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Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Dr Derik Wilbers

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

C*change paraffin activation:
Towards an integrated process for the functionalisation of alkanes to value-added products

My work is focussed on the valorisation of low-value hydrocarbons, including alkanes and alkenes. South Africa produces a large excess of these low-value feedstocks. These hydrocarbons are typically used as either cheap fuels or solvents due to their chemical inertness, prohibiting further derivatisation or chemical modification. The selective oxidation of such hydrocarbons to the much more valuable oxygenates (under mild conditions), is highly challenging. In particular, the selective oxidation of alkanes remains one of the great challenges in modern chemistry. In order to accomplish this, both enzymatic biocatalysis as well as traditional heterogeneous catalysis are employed. Of particular interest is the combination of such catalytic processes into a single  tandem process that draws upon the advantages of both biocatalysis (green, mild conditions, highly selective) as well as chemocatalysis (well developed, high activity) and seeks to create a process greater than the sum of its parts. .

A further research interest includes the in-situ generation of environmentally benign oxidants such as H2O2. Such oxidants are often employed in the oxidation of hydrocarbon substrates by various catalysts. The in-situ generation of these oxidants from abundant and, more importantly, cheap starting materials such as air and H2 is highly advantageous from an economic perspective.

Professional History

2019-Present        Post-doctoral fellow at UCT CeBER
2014                    Tutor at Extra Classes STB


2014-2016           Stellenbosch University Merit Bursary Holder


2019                  PhD (Chemistry), Stellenbosch University
2014                  MSc Cum laude (Chemistry), Stellenbosch University
2010                  Hons BSc (Chemistry), Stellenbosch University
2009                 BSc (Chemistry), Stellenbosch University