramic Society
YCN representative - Belgium
YCN representative from the Belgian Ceramic Society
KU Leuven Department of Materials Engineering (MTM)
Ir. Nick Goossens is a Ph.D. student in the Advanced Ceramics and Powder Metallurgy research group of the KU Leuven Department of Materials Engineering (MTM) under the supervision of prof. dr. ir. Jef Vleugels. His Ph.D. research is funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and focuses on the synthesis and characterization of MAX phase ceramics and their subsequent exfoliation into two-dimensional MXenes for functional (e.g. energy storage, flexible electronics, thermoelectrics, …), catalytic, and biomedical applications.
During his materials engineering studies at KU Leuven, Nick initially worked on the synthesis of MAX phases for nuclear applications. MAX phases are a family of ternary nanolaminated ceramics with extraordinary material properties combining typical ceramic and metallic properties. Structurally, MAX phases can be compared to a well-prepared lasagna: layers of transition metal carbide/nitride (MX, “the pasta”) and atomic planes of an A-block element (A, “the sauce”) alternate each other.
Nick’s current Ph.D. research addresses the chemical exfoliation of these MAX phases. Under specific chemical conditions, the A-planes can be etched and selectively removed from the structure, creating a dispersion of free-standing two-dimensional transition metal carbide (MX-ene, similar to graphene). These flexible nanosheets are electrochemically active and possess a very high specific surface area, just like graphene. The biggest advantage over graphene, however, is the chemistry and surface functionalization which can be modified and tailored to the desired application. MXenes to date make up a very novel research area in which fundamental knowledge is still limited. Therefore, Nick currently focuses his research efforts in building out a strong expertise in the production and processing of MXene-based (nano)materials in MTM, serving as a “MXene-hub” in Belgium, and Europe on the longer term. In conjunction, Nick is very eager to set up collaborations for implementing his MXene-based materials into (functional) devices, exploring a wide gamut of potential applications for these nanomaterials.
Thanks to the support of the Belgian Ceramic Society (BCerS) and the JECS Trust, Nick was able to participate in the 2019 ECerS conference in Turin where he was the winner in the Student Speech Contest and held a plenary talk on the benefits of metal hydrides for the synthesis of MAX phases. He also obtained a travel grant for attending the 2020 ACerS Winter Workshop in Daytona Beach. In 2021 Nick was part of the (virtual) Student Speech Contest jury. All of these events were excellent opportunities to get acquainted with the worldwide network of ceramic researchers and to get to meet the people behind YCN in particular. Just like the atomic bonds in most ceramics, the bonds between ceramic researchers are typically very strong!
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