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Van Leeuwen, Hans

Published onNov 08, 2021
Van Leeuwen, Hans

(1946 — )

Quick Facts

Hans Van Leeuwen is known for being an innovator, entrepreneur and a professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State.


At a young age, van Leeuwen was fascinated with microorganisms and began to brew beer and wine and create homemade cheese and yogurt. He eventually realized he could turn his hobbies into a professional career that deals with microbes and similar processes.

Van Leeuwen was born in 1946 in Gouda, South Africa, where he spent most of his childhood and college years. He pursued a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pretoria, a journey that took him ten years. During his college years, van Leeuwen ran multiple businesses part time, ranging from a fiber glass business to flower exports. He claims to not have been a good student during his years obtaining his bachelor’s degree; however, once he was able to focus on compelling research, he began to find great success in academia. With the support of his family and wife, van Leeuwen moved into his master’s program studying water utilization engineering, and he eventually earned a doctorate of engineering.

Van Leeuwen is passionate about water reclamation, a process by which wastewater is turned into purified, drinkable water, which stemmed from growing up in in South Africa. With his background in microbial processes, van Leeuwen developed a process using ozonation, a water treatment technique of infusing ozone into water that makes organic material more biodegradable. The process is currently helping thousands in the cities of Windhoek, Namibia, and Cabooluture, Queensland, Australia.

Continuing his work with water and microbes, van Leeuwen began groundbreaking research on water treatment for ballasts on ships. While ballasts are essential to stay stable at sea when there is no cargo on board, they also create an easy way for foreign and invasive species to hitchhike from port to port. Van Leeuwen was able to develop another process that utilized ozonation to treat the water stored in ballasts and remove any foreign species. This process was completely safe for the natural environment and is being commercialized in South Korea.

Van Leeuwen then began to focus on fungi with the goal to feed the world. His innovation, MycoMax, cultivated microbial filamentous fungi off the surplus from ethanol fermentation and creates a high-quality and environmentally friendly animal feed. Van Leeuwen has taken this idea into production with a pilot plant where he and his research team continue to do testing on a larger scale. Van Leeuwen also created the Mycofuel process, which once again utilizes bioconversion, to turn fungal species into ecofriendly and cost-efficient bio-oil and biofuel.

Van Leeuwen continues to innovate through inventions such as IngeniOz, the world’s purest vodka, and plans to progress his research with fungal processes in hopes to make a difference in the world.

Selected Sources

“Iowa State researchers feed pigs, chickens high-protein fungus grown on ethanol leftovers” Iowa State News Service, Aug 13, 2012.

“Iowa State engineer scales up process that could improve economics of ethanol production” Iowa State News Service, May 19, 2011.

Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University, CCEE News, Spring/Summer 2009.

“A professor's quest for the purest vodka” by Courtney Crowder, Des Moines Register, April 24, 2015.

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