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Laboratory for Heterogeneous Catalysis

The Laboratory for Heterogeneous Catalysis is dealing with the problems of waste, inefficiencies in processes and adopting the life-cycle approach to process and product development. The group is developing future materials and processes, specialising in process intensification, multifunctional compact reactors, catalytic materials and adsorbents, reaction and reactor modelling, and metrics of sustainability.

In the summer of 2010 we moved into a new Reaction Engineering laboratory within the School of Engineering at Warwick. In the design of this facility we adopted the spirit of flexible research space, creating an open plan laboratory with services in the ceiling, movable work benches and drop-down 'service columns'. The laboratory has a separated area for Raman spectroscopy with independent temperature control. The laboratory was created with the view towards Sustainable Processes, deliberately restricting the use of highly toxic substances, reducing the use of solvents and reducing the energy use in the lab, by adoption of only recirculating fume hoods with the adsorbtion technology.

The biorefinery area of research within the group is located at Warwick HRI campus in Wellesbourne.

Research topics

Research areas in the group are split into two broad topics:

  1. Processing of bio-feedstocks / bio-chemical transformations as the first steps towards renewables supply chain and biorefinety, and
  2. Development of cleaner chemical technologies, mainly focusing on multifunctional compact continuous reactors and multifunctional materials.

These topics fall within the remit of Green (or Sustainable) Chemical Technology - design of new processes and products with zero waste, high energy efficiency, zero toxicity and minimal impact over life cycle. We are developing a complex, Systems' approach to design of materials and processes.

Structured and compact reactors; photochemistry

Compact Multifunctional Reactors is an approach to process intensification (PI) in which intensification is achieved via:

  • increase in the rate of transport processes (energy and mass) due to reduction in the transport lengths,
  • better control over concentration profiles or, generally, over reaction environment,
  • ability to utilize non-thermal energy fields, such as electric, magnetic, light for molecular activation, enabled by the small dimensions,
  • reduction in the number of unit operations due to combination of mixing, reaction, heat transfer and separation functions into a single unit,
  • potential to scale processes by numbering-up of identical process units.

These features lead to the development of small footprint, less capital intensive and cheaper to run processes, which also frequently enable reactions, that cannot be performed safely in any other way. An example of an architecture of a compact multifunctional catalytic micro packed-bed reactor is shown in the image. This schematic was developed in a European project CREATION by the group of Pawel Plucinski, Alexei Lapkin and Stan Kolaczkowski at the University of Bath and extensively studied in the reactions of selective catalytic oxidation, reduction and C-C coupling, see Literature

Compact reactor scheme

Recent projects in the field of reactor technology


EU FP7 project COOPOL The project is a collaboration with RWTH Aachen, University of Hamburg, Prague Institute of Chemical Technology, BASF, Cybernetica (Norway) and CIKTN (UK). The project is aimed at developing non-linear model predictive control for intensification of chemical processes. Specifically in this project we are working on emulsion polymerisation. The project is coordinated by our group and Warwick team includes our group and the group of Professor Dave Haddleton (Chemistry).

Ms Claudia Houben (a PhD candidate) and Dr Hong Duc Ta are working on this project.


EU FP7 project FREECATS The project is a collaboration with Instituto de Carboquímica in Zaragoza (Spain), Faculdade de Engenharia, Universidade do Porto (Portugal), Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet NTNU (Norway), Centre National de la Recherche Scientific (Lillle & Strasbourg, France), Institute of Chemistry of OrganoMetallic Compounds, (Florence, Italy), SICAT (France), Prototech AS (Norway), Adventech – Advanced Environmental Technologies
Lda (Portugal) and the University of Warwick (UK). The project is aiming at developing novel catalytic technologies based on non-metallic nanostructured carbon catalysts for several industrially relevant processes. The role of Warwick's group in this project is to develop reaction models, optimise reactor design and perform Life Cycle Assessment. The team at Warwick involves our group and group of Petr Denissenko

Dr Xiaolei Fan is working on this project.

konstantin_loponov1.jpg FP7 project SYNFLOW This is a large collaborative project involving 19 partners. The project is developing an integrated approach to process design, linking molecular understanding of catalytic processes with development of novel reaction media and reactor concepts. It is aiming to demonstrate a number of industrially-relevant reaction types in continuous flow clean catalytic processes. The role of our group is in developing reaction engineering concepts for several classes of coupling reactions, in particular focusing on the reactor concepts for liquid-solid flows, and performing Life Cycle Assessment of several case study reactions.

Drs Konstantin Loponov and Polina Yaseneva are working on this project.

Synthesis of inorganic materials. An industrial CASE project involving MEL Chemicals. This project is looking at novel approaches to the synthesis of functional inorganic materials. The new approach should deliver tighter control over products' characteristics and a reduction in the aqueous waste of the synthesis.

Mr Gareth Weightman (a PhD candidate) is working on this project.


Flow approaches to the conversion of triglycerides. This project is a collaboration with the group of Dr Andrew Clark (Warwick, Chemistry). We are developing flow processes to enable easy scaling of laboratory-derived approaches to conversion of triglyceride waste streams into higher-value chemicals.

Ms Dorota Plaza (a PhD candidate) is working on this project.

Complexity Science project 

Mr Nicolai Peremezhney (PhD candidate) is undertaking a project aiming at uncovering the complex interrelationships between composition and final performance of formulated products. This project is funded by Complexity DTC at Warwick and co-supervised by Dr Colm Connaughton (complexity) and Professor Evor Hines (Engineering).


The emerging biorefining technology encompasses many processes, from primary processing of bio feedstocks (wood, grass, wood waste, algae, etc), to thermochemical and fermentation technologies, to downstream catalytic and biocatalytic technologies to make novel platform molecules and novel materials for bio-based supply chain of chemicals. Our group has been working on solvent extraction technology to access structurally complex molecules of interest for biomedical and other advanced applications.

Current projects in the field of bioprocessing/biorefinery


EPSRC CASE project in collaboration with Sensapharm Ltd and is an academic collaboration within Warwick, involving groups of Professor Alexei Lapkin in Engineering and Dr Guy Barker in Warwick HRI. This project was selected by CIKTN and funded by EPSRC and Sensapharm Ltd. In the project we are looking at developing approaches to identification and isolation of bio-active 'matrices' in plant biomass.

Mr John Suberu (PhD candidate) is working on this project.

Metrics of Green Chemical Technology

Quantifying environmental impact of chemical technologies and products and comparing alternative products/technologies in terms of their 'greenness' remains a challenging task. An overview, state of the art for 2002, of existing approaches was prepared as a report for CRYSTAL Faraday Partnership (now part of Chemistry Innovation KTN). The report is available in PDF format:metrics_overview_for_crystal_2002.pdf(PDF Document) 360Kb. A case study was developed on the basis of a novel VOC recovery technology, see link to Env.Sci.Techn. 38 (2004) 5815-5823 in the list of publications.

Recently a study on comparative assessment of natural products extraction technologies focusing on antimalarial compound artemisinin was completed. This study was funded by Medicines for Malaria Ventures. Full paper is published in J.Nat.Products and a summary on Rollback Malaria websites.

Together with Dr David Constable (GlaxoSmithKline) we have recently edited a book "Green Chemistry Metrics" published by Wiley, which is the first comprehensive treatment of this topic in a single volume book. An earlier review of metrics approaches was published as a chapter 'Sustainability performance indicators' in the book: Sustainability Assessment”. J. Dewulf, Ir H. van Langenhove (Eds), John Wiley & Sons, 2006, pp. 39-53.

Congratulations to Dr Maria Sotenko and Dr Konstantin Loponov who graduated from Warwick on 19th July 2011.



Professor Andre van Veen

Andre dot vanVeen at warwick dot ac dot uk