Research Assignments 

Project 1: Reactions for biomass conversion

Using biomass to produce added-value chemicals is crucial for the development of more sustainable chemical industry. Biomass, however, is an over functionalized due to the presence of excess oxygen. Therefore, selective de-oxygenation strategies must be developed to achieve sufficient yields to guarantee the scalability of the process. In this assignment, we will explore the selective conversion of bio-derived molecules into chemical platforms using solid catalysts in liquid environments. This project will involve catalyst synthesis, testing, and characterisation at the Catalytic Processes and Materials Group (CPM).

Project 2: Heat-transport and mechanical stress

When using hybrid catalytic materials containing organic and inorganic domains with significant differences in physico-chemical properties it is extremely important to anticipate the possible mechanical and chemical stresses that will be exerted on the material during catalytic reaction. Here, we will study the effect of thermal expansion on the structural integrity of a catalyst containing polymeric functionalities at the entrance of the pores using finite element analysis.

Project 3: Role of Catalyst Wettability 

The presence of water molecules is ubiquitous to biomass and bio-derived streams (e.g. bio-ethanol, bio-syngas, bio-diesel). For this reason, when performing reactions to convert biomass into added-value products it is germane to tailor the catalyst structure to withstand the harsh reaction environment caused by hot condensed water. Tailoring the surface wettability of the catalyst and crystalline structure of the catalyst is necessary to properly extend the catalyst live. In this project, we will study the adsorption of oxygenated molecules in aqueous environments using catalytic materials with increasing hydrophobicity.

News Feed

"Artificial Photosynthesis Engineering: Designing solar-driven electrochemical reactors for the production of clean fuels and high-value materials"


Prof. M. Modestino, NY University

The need to decouple industrial processes from fossil energy sources only grows more urgent with the fast increase in global energy demand and the multiple global initiatives to mitigate climate change. Chemical manufacturing, already responsible for 26% of the world energy demand, is highly energy-intensive as it requires large amounts of heat derived from fossil sources to drive thermochemical processes. On the other hand, emerging electrochemical processes which require electricity rather than heat, have continued to gain traction as an avenue towards the integration of renewable energy sources in the chemical industry. Electrochemical processes allow to directly interconvert clean electricity, from solar or wind, into chemical energy and high-value products. This presentation will present opportunities in clean chemical manufacturing of fuels and polymer precursors through the design and optimization of solar-driven electrochemical reactors. 

Through a combination of technoeconomic modeling, device demonstrations and advanced electrochemical reactor designs he showed how electrochemical engineering principles can be applied to fabricate high-efficiency and cost-effective solar-hydrogen generators. He  then discussed how designing efficient organic electrochemical systems may result into more sustainable production of high-value polymeric materials.

Specifically, he discussed the development of a solar-driven electro-hydrodimerization process for production of adiponitrile (ADN), a precursor to Nylon 6,6. Although this model reaction is the largest and most successful organic electrosynthesis implemented in industry, it faces many challenges owing to its limited energy conversion and selectivity. Through a combination of experimental electroanalytical characterization, we elucidate guidelines for the optimal design and operation of ADN electro-synthetic reactors. His results provided insights into mass transport limitations that affect the selectivity of ADN electrosynthesis and on how to control electrode processes to mitigate them.

Our paper on Reforming of Methanol has been selected for as supplementary cover of the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research!

I am really happy to see that our recent publication on the "Interplay of Support Chemistry and Reaction Conditions on Copper Catalyzed Methanol Steam Reforming" has been accepted it as supplementary cover!


This invited article has been the result of the selection of my talk in the ACS Annual Meeting this year in New Orleans as the "Best Contribution of the Session on Biomass Conversion". You can find more about this Open Access publication in the Volume 57, Issue 45 of the ACS Journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research!


This was a great team effort between Manuel Antonio Díaz Pérez, Javier Moya Sánchez-Camacho, and Juan Carlos Serrano-Ruiz.


I was really honoured for the invitation from Prof. Erik Heeres at University of Groningen (The Netherlands) to give a seminar and visit their labs. 

I wanted to thank also, Assistant Professors Peter Deuss and Jun Yue for making this visit possible and arranging the agenda for the day. I really enjoyed the scientific discussion and I look forward to the next collaborations.

Thank you very much!!!

Visit to the Research Group of Prof. Erik Heeres at University of Groningen (Groningen 23-11-2018)
International Symposium of Catalysis in honor of Prof. F. Kapteijn (Delft - 28-09-2018)

We had a great time in the farewell international symposium in the honor of Prof. Freek Kapteijn in Delft.


He had an inspiring and extremely productive academic trajectory that now continues in the legacy of his PhD students around the world.


Our Symposium in the ACS Annual Meeting was a total success!!! (Boston - 19-08-2018)

Our symposium on Water (The Greenest Solvent): Catalysis in Aqueous and Bi-phase Systems was a total success. We had more than 20 speakers from the US, Europe, and Asia. This was possible thanks to our great co-organiser Prof. Fernanda Neira DeAngelo from Eindhoven University of Technology.

This symposium highlighted the role water and organic liquid reactions environments on surface reaction chemistry, kinetics, catalyst stability, molecular transport in porous systems filled with liquids, and convective diffusion processes multi-phasic media for green-chemistry applications.

The topics that included:

  • Novel catalyst designs for stable conversion in harsh reaction environments

  • In-situ characterization of working catalyst in liquid environments

  • Reaction kinetics of heterogeneous catalysts in aqueous and organic solvents

  • Theoretical and computational multi-scale studies of multiphase catalytic systems

  • Innovative (structured) catalytic reactor designs for improved mass transport in aqueous and bi-phase systems

  • Novel catalytic reaction and separation processes in multiphase media

Student trip to Argentina with our Chemical Engineering Students (BSc. and MSc.)... What a great experience...!!!

This Summer we went in the study trip of our Chemical Engineering Student to Argentina! In two weeks we visited companies, Universities, and leading research institutes in the cities of Cordoba, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, and La Plata! 

We had a blast doing sightseeing in combination with the incredible visits to the Nuclear Plant of Atucha, University of Buenos Aires (UBA) with more than 500K students! The best part of it was the interaction with our students and the faculty in a mix of set-ups of formal visits and beautiful visits to touristic places in Argentina.

We are really grateful with the students of our program in Chemical Engineering and the Student Association of Chemical Engineering "Alembic" for the opportunity to participate in this activity. Great organisation and impecable logistics made the entire trip an incredible experience.

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