In the past decades, an excessive use of fossil fuels due to the steady increase in World’s energy demand had a significant impact on the environment. This highlights the importance of studying alternatives to fossil fuel sources and the development of technologies to obtain cleaner fuels from renewable sources.
In this context, biomass, and organic waste are attractive feedstocks for energy applications due to their vast availability, renewable nature, and social implications. These can be transformed into bio-oil through hydrothermal liquefaction. The technology has the advantage over other thermochemical processes that can process wet biomass without the need of an energy intensive pre-drying step. The process is performed in a wide range of operating conditions, which have a great impact in the final product distribution (gas, bio-oil, biochar, and aqueous soluble organic products).
Apart from bio-oil, other products of commercial interest are obtained. The recovery of these products as well as an in-depth plant design are key to the viability of the technology. This project will focus on approaching some of the greatest challenges of hydrothermal technology, such as its energy intensive nature and the lack of selectivity in the product mix.
This work will require some experimental and process simulation approach to explore the effect that changes in process parameters, the nature of the feedstock, inclusion of catalysts to increase yield and selectivity and renewable heating sources have on the performance of the technology. The successful applicant will be passionate about research in the field of renewable energy. Students with a background in chemical engineering or closely related are encouraged to apply.