Find out more about some of our projects across our activities in Research&Development, Consultancy and Teaching&Dissemination. Over the years, we have developed a massive portfolio of case studies, some of which are confidential whereas others got acclaimed in media.
Research & Development
Biorefinery process for the production of lignin-based phenolic compounds with antioxidant and antimicrobial activities from degraded wheat straw
The concept of biorefinery, which implies the production of valuable compounds from lignocellulose, has attracted much attention during the last decade. Great success has been achieved in the development of a thermochemical platform of biomass gasification, combustion and pyrolysis, in oil conversion to biofuels and the biochemical production of ethanol. Lignin, however, remains a challenging feedstock due to its high complexity and recalcitrance. In our project on a cost-efficient sustainable lignin valorization, we target phenolic compounds with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties obtained via simple degradation of wheat straw. The non-degraded wheat straw residual is utilised as reinforcing fibers in composites manufacturing providing multiple benefits from a single feedstock while reducing total waste from the process.
Continuous microencapsulation of oil & water-soluble active compounds for drug delivery, medical diagnostics, cosmetics, and food industries
Formation of micro-capsules is a novel method of enclosing oil or water-soluble compounds into a polymeric shell preventing interaction of the encapsulated material with the surroundings which allows targeted/controlled release of the compound at the place of use. Traditional manufacturing of microcapsules involves batch homogenization to form an emulsion followed by conditioning/crosslinking leading to the formation of solid microcapsules. However, batch micro-encapsulation requires homogeneous conditions (proper mixing) which is difficult to achieve without causing the damage to microcapsules and problematic to control and upscale. Our scientists took part in the development of a novel, scalable, and efficient process for continuous manufacturing of microcapsules filled with oil or water-soluble compounds using oscillatory flow reactor. The process benefits from benign reaction conditions, high throughput, and can be used for the upscaled production of microcapsules with pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and components for cosmetics.
Biomineralization of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) nanoparticles as a sustainable approach to turn PGMs wastes into catalysts
The increasing demand for Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) is accompanied by the exhaustion of the current supply. Therefore, the recovery of PGMs from waste streams is considered as a valuable and sustainable method for replenishing PGMs resources. We took this problem further and developed a novel fungi-based method for turning aqueous wastes of palladium into nano-particles which can be directly used as a supported heterogeneous catalyst in the synthesis of API and pharmaceuticals. The high surface area of the fungal network acting as a catalyst support and lower production costs make the fungal biomineralization of precious metals a promising approach for the development of fungi-based membranes to be used in cleaning industrial effluents from PGMs and at the same time converting precious metals into valuable nanoparticles. We are working to extend the scope of our method to other precious metals such as Au, Ag, Pt, Ru, Rh. See how this work was featured by Reuters.
Carbon-negative manufacturing of spherical mesoporous microparticles for a wide range of applications
Pure and surface-modified spherical micron-sized mesoporous silica particles (1-200um) are of special interest due to their multiple potential applications in (photo)catalysis, IFA diagnostics, photodynamic therapy of cancer, materials for CO₂ adsorption/transformation to valuable products, heavy metal scavenging, analytical & preparational chromatography and sustainable energy conversion (PEM Fuel Cells). The conventional method utilises expensive alkoxide precursors, requires proper handling, precise control of the pH, and addition of porogen, making the entire process inefficient and hard to control. Our scientists took part in the development of an environmentally benign template-free method of manufacturing spherical mesoporous SiO₂ microparticles utilizing inexpensive sodium silicate precursor which does not require pH control to trigger the gel formation. The method is extendable to other metal/semimetal oxides such as WO₃, ZnO, Al₂O₃, etc.
Life cycle assessment and cost analysis of continuous manufacturing of fragrances
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a useful tool to analyse the environmental impacts of a process or product to supplement the techno-economic analysis. One of our projects on LCA assesses the global warming and environmental impacts of continuous synthesis of a fragrance, cinnamyl alcohol (COL) in Stoli Catalysts tubular reactors, versus the batch process. The continuous process is characterized by a higher catalyst turnover number and more efficient overall conversion demonstrating better catalyst utilization which in turn leads to the reduction of costs, energy and harmful environmental impacts, such as climate change potential, water, ozone, metal and fossil depletion, human toxicity, acidification, eutrophication, etc.
Techno-economic assessment of 3D printing technologies for chemical catalysts manufacturing
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, enables a more convenient and rapid design of 3D structured products. At present, the technology is fairly mature with a great scope of applications. However, the use of 3D printing in chemical engineering and specifically for the production of catalysts is very limited but highly advantageous since it allows for better control of support structure and catalyst distribution. Our analysis provided an overview of the current 3D printing technologies and their techno-economic assessment in regards to their application in chemical engineering. We used SWOT, PESTEL and cost analyses to provide guidelines on the best suited 3D technology for catalysts manufacturing.
Integrated waste management and recycling clusters as sustainable solutions for the problem of waste utilisation and processing
The problem of waste disposal is gaining more attention due to the increasing harmful environmental impacts of waste landfilling, especially in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and China. We believe that the best way to solve the problem is to turn waste into resources. We studied the landscape for the implementation and techno-economic feasibility of the integrated waste management and recycling facilities in Indonesia and Thailand to locally reprocess paper, metals, plastics and municipal solid waste. Business models for such clusters with the assessment of the available technologies and OPEX, CAPEX cost analysis were developed.
Assessment of Rusnano, a Russian state funded corporation investing in high-tech businesses
Investments in high-tech start-ups have been always associated with high uncertainty and risks. No wonder, that the majority of the high-tech companies can not overcome the “death valley” being deprived of timely cash inflow for scaling up their technology to TRL5-7. Luckily, state-owned funding bodies are ready to take up risks and support the high-tech start ups at an early stage of their development. In order to assess the effectiveness and importance of such state-owned agencies, we reviewed the activities of a Russian state-funded enterprise Rusnano.
The problem of informal e-waste recycling in Guiyu town, China
Due to increasing wasteful consumption of electronic goods and purposely shortened electronics’ lifespan, the amount of electronic waste is increasing at an enormous speed. Facing the shortage of the world’s capacity for e-waste recycling, the developed countries currently export their e-waste to developing countries, mainly China and India. As a result, many regions in China and especially Guiyu town are nowadays considered as the world's most polluted places because of the detrimental effects of informal e-waste processing on the health of locals and the environment. We assessed the problem of informal illegal e-waste recycling in Guiyu and developed a list of guidelines for more effective e-waste management paying special attention to some necessary legislative and subsidiary initiatives, technology transfer and raising problem awareness.
Teaching & Dissemination
Studying and teaching emulsion polymerisation of styrene using in-situ monitoring of temperature
We proposed to enhance the Chemical Engineering curriculum by introducing an emulsion polymerisation laboratory experiment to the undergraduate laboratories. We developed a simple, effective and safe methodology for the in situ monitoring of the emulsion polymerisation of styrene. The proposed experiment involves the measurement of the local temperature change that occurs within the reaction medium, where the obtained temperature profiles can be correlated with the conversion of the monomer. The proposed experiment allowed to safely and quickly study the kinetics of the styrene polymerisation reaction and was successfully used to teach students the reaction engineering.
Summer school for PhD students and young researchers: Sustainable Development of Materials, Processes and Fuels
The main aim of the summer school was to teach postgraduate students and young researchers how to incorporate the concept of sustainability in their research, paying special attention to both resource efficiency and environmental impact. During four days, lecturers from top UK Universities and institutions gave examples of the implementation of the sustainability concept across different areas such as green chemistry, chemical engineering, sustainable materials manufacturing, catalysis, biotechnology and the production of fuels. The school was enhanced by hands-on session on LCA using GaBi software and a mini-conference. The school was a great success according to the participants' feedback.
Open debate on biorefinery: Fuels and chemicals out of biomass.
How sustainable is this?
Is it safe to interfere into the carbon cycle on the Earth by withdrawing biomass for the production of commodities? Is it sustainable to turn biomass into fuels and energy? What are the constraints in converting biomass into valuable chemicals which preserve its natural chemical complexity? To discuss those questions we organised an open debate on biorefinery where the team of academics and consultants was joined by the public to find an ultimate answer on whether it is safe to use biomass for the production of fuels and chemicals.
Fun science session at school: Three states of matter
We developed a fun science session with the main aim to teach pupils in KS4 (8-9 years) about three states of matter in a playful and enjoyable environment with a set of simple but exciting experiments and quizzes to learn about gas, solid and liquid. During a 45 min lesson, the pupils learn about atoms and molecules, their movement in gas, liquid and solid and their effect on the properties of the matter while making a lava lamp and hoover craft and playing orchestra.
Science dissemination publications.
Wealth from waste: How pollution can be turned into something useful
Solving environmental problems usually just means cleaning up the mess people have made. But scientists are increasingly interested in creating something valuable while trying to remediate the environment from pollution. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, as they say, and researchers have now demonstrated several ways that useful products can be obtained from waste in industry and agriculture while also remediating contaminated soil, water and air. Read our article on "Wealth out of Waste" in The Independent about the most recent trends in gaining value from solving environmental problems.