Research

Main Research Topics

Analytical Pyrolysis

Development of analytical pyrolysis as a tool for characterization of natural occurring compounds and materials from thermochemical decomposition/degradation. Application of small scale pyrolysis for screening of process conditions and catalyst for biomass and waste conversion.

Development of Analytical protocols for quantification of Microplastics in the environment

Microplastics are small, barely visible pieces of plastic that enter and pollute the environment. They enter natural ecosystems from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to, cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. At now there is no standardized analytical method for determination of this pollutants. Aim of this research is to develop a fast and reliable tool for the study of presence and behavior of microplastics in the environment.

 

New chiral building block from pyrolysis of cellulose

A main component of plant biomass, cellulose plays a key role in the route leading to viable chemicals from renewable resources. Pyrolysis is a thermal treatment that converts cellulose into a liquid material (bio-oil) containing dehydrated monomers. Catalytic pyrolysis  direct pyrolysis toward new compounds that are characterized by new useful chemical  structures which cannot be obtained easily from fossil resources. By using appropriate catalysts a multifunctional hydroxylactone (LAC) is the principal anhydromonosaccharide in cellulose pyrolysate. The significance of LAC as building block in organic synthesis was proved in collaborative studies that included the synthesis of polylactide copolymers and biomimetic compounds. Aim of the research is to increase selectivity of the conversion, improve isolation and subsequent utilization.

 

Characterization of biochar for environmental applications

Biochar is proposed as geo-engineering strategy for sequestering carbon and substituting part of fossil energy. Nevertheless, environmental effect of biochar is a complex function of mechanical and chemical properties, acid-base features and presence of contaminants which in turn are determined by the feedstock used and pyrolysis process. For this reason, the chemical characterization of this material is mandatory prior to soil application. The aim of the research line is to understand the relationships between production parameters and biochar quality in agriculture and other applications.

 

Chemical Characterization of materials obtained from thermochemical treatment of organic material.

Bio-oil and, more in general oil from thermochemical treatment (e.g. bio-oil, gasification tars, hydrothermal liquefaction oils and hydrothermal gasification tars) is a feedstock for fuels and chemicals from renewables.  Understanding its chemical nature is important for both the optimization of the process and the design of upgrading strategies. Thermochemical derived materials are complex matrices, whose composition is strongly affected by the feedstock type and by the process parameters and requires an array of complementary techniques (e.g. silica gel chromatography, methanolysis, size exclusion chromatography, analytical pyrolysis, elemental analysis, and thermogravimetric techniques) that must be coupled

 

Design of new thermo-bio hybrid concepts for waste valorization.

Starting from the chemical composition of certain bio-oils, a possibility for converting high-fiber plant materials is to start by thermochemically processing it into a uniform intermediate product that can be biologically converted into a bio-based product. This alternative route to bio-based products is known as hybrid thermochemical/biological processing and It is evaluated ad a way to obtain fuels and materials (e.g. polyhydroxyalkanoates) starting from usually un-degradable substrances (e.g. anaerobically digested sludge).

 

Catalytic conversion of microalgae into oils

There are several benefits rising from the utilisation of aquatic over terrestrial biomass, but the low cost production of high lipid algae is difficult. An alternative route resides in cultivating non oleaginous microalgae  characterised by high environmental robustness growing rates and converting the whole biomass into oil by thermochemical treatments (e.g. hydrothermal liquefaction, catalytic cracking). The chemical composition of the oil is  crucial to evaluate the feasibility of upgrading processes, in particular the content of nitrogen. The studies going on in the group include the detailed molecular analysis of algae thermochemical oils with attention to nitrogen-containing organic compouds, the performance of the catalyst by Py-GC-MS, the production of oils by bench scale pyrolysis for fuel analysis in collaboration.

  • Chemical Characterization of materials obtained from thermochemical treatment of organic material.

  • Characterization of biochar for environmental applications

  • Design of new thermo-bio hybrid concepts for waste valorization.

  • Catalytic conversion of microalgae into oils

  • New Materials from Agroindustrial Wastes

  • Automated micro-plant

  • PHA from MMC