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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology



Allan's review paper in Progress and Energy and Combustion Science is out.

Allan's huge work, created as a hobby during the last lockdowns has been now published. This is a large and full of intricate details paper explaining the state of the art of mass spectrometric methods applied in researching flames. Congratulations, Allan!






Kenny and Ewa published a review paper in Energy&Fuels

Exciting news; Kenny and Ewa's review paper has been finally published. They wrote about the combustion of biomass in fluidised beds, with a review focusing on recent developments in the field. The paper is a perfect starting point for young researchers working on the efficient usage of biomass in energy technologies. Good job Kenny. Publishing two papers in one year is quite an achievement!



Kenny presents his recent research at the FERIA Conference in Nottingham

Kenny Kwong (now a fourth-year Ph.D. student) represented our group at the 1st FERIA conference. FERIA stands for Fuel and Energy Research and Its Applications. Kenny's presentation described biomass char combustion and predictions for burnout times, based on pre-determined CO/CO2 ratios. Sounds complex? Kenny derived an analytical solution that can predict burnout times quite easily! Congrats Kenny, well done! (and we're looking forward to your paper from the conference in the special issue of Fuel).



Enrique's M.Phil. results published in Chemical Engineering Journal

Enrique did his MPhil research project on chemical looping epoxidation of ethylene. He investigated how the presentation of the catalyst affects the selectivity of epoxidation towards ethylene oxide. The results show that the contact between the catalyst (Ag) and supporting material (SrFeO3), which also works as an oxygen donor to the reaction, needs to be firm. This can be achieved, for example, by high-temperature calcination of the Ag-SrFeO3 composite. After the treatment, the Ag particles are larger and more reactive. In the end, Enrique was able to achieve selectivity to ethylene oxide of 60% at ethylene conversion >15%, and both stable over 10 chemical looping cycles. This is so far our record! Great job, Enrique.

Marek EJ, García-Calvo Conde E. Effect of catalyst preparation and storage on chemical looping epoxidation of ethylene.



Andras, Thomas and Zach published a paper on fast-speed analysis of biomass-derived pyrolitic gases using a flame ionisation detector

Andras and Thomas (our IIB students from 2019), supported by Zach, published a fantastic paper on using a well-known technique - flame ionisation to detect pyrolytic gases, for the first time in-situ, so at the time of the pyrolysis experiments. The paper describes their adventure into the study and the obtained results. The novel method allows analysing the total amount of carbon in the evolved raw, pyrolytic gases without the need for gas cleaning and tar removal, hence, offering insight into pyrolysis that was not available before. Well done!

Volford A, Redko T, Bond Z, Marek EJ, Hayhurst AN. Using a flame ionisation detector to measure the rate and duration of pyrolysis of a biomass particle. Combustion and Flame,




Samuel published his first paper on tailoring oxygen carriers for chemical looping epoxidation (CLE)

Samuel's recent work demonstrates the synergy between two strontium ferrite perovskites: SrFeO3 and Sr3Fe2O7 when used as oxygen carriers for chemical looping epoxidation. Separately, each of the perovskites is worst than a fair mix of both materials, and this applies to all properties: rate of oxygen release and uptake, stability in cycling, selectivity towards the epoxide (here: ethylene oxide). Samuel's work proves that we can tailor the performance of oxygen carriers, matching their chemical potential with reaction requirements. We are looking forward to the next step, Samuel!


Gabra S., Marek E.J., Poulston S., Williams G., Dennis J.S. The use of strontium ferrite perovskite as an oxygen carrier in the chemical looping epoxidation of ethylene. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.


Kenny published his first paper on chemical looping combustion (CLOU)

Kenny's first paper on CLOU with biomass char and CuO particles is out (link below). This is an important piece of work developing the first analytical solution to char conversion in a CLOU setup. The model allows predicting the burnout time in any CLOU setup easily, for any stoichiometric oxides (CLOU particles). We are looking forward to the next part of this research. Stay tuned!

Kwong K., Mao R, Scott S.A., Dennis J.S., Marek E.J., 2020. Analysis of the rate of combustion of biomass char in a fluidised bed of CLOU Particles. Chemical Engineering Journal,


New paper co-authored by E.J. Marek. Does the reaction product influence the process in gasification? Yes, and it's quite a change.

Most studies use Ergun's rate of reaction to describe gasification of a solid char by CO2 into a gases fuel, carbon monoxide. Ergun's expression seems to have it all... and, indeed, that's why it is so successfully used (e.g., Marek EJ et al. 2018). In this study, led by Dr Yaoyao Zheng, we show that Ergun did not include the inhibiting effect of CO, and this omission influences the rate significantly! We propose a new expression for the rate that captures also the influence of CO. Have a look at the paper below. It will be presented in January at the International Symposium on Combustion. Great work Yaoyao and good luck at the conference!

Zheng Y, Marek E.J., Scott S.A. 2020 The effect of CO on CO2-char gasification. Proc Combust Inst.

New paper co-authored by E.J. Marek is out. Can we model chemical-looping with a discretised porous particle? Yes, we can.

Some materials are porous, others are not. Obviously this influences their reactivity in heterogeneous reactions. To observe the progress of a reaction, we modelled hematite particles under reduction with CO/CO2 mixture. Results show how different two materials with identical chemical composition can be. Here we had one type of hematite derived from ore, the other synthesised in the lab.

Jovanovic R., Marek E.J., 2020 Percolation theory applied in modelling of Fe2O3 reduction during chemical looping combustion. Chem. Eng. J.




New paper co-authored by E.J. Marek is out. This time the story involves microbes.



Some bacteria are amazingly effective in producing CaCO3. This biomineralised carbonate can have a bountiful range of applications in construction engineering. The paper characterises how efficiently various bacteria strains precipitate CaCO3. The image shows three mineral presentations of precipitated CaCO3 - all created by microbes.

Saracho, A.C., Haigh, S.K., Hata, T., Soga, K., Farsang, S., Redfern, S.A.T., Marek, E., 2020. Characterisation of CaCO3 phases during strain-specific ureolytic precipitation. Sci. Rep. 10, 1–12.


IIBs projects finished.

Jo, Alex, Udayin, Shekeil, Walid, and Luke finished their IIB projects and submitted their research reports. Congrats!


IIBs presenting their research projects.

Jo, Alex, Udayin, Shekeil, Walid, and Luke presented their research projects today. They gave a 6-min teaser presentation at the Department, followed by a poster session. Noone has any doubts these are our new experts on the combustion of waste fuels, CO/CO2 ratios from burning chars, promoters in CL epoxidation. Well done!

If you have problems with incomplete combustion (e.g., CO in the off-gas), go and talk to Jo and Alex.

Luke and Walid can tell you how to determine the CO/CO2 ratio from combustion of char, and then model for the burnout time.

If you have a catalytic reaction, go to Shekeil and Udayin to discuss promoters.


Boom is joining the Combustion Group.

Jiratheep Pruchyathamkorn - Boom is joining our group for his 8-week Mini research project. Boom is a NanoDTC student and he will be using his nano-skills to look at materials for CL-epoxidation. He will investigate how do the CL-catalysts work and which phases are active in reactions.


We are saying good-bye to Prof. John Davidson.

Prof. John Davidson passed away. He was the brightest and kindest supervisor, mentor and colleague. Without him, the group will not be the same. We will continue his fundamental work on fluidisation, hoping that would make him proud. He will be deeply missed.


Investigating redox kinetics of SrFeO3-δ. Another paper out in the world.

This is a second paper from Richard Goerke's Ph.D. thesis. Here, we determined kinetic parameters for SrFeO3-based perovskites. It is the first study, in which the dependence between pO2, non-stoichiometry of perovskite (δ), and the temperature is experimentally investigated. The paper is linked here.



Andras and Thomas' paper in Combustion and Flame is out!

These guys did a great job during their IIB project with us. Both are now working as chemical engineers! Congrats about the paper and about your new careers!

Free access link is here. In this paper, we describe how to determine important parameters for biomass and char (obtained after pyrolysis of biomass). Only by getting the parameters, such as thermal conductivity, right, can we model the energy conversion of biomass correctly.


Samuel around the globe: now in Beijing, China

Samuel Gabra has been invited to a Graduate Conference at the Tshigua University in China. Samuel received a full scholarship for this, being selected as the only Ph.D. student from Cambridge. We have no pictures of him in China just yet, so the readers just need to believe this news.


Samuel at a conference in the US

Samuel Gabra is presenting his research at the AIChE Conference in Orlando, US. This year the theme is "Transforming the Future through Chemical Engineering".

On Wednesday, Nov 13, Samuel will be presenting a paper titled: "MoVNbTeO for Chemical Looping - Oxidative Dehydrogenation of Ethan", co-authored with Dr S.A. Scott, G. Williams, S. Poulston, Prof. J.S. Dennis. The session will be in a Regency Ballroom!





The Combustion group gets bigger

Welcome two new Ph.D. students, Thomas and Ben!

In October, Thomas Z. Sun and Ben Houlton have joined our group. Both will be working on chemical looping. Good luck with your Ph.D. and welcome!