Chemical Process Engineering and Forest Products Research Centre

Reaction Engineering

Catalysts and Multiphase Reactors. The research work developed under the general domain of chemical reaction engineering covers up all the way going from heterogeneous catalysis to the analysis of multiphase reactors. Preparation and characterization of solid catalysts is followed by experimental tests for catalysts screening and assessment of kinetic laws using lumped models whenever complex reactive mixtures are under study. Functionalization of polymeric materials to coordinate with metal ions is also an ongoing scope targeting active and stable catalysts on environmental catalysis. Fixed-bed, trickle-bed, bubble column and slurry reactors have been analyzed under continuous, batch, or semi-batch operation within a large spectrum of reactive systems. Taking advantage of simultaneous reaction and heat transfer, multifunctional reactors are also investigated.

Computational Modelling. Steady-state and transient behavior of fixed-beds systems were extensively addressed through simulation studies involving thermal instabilities of highly exothermic processes. Temperature runaway, multiplicity and wrong-way behavior were analyzed with pseudo-homogeneous and heterogeneous models including the intraparticle convection phenomenon. Various numerical methods were used, as orthogonal collocation and finite differences, in computational programs based on several commercial codes. Multiscale design and integrated development of environmentally-based catalytic processes aiming the design of multiphase reactive systems for the tailored application of high-performance environmental cleaning technologies have been using advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) frameworks for mixing and hydrodynamic studies including Eulerian and Lagragian (EE, EL) and volume of fluid (VOF) models

Advanced Oxidation Processes. Environmental preservation regarding chemical treatment policies for gas and liquid effluents focuses our research on Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs), aiming the integration of different technologies mainly supported on heterogeneous catalysis as wet oxidation, ozonation, Fenton, photo-Fenton and electrochemical processes to offer industry alternative strategies for conventional systems in order to comply with restrictive legislation. Our spin-off company Adventech (http://www.adventech-group.com/) has been responsible for the in-situ application of our laboratorial research embracing a large spectrum of agroindustrial, food processing, detergent, cosmetics, chemical and pharmaceutical wastewaters, demanding tailored integrated treatment solutions. For gaseous emissions, multifunctional reactors are devoted to the catalytic oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Bioenergy and Bioaugmentation. The development of sustainable strategies to recover resources (nutrients, energy, water) from wastewaters is a natural follow up in our research group. Energy recovery from high organic charged liquid effluents, especially those coming from agro-industries, will be optimized as a management technology for the biogas production in anaerobic systems. Bioaugmentation techniques will be investigated aiming at the development of specialized microorganisms to improve the digesters robustness. In cooperation with our spin-off company, Adventech, it is our goal to integrate anaerobic digestion with steam reforming leading to renewable hydrogen production from biogas to be applied in fuel cells.

Microbiology and Pollutants Impact on Public Health. Various bacteria and viruses were being object of epidemiological studies on human population as well as their impact on different environment. Identifying a strong population infection by these microorganisms, this research highlights the water courses contamination with such biological pollutants, joining, this way, the general aim of assessing water quality and public welfare. Moreover, the impact of chemical pollutant compounds on human health is investigated under the scope of the relation between the continuous production of free radicals (species also chemically active in effluents treatment) and the development of several diseases. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), resulting from oxidative reactions, may damage biomolecules giving rise to several types of modification, including DNA changes, being involved in cellular pathologies. The oxidative stress due to environmental aggressions such as toxins in food, air and water may cause oxidative overloads in the organism and will be investigated under ultra weak photon emission (UPE) techniques within an interdisciplinary research joining chemical engineering, biophysics and medical sciences. Health impact assessment (HIA) tools are also integrated in our research.