Utrecht University is a research university comprising of seven faculties which collectively span the entire academic spectrum in teaching and research. Utrecht University offers a broad range of 45 undergraduate and 107 graduate programs, the latter including many English-taught programs. There are 30,344 students at Utrecht University and 7,500 members of staff. In the Shanghai Ranking, Utrecht University ranks 1st in the Netherlands, 12th in Europe and 48th worldwide.
Strongly involved in sustainability research are the UU faculties Geosciences and Science.
Sustainable flagships of UU in energy research are:
- Research on how to accelerate the implementation of energy saving and sustainable energy technology, like PV, wind energy, geothermal energy, biomass, hydrogen, cleantech mobility, sustainable roof tops and smart grids;
- Analysis, modeling and influencing user behavior via policy instruments, financial arrangements and new governance structures;
- Geothermal energy; heat and cold storage systems in combination with soil sanitation
- Development of new functional nanomaterials for catalysis, hydrogen storage and solar energy, indispensable for sustainable energy production; research programs address the development and implementation of new technologies for sustainable energy production by third generation solar cells (JSP) and hydrogen and CO2 storage (CATO).
Sustainable flagships of UU related to climate adaptation are:
- Analyses and modeling of groundwater and surface water flow, water availability, soil and water quality, soil subsidence, ecosystem response and environmental quality; the relations between hydrological and biogeochemical cycles as affected by land use and climate change; the eco-physiological adaptation strategies of plants due to abiotic stress caused by water surpluses;
- The role of the ocean circulation in the global climate system, the change in chemical composition of the atmosphere and the interactions of atmospheric chemistry with the earth’s climate, the response of the coastal system to anthropogenically-induced changes, the interaction of land ice with the climate;
- Governance of climate adaptation focusing at environmental legislation (water legislation, spatial planning legislation, nature conservation legislation).
Sustainable flagships of UU in the field of resources are:
- Organic chemistry & catalysis: development of new homogeneous catalysts for selective and efficient organic transformations that can be applied in organic synthesis and in the production of bulk and specialty chemicals. Besides the development of new transition metal complexes as prospective catalysts, several immobilization approaches for homogeneous catalyst are investigated in order to facilitate their reuse. A majority of the projects aims at the conversion of chemical building blocks obtained from biomass into useful chemicals. As an example, the conversion of bio-alcohols into olefins is investigated.
- Inorganic chemistry & catalysis: development of (mainly) heterogeneous catalysts for the production of renewable bulk chemicals and energy carriers from biomass. Projects typically entail the synthesis, extensive characterization and testing of the catalysts (solid acids, bases, supported metal catalysts). The stability of the catalyst under the harsh polar, aqueous conditions typical for biomass conversion receives special attention. Part of the projects concern the development of new routes for the conversion of so-called platform molecules (sugars, polyols, ethanol, glycerol, etc) into value-added bulk and fine chemicals. In addition, the conversion of the more recalcitrant fractions of lignocellulosic biomass such as lignin is studied.
Sustainable flagships of UU in subsurface issues are:
- Physical-geographical investigations of the natural processes at the earth’s surface and shallow subsurface such as erosion, sedimentation, runoff, groundwater flow and soil development, in context with the surrounding landscape. This knowledge is applied to urbanized, agricultural and natural parts of the world, often at the regional scale. For example drainage basins of sizable rivers such as the Rhine, coastal areas along the North Sea, and also tropical delta’s and erosion sensitive areas like Mediterranean SW France and Kenia/Tanzania.
- Studies of the hydrological and geological situation of the Netherlands and other parts of the world in its present state, including the impact of humans on the modern landscape. Next to this, the department studies hydrological and geological changes in various environments of the world, including the Netherlands and surroundings, due to (i) global change (population growth, urbanization, land use change), (ii) climate change and (iii) sea-level rise.