The research Group of Reactors, Catalysis and Control has researched in several research lines in the field of the application of chemical processes (especially catalytic) to chemical and environmental applications. Our work ranges from the molecular environment (preparation and characterization of adsorbents and catalysts) to the simulation and implementation of control algorithms in industrial processes, such as the design of chemical reactors and unit operations.
The activity of the research group in the catalysis field started in the early 90's with the study of catalytic liquefaction processes of coal, hydrogenation of anthracene oil and tars processing. Later, reactions of environmental interest (catalytic combustion of methane and volatile organic compounds, catalytic hydrodechlorination of chlorinated organic compounds, etc.), as well as reactions with industrial interest (production of maleic anhydride from butane, acrylic acid from propane, reactions of catalytic alkylation, etc) were also carried out. The first studies considered commercial catalysts, kinetic and deactivation phenomena being characterized; whereas the research lines evolved until the preparation of catalysts with defined properties and variable complexity: catalyst obtained from disposable materials (such as red mud from Bayer process), catalyst based on zeolites, carbon nanofibre, high surface area graphites or MOFs.
In the field of the Chemical Reactors, membrane and fluidized bed reactors (conventional and circulating) were studied for the partial oxidation of butane, propane and methanol. These investigations were carried out in collaboration with ATOFINA (France) and Haldor-Topsoe (Denmark).
In 2003, research work was extended to adsorption phenomena, using the technique of inverse gas chromatography. This technique allows getting physic chemical information about the interaction between the adsorbates and the adsorbent, being useful for the design of sorbents and catalysts which operate in gas phase.
In 2005, hydrodechlorination studies were extended to the optimization of palladium-based catalysts, using advanced carbonaceous materials as supports. Therefore, non-microporous carbon materials, such as carbon nanofibre and high surface area graphites were used as supports. This project was coordinated with other research groups (INCAR, ICP, UNED) more specialized in the preparation of these materials.
In 2008, the group started working on the development of alkaline materials for both the capture of CO2 and for catalytic processes devoted to the upgrade of biomass, specifically, for obtaining biodiesel from residual biomass. At the same time, a work focused on the design and simulation of selective membrane reactors for their application in reforming and water gas shift reactions was started. These reactions play a key role in the hydrogen economy and in the revaluation of wastes through gasification techniques.
In 2010, the group participated in a European Consortium (LOWCARB) supported by the Research Found for Carbon and Steal (previously CECA) whose global objective was the minimization of the methane emissions from the mining activity in Europe. The goal of this project was the industrial implementation of technologies like inverse flow reactors, as well as the application of environmental measures, such as carbon trace and ecological footprint, to this sector.
Finally, in 2012, a work on the removal of micro-pollutants from water was started, by pre-concentration processes based on adsorption.