Thermo-valorization of biomasses
The increasing interest to find alternative raw materials to petroleum, due to growing energy demand and depletion of oil reserves, has encouraged the development of processes and technologies for the valorization of natural gas, coal and biomasses. Biomasses are considered to be the most promising alternative to fossil fuels because their exploitation does not contribute to a net rising of CO2 in the atmosphere. Biomasses are used in industrial processes through direct combustion, gasification or pyrolysis to produce both heat as source of energy, fuels for transportation and valuable chemicals through the modern concept of biorefinery. A few issues have to be faced to improve the processes and improve the environmental impact to make solid bio-fuels an even more efficient and clean source of energy and chemicals. The research interest in this is multi-scale: on one side the need is to assess the process itself in terms of plant sustainability, feasibility and design, on the other side the lower scale chemical and physical phenomena need further and deeper investigations. With regard to the first one, the main goals are to describe the thermal decomposition of a single biomass particle in its intrinsic multiphase nature (solid, liquid, gas) and to extend it to a large scale industrial process able to compete with standard fossil fuel based technologies. From a chemical point of view the oxygenated species (furans, phenols, aldehydes, laevoglucosan...) released from biomass pyrolysis need to be quantitatively predicted, to control pollution and improve the global environmental impact of the process through the development of detailed kinetic schemes to describe their formation and their consequent decomposition pathways both in pyrolytic and oxidative environment. As a further example recent developments have focused attention on 2,5-dimethylfuran as a possible alternative transportation fuels due to its high energy density (31.5 MJ/L) when compared to that of ethanol (21.2 MJ/L) and its compatibility to current internal combustion engines. Furthermore 2-methylfuran has been proved to be a promising additive to conventional hydrocarbon fuels both in terms of improved efficiency and reduced pollution.
Duration: 10-12 months
Experimental activities: no
Skills: fundamentals of chemical kinetics
Contacts: Eliseo Ranzi