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Sustainable Reaction Engineering group


Group leader: Professor Alexei Lapkin


Group members: Dr John Suberu, Dr Polina Yaseneva, Dr Parminder Kaur Heer, Mr Samson M. Aworinde, Mr Philipp-Maximilian Jacob, Mr Jacek Zakrzewski, Mr Yehia Amar, Mr Nicholas Jose.

A sustainable society will use manufacturing processes that satisfy the key criteria of resolving societal needs in the ways that do not deplete resources and do not harm the environment.

In order to understand implications of a given technology (or a manufacturing process) on resources and on the environment we need to place it within the context of a wider system. Thus, if we are considering a single reaction step, we need to understand also the complete process, including any separation requirements and sources/destinations of feedstocks and products/byproducts. If we are considering whether a given chemical product is better sourced from a renewable biofeedstocks, or from a petrochemical source, then we need to understand the supply chain and life cycle environmental implications of such a substitution. 

Sustainable Reaction Engineering group is developing new reactor concepts based on intensive reaction conditions, novel materials, sensor and control strategies. We are working with both, petrochemical and renewable biofeedstocks supply chains, and are interested in whole process design and sustainability assessment.

In the light of growing sustainability concerns the possibility of deriving many of the end-use molecules from biomass is receiving increasing attention. One of the key challenges encountered here is the choice of starting materials, of target molecules and of processing routes, making treatment very expensive computationally and highly uncertain from the point of view of business and technology development.
Within the EPSRC funded collaborative project on the terpene-based supply chain, let by University of Bath and involving University of Bristol and Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge, we are looking at methods of optimising different process scenarios based on several potential synthetic pathways. Here we began exploiting tools of data-mining, automatic evaluation of process routes and global multi-objective optimisation using non-gradient methods.

Together with Dr Andrew Flewitt and Prof. Richard Prager (Engineering), and Dr Cate Ducati (Materials and Metallurgy) we are involved in Horizon 2020 project "RECOBA" ( The project is developing new control strategies for batch processes in several process industries sectors: polymers, steel and silicon. Our team is involved in developing and testing sensors for detection of soft particles morphology under process conditions. As project develops we established a new collaboration with Dr Alessio Zaccone in this Department to develop a fundamental theory of Raman scattering from polymer particles.

Within Catalysis@Cambridge research network we are working together with Prof. Matthew Gaunt group (Chemistry @ Cambridge) on developing scalable continuous flow C-H activation reactions. For this collaboration we exploit the broad range of operating conditions accessible in continuous flow reactors, as well as the tools of computational chemistry, model-based design of experiments and statistical DoE.

We continue work on Design of Experiments algorithms for developing complex organic syntheses. This is a collaboration with Dr Lucy Colwell and Prof. Jonathan Goodman (Chemistry) and is supported by industry. 

Our group is involved in C4T project of CARES ( The work package IRP1 of C4T project is concerned with developing catalytic technologies for de-carbonisation of chemical industries. Specifically we are concerned with replacing conventional feedstocks with C1 and bio-waste based feedstocks. 

Publications from Sustainable Reaction Engineering group


A. Echtermeyer, Y. Amar, J. Zakrzewski, A. Lapkin, Self-optimisation and model-based design of experiments for developing a C–H activation flow process, Beilstein J. Org. Chem., 13 (2017) 150–163.

P.-M. Jacob, P. Yamin, C. Perez-Storey, M. Hopgood, and A.A. Lapkin, Towards automation of chemical process route selection based on data mining, Green Chem., 19 (2017) 140-152. doi: 10.1039/C6GC02482C.

P.-M. Jacob, T. Lan, J.M. Goodman, A.A. Lapkin, A possible extension to the RInChI as a means of providing machine readable process data, J. Chemoinformatics. 9:23 (2017). doi: 10.1186/s13321-017-0210-6.

A.A. Lapkin, P.K. Heer, P.-M. Jacob, M. Hutchby, W. Cunningham, S.D. Bull, M.G. Davidson. Automation of route identification and optimisation based on datamining and chemical intuition, Faraday Discussions (2017).

D.D. Plaza, V. Strobel, P.K.K.S. Heer, A.B. Sellars, S.-S. Hoong, A.J. Clark, A.A. Lapkin, Direct valorisation of waste cocoa butter triglycerides via catalytic epoxidation, ring-opening and polymerisation, J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. (2017).


X. Fan,  V. Sans,  S.K. Sharma,  P.K. Plucinski,  V.A. Zaikovskii,  K. Wilson, S. R. Tennison,  A. Kozynchenko,  A.A. Lapkin, Pd/C catalysts based on synthetic carbons with bi- and tri-modal pore-size distribution: applications in flow chemistry, Catal. Sci. Technol., 6 (2016) 2387-2395. DOI: 10.1039/c5cy01401h

J. Zakrzhewski, A.P. Smalley, M. Kabeshov, A. Lapkin, M. Gaunt, Continuous flow synthesis and derivatization of aziridines via palladium-catalyzed C(sp3)-H activation, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 55 (2016) 8878-8883. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201602483

X. Fan, F. Xing, X. Ou,G.A. Turley, P. Denissenko, M.A. Williams, N. Batail, C. Pham, A.A. Lapkin,Microtomography-based numerical simulations of heat transfer and fluid flow through β-SiC open-cell foams for catalysis, Catal. Today (2016)

P. Yaseneva, P. Hodgson, J. Zakrzewski, S. Falss, R.E. Meadows, A.A. Lapkin, Continuous flow Buchwald-Hartwig amination of a pharmaceutical intermediate, React. Chem. Eng., 1 (2016) 229-238. DOI: 10.1039/c5re00048c.

S. Falß, G. Tomaiuolo,A. Perazzo, P. Yaseneva,J. Zakrzewski,S. Guido,A. Lapkin, R. Woodward, R.E. Meadows, A Continuous Process for Buchwald-Hartwig Amination at Micro- Lab- and Multi-Kilo Scale, Org. Proc. Res. Des. 20(2) (2016) 558-567. DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.5b00350

J. Suberu, P. Yamin, R. Cornell, A. Sam, A. Lapkin, Feasibility of using 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (R1234yf) as a solvent for solid-liquid extraction of biopharmaceuticals, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 4 (2016) 2559-2568. DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.5b01721.

J. Suberu, P.S. Gromski, A. Nordon, A. Lapkin, Multivariate data analysis and metabolic profiling of artemisinin and related compounds in high yielding varieties of Artemisia annua field-grown in Madagascar, J. Pharmaceutical and Biomed. Analysis, 117 (2016) 522-531. doi:10.1016/j.jpba.2015.10.003

A. Lapkin, P.-M. Jacob, P. Yaseneva, C. Gordon, A. Peace, Assessment of sustainability within holistic process design, in Sustainability Assessment of Renewables-Based Products: Methods and Case Studies“, Eds. J. Dewulf, S.D. Meester, R. Alvarenga., Wiley. 2016


C. Houben, G. Nurumbetov, D. Haddleton, A.A. Lapkin,Feasibility of simultaneous determination of monomer concentrations and particle size in emulsion polymerization using in situ Raman spectroscopy, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 54 (2015) 12867-12876.

C. Houben, A. Lapkin, Automatic discovery and optimisation of chemical processes, Curr. Opinion in Chem. Engng., 9 (2015) 1-7.

C. Houben, N. Peremezhney, A. Zubov, J. Kosek, A.A. Lapkin, Closed-loop multi-target optimisation for discovery of new emulsion polymerisation recipes, Org. Process Res. Dev., 19 (2015) 1049-1053.

C. Schotten, D. Plaza, S. Manzini, S.P. Nolan, S.V. Ley, D.L. Browne, A. Lapkin, Continuous Flow Metathesis for Direct Valorization of Food Waste: An Example of Cocoa Butter Triglyceride, ACS Sust. Chem. Eng., 3 (2015) 1453-1459.

P. Yaseneva, D. Plaza, X. Fan, K. Loponov, A. Lapkin, Synthesis of the antimalarial API artemether in a flow reactor, Catal. Today, 239 (2015) 90-96.

L. Torrente-Marciano, D. Nielsen, R. Jackstell, M. Beller, K. Cavell, A. Lapkin, Selective telomerisation of isoprene with methanol by a heterogeneous palladium resin catalyst. Catal. Sci. Technol., 5 (2015) 1206-1212. DOI: 10.1039/c4cy01320d.

A. Martinez-Lombardia, J. Krinsky, I. Peñafiel, S. Castillón, K. Loponov, A. Lapkin, C. Godard, C. Claver, Heterogenization of Pd-NHC complexes onto a silica support and their application in the Suzuki-Miyaura coupling under batch and continuous flow conditions, Cat. Sci. Technol., 5 (2015) 310-319.

A. Lapkin, Green Extraction of Artemisinin from Artemisia annua  L, In “Green Extraction of Natural Products: Theory and Practice”, Eds. F. Chemat, J. Strube, Wiley-VCH, 2015.


N. Peremezhney, E. Hines, A. Lapkin, C. Connaughton, Combining Gaussian processes, mutual information and a generic algorithm for multi-targeted optimisation of expensive-to-evaluate functions, Engineering Optimisation, 46 (2014) 1593-1607.

X. Fan, J. Restivo, J.J. Órfão, M.F.R. Pereira, A. Lapkin, The role of multi walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) in catalytic ozonation of atrazine, Chemical Engineering Journal, 241 (2014) 66-76.

J.O. Suberu, P. Yamin, K. Leonhard, L. Song, S. Chemat, N. Sullivan, G. Barker, A. Lapkin, The effect of O-methylated flavonoids and other co-metabolites on the crystallisation and purification of artemisinin, J. Biotechnol., 171 (2014) 25-33.

A. Lapkin, E. Adou, B.N. Mlambo, S. Chemat, J. Suberu, A.E.C. Collis, A. Clark, G. Barker, Integrating medicinal plants extraction into a high-value biorefinery: an example of Artemisia annua L. Comptes Rendus - Chimie, 17 (2014) 232-241.

V. Sans, S. Glatzel, F.J. Douglas, D.A. Maclaren, A. Lapkin, L. Cronin, Non-equilibrium dynamic control of gold nanoparticle and hyperbranched nanogold assemblies, Chemical Science, 5 (2014) 1153-1157.

P. Yaseneva, C.F. Marti, E. Palomares, X. Fan, T. Morgan, P.S. Perez, M. Ronning, F. Huang, T. Yuranova, L. Kiwi-Minsker, S. Derrouiche, A.A. Lapkin, Efficient reduction of bromates using carbon nanofibre supported catalysts: experimental and a comparative life cycle assessment study, Chemical Engineering Journal, 248 (2014) 230-241.

L. Torrente-Murciano, D.J. Nielsen, K.J. Cavell, A.A. Lapkin, Tandem isomerization/telomerization of long chain dienes, Frontiers in Chemistry, 2 (2014) Article 37, 1-5, DOI: 10.3389/fchem.2014.00037.

N. Peremezhney, P.-M. Jacob, A. Lapkin, Alternative methods of processing bio-feedstocks in formulated consumer products design, Frontiers in Chemistry, 2 (2014) Article 26, 1-6, DOI: 10.3389/fchem.2014.00026.

J.O. Suberu, I, Romero-Canelón, N. Sullivan, A.A. Lapkin, G.C. Barker, Comparative cytotoxicity of artemisinin and cisplatin and their interactions with chlorogenic acids in MCF7 breast cancer cells, ChemMedChem, 9 (2014) 2791-2798.

K.N. Loponov, J. Lopes, M. Barlog, E.V. Astrova, A.V. Malkov, A.A. Lapkin, Optimization of a Scalable Photochemical Reactor for Reactions with Singlet Oxygen, Org.Proc.Res.Dev., 18 (2014) 1443-1454.


J.O. Suberu, A.P. Gorka, L. Jacobs, P.D. Roepe, N. Sullivan, G.C. Barker, A.A. Lapkin, Anti-Plasmodial Polyvalent Interactions in Artemisia annua L. Aqueous Extract – Possible Synergistic and Resistance Mechanisms, PLOS One 8:11 (2013) e80790.

J. Suberu, L. Song, S. Slade, N. Sullivan, G. Barker, A. Lapkin, A rapid method for the determination of artemisinin and its biosynthetic precursors in Artemisia annua L. crude extracts, J. Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 84 (2013) 269-277.

D. Haddleton, J. Burns, C. Houben, C. Waldron, A. Anastasaki and A. Lapkin, Poly(acrylates) via SET-LRP in a continuous flow reactor, Polymer Chemistry 4 (2013) 4809-4813, 10.1039/C3PY00833A.