Righart and Butterworth working on the Brightsite Plasmalab: from engineering to research

PeoplePress Release

The establishment of the Brightsite Plasmalab is a major step towards the industrial application of plasma technology within chemistry, in an efficient and sustainable manner. Ir. Tim Righart and Dr. Tom Butterworth, along with Prof. Dr. Gerard van Rooij, are currently responsible for setting up and furnishing the new lab. In the Brightsite Plasmalab, researchers from Maastricht University and its Brightsite partners TNO, Sitech Services and Brightlands Chemelot Campus will work together to optimize existing plasma technology and develop new plasma processes. An important step towards sustainable chemistry. Meet Ir. Tim Righart and Dr. Tom Butterworth.

Tim Righart

Tim Righart is a researcher in UM’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, where he focuses on circular chemical engineering. Righart studied physics and then made the switch to software engineering; he started his own company and worked as a software engineer at ASML.

After a few years, he returned to physics and obtained his master’s degree in Applied Physics at Eindhoven University of Technology. He went to work as a researcher at DIFFER and since February 2021, Righart has worked as a physics researcher in UM’s Circular Chemical Engineering group. “At DIFFER, I met both Tom and Gerard. Now I also work at UM and am helping to set up the Plasmalab with them. My talent lies in engineering, so my role within the Plasmalab also focuses on that. That starts with designing the setup of the equipment. Soon, when everything is in place, my focus will increasingly switch from engineering to research: measuring, explaining and understanding what we see in the plasma. But the first step is to build the equipment to ensure that everything will run safely,” says Righart.

Tom Butterworth

Since August 2020, Tom Butterworth has been an associate professor in UM’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and, like Righart, is part of the Circular Chemical Engineering group. He comes from the United Kingdom, having studied Chemical Engineering there at the University of Sheffield, where he also received his PhD.

“During my master’s degree, I came into contact with plasma (water treatment) and my PhD program also revolved around plasma (CO₂ conversion). In 2019, I joined DIFFER as a postdoc to conduct research on methane conversion using plasma technology. Using lasers to measure what happens inside that ‘black box’ of plasma technology is what interests me. I was therefore very excited when van Rooij told me about the plans for the Plasmalab. My role within the lab is similar to Tim’s. To begin with, we are going to focus on creating a setup that will allow us to run a functional experiment. In addition, I will be involved in supervising students, PhD students and postdocs, but for now we are starting with just us three. I can’t wait and am very curious to see what will come of it, and what plasma technology will mean for the world.”

Dedicated team

Next to Ir. Tim Righart and Dr. Tom Butterworth, Prof. Dr. Gerard van Rooij is responsible for the new Brightsite Plasmalab. Hans Linden is Manager of the Program line ‘Reduction of emissions by electrification’, in which the Plasmalab is developed. From UM, PhD students Margarita Altin and Maria Luiza Moreira De Azevedos and postdoc Davide Del-Cont Bernard use the plasma lab for scientific research and this experimental work is supported by numerical simulations led by Paola Diomede. In addition, employees of TNO and Sitech will work in the Plasmalab to further develop plasma technology on a larger scale, closer to industrial reality. Next week, we will introduce Prof. Dr. Gerard van Rooij and Hans Linden.