Research projects  

PhD positions are available for top students with excellent skills and a strong background in chemical engineering. Check the current availability on: AcademicTransfer or FindaPhD

Research topics include (but are not limited to):
~ Eco-efficient intensified fluid separations for pre-treatment and downstream processing
~ Systematic identification and integration of process intensification alternatives
~ Optimal process integration of technologies for e-Refinery
~ Design, control and optimization of intensified distillation technologies
~ Eco-friendly entrainers for extractive distillation processes
~ Modeling and optimization of circular chemical processes and systems

MSc/BSc projects are available on our group webpages: Process Systems Engineering | Product and Process Engineering | BioProcess Engineering

Research projects (selection)

~ REMAP2 - Radically Electrified Methanol Production & Purification, Netherlands Enterprise Agency, Project TIND23-03473469, (link)
~ SPACING - Sustainable Production of ACrylic acId from reNewable waste Glycerol, EPSRC Project EP/V026089/1 (link)
~ Advanced separations for eco-efficient production of biofuels and bio-based chemicals, Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, Grant WM170003 (link)
~ ASPIRE - Advanced Separation Systems for Valuable Products from Bio-Resources, EU Funded Project P_37_449 (link)
~ ALTEREGO - Alternative energy forms for green chemistry, EU Project Grant ID: 309874 (link)
~ CARENA - Catalytic Membrane Reactors based on New materials for C1-C4 valorization, EU Project Grant ID: 263007 (link)
~ Utilities and optimal use of heat, ISPT Project UH 20-00-06/08/10 (link)
~ Heat pump assisted distillation processes, ISPT Project BC-00-02 (link)
~ Multi-product reactive distillation process for polyesters, ISPT Project SC-00-05 (link)
~ OPT-ABSO - Modelling and optimisation of industrial absorption processes, EU Projetc Grant ID: G1RD-CT-2001-00649 (link)
~ Entrainer-based reactive distillation for synthesis of fatty acids esters, NWO/CW Project Nr. 700.54.653 (link)

Eco-efficient downstream processing in biorefineries

Although most research in biorefineries focuses on conversion or pre-treatment steps, the largest costs are in the downstream processing of bio-based chemicals and biofuels. In order to become viable and sustainable, a paradigm shift is needed towards intensified separations in this new production environment. Separations must be integrated and intensified as part of a systematic and holistic PSE approach, as changes to the way separation is carried out cannot be studied in a piecemeal approach by considering units in isolation. This research direction aims to integrate various separation techniques for optimal process design, using novel technologies and configurations developed specifically to suit the difficult bio-separations involving complex mixtures where the useful products are in low concentration. This will be achieved by exploiting the synergy between the physical and chemical phenomena taking place in multi-phase systems where the products are obtained by bio-chemical reactions or isolated from natural resources.

Applied Research & Innovative Process Development

1. Methodology projects on fundamental and applied research topics, such as Residue Curve Maps (RCM) based design of separation sequences, novel reactive separations, advanced process integration (e.g. Dividing-Wall Column, Reactive DWC, Extractive DWC, Azeotropic DWC) and plant-wide control.

2. Multi Bussiness Unit (mBU) and BU dedicated applied research projects and innovative process developments in: distillation, absorption, reactive separations, energy savings technologies, conceptual process design, advanced process control, basic engineering and technical support for industrial plants.

3. Multi-partner industrial projects, within the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) / Dutch Separation Technology Institute (DSTI)
Industrial heat storage (ISPT Project UH-20-05), Compression Resorption heat pump (ISPT Project UH-20-06), Thermo-acoustic heat pump (ISPT Project UH-20-08), Heat pumps in bulk separation processes (ISPT Project BC-00-002), Reactive distillation for multi-product continuous plants (ISPT Project SC-00-005)

4. Joint multi-partner projects and collaborations with industrial companies, research centers, institutes and universities: Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), Shell, Unilever, DSM, Huntsman, LyondellBasell, Bronswerk Heat Transfer, Aker Solutions, YellowDiesel, Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, University of Amsterdam, 'Babes-Bolyai' University of Cluj-Napoca, 'Politehnica' University of Bucharest, Dortmund University of Technology, University of Paderborn, Loughborough University, and others.

5. Integrated plants for biofuels production by reactive distillation and reactive absorption. Enhanced separation and purification of bioethanol and biodiesel. Innovative process intensification, process design, control and optimization, as well as development of solid catalysts.

Novel Integrated Reactive-Separation Process for FAME Synthesis

Integrated biodiesel processes based on reactive separations powered by solid acid/base catalysts are available nowadays, offering significant advantages such as minimal capital investment and operating costs, as well as no catalyst-related waste streams and no soap formation. However, the controllability of the process is just as important as the capital and operating savings. In such processes the small number of degrees of freedom is a drawback which makes it difficult to correctly set the ratio of reactant feeds and consequently to avoid impurities in the products.

Process Integration in Process Separation: Reactive Distillation and Dividing-Wall Columns

Due to its many advantages, distillation is still the major separation process used in the chemical processing industry. However, one important drawback is its considerable energy requirements – distillation can generate more than 50% of plant operating cost. Process intensification aims at significant capital and energy savings, as well as environmental benefits, by integrating different phenomena or operations (e.g. reactive separations, dividing-wall columns, heat integrated reactors or columns).

Towards Green Energy: Biodiesel by Catalytic Reactive Distillation

Developing sustainable energy sources is one of the key scientific challenges in the 21st century. Biodiesel is a viable and renewable alternative to petroleum diesel, with better performance and environmental benefits. It can be produced from vegetable oils, animal fat or even recycled greases from food industry. Interest in biodiesel is growing following tighter legislation on vehicle emissions. Remarkably, biodiesel is the only alternative fuel currently available that has an overall positive life cycle energy balance.

Entrainer-based Reactive Distillation for Synthesis of Fatty Acids Esters
NWO/CW Project Nr. 700.54.653

Fatty esters are performance oleo-chemicals based on natural raw materials. Fatty esters are incorporated in a wide variety of high-added value products, from cosmetics to plasticizers and bio-detergents. Bio-diesel, a mixture of light fatty esters, has recently emerged as a sustainable fuel. Conventionally, the fatty esters are produced in batch processes using strong mineral acids. However, large-scale manufacture of bio-diesel needs continuous sustainable technologies based on solid catalysts.

Design and Control of Recycle Systems by Non-linear Analysis

Design and control of reactors in recycle systems should be integrated at an early design stage in order to comply with modern requirements, such as flexibility in production, high efficiency of raw materials, reduced inventories and down-to-zero waste. The generic structure is the Reactor-Separator-Recycle system. It is argued that the reactor volume should be higher than a minimum value in order to ensure feasible operation. In contrast with stand-alone reactors, multiple steady states are possible solely due to the effect of material recycles, but non-isothermal operation may bring even more sophisticated non-linearities.

Sulfuric Acid Plant - Dynamic Modeling and Optimization
OPT-ABSO Project No. G1RD-2001-40261
Contract No. G1RD-2001-00649

Pollution examination and energy analysis have become in recent years an essential part of nationwide climate strategies in many European countries, for reducing the impacts the process industry has on environment. Many sulphuric acid plants are facing now new challenges that aim to maximize the amount of energy produced while minimizing the impact on environment.

Foam Control in the Food Industry

This project aims the development of a more natural ingredient for beverages products. The main issue concerning the industrial production process is the control of the foam formed in an aerated stirred tank reactor. The first part of the study presents a brief literature review on several topics concerning the project: foam formation, foam characterization, foam stability, foam control, antifoams, defoamers, foam-breakers, and bubble size distribution. Then, key factors responsible for foam formation during industrial production process are established and analyzed.

QSPR & QSAR Studies / Computational and Topological Chemistry

QSPRs (Quantitative Structure-Property Relationships) link in a quantitative manner the physico-chemical properties of chemicals with the molecular structure. Some molecular properties (i.e. those of which numerical value vary with changes in the molecular structure) such as the normal boiling point, critical parameters, viscosity, solubility, retention chromatographic index, are often used for characterizing chemicals in databases. However, a certain property is not always available in tables or other reference sources. It is just the case of newly synthesized compounds. As a consequence, methods of evaluating physico-chemical properties from the structural features of organic molecules become very important.

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