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Sustainable Reaction Engineering group


Group leader: Professor Alexei Lapkin


Group members: Dr Polina Yaseneva, Mr Samson M. Aworinde, Dr Philipp-Maximilian Jacob, Mr Yehia Amar, Mr Nicholas Jose, Mr Zhimian Hao, Mr Chonghuan Zhang, Ms Liwei Cao.


Group's news
March 2018
: Congratulations to Mr Jacek Zakrzewski for successfully defending PhD viva and start of a new job at Merck (Germany)! 


Research Topics and Projects

A sustainable society will use manufacturing processes 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 biofeedstock, 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 that can be used in the manufacture of molecules, developing formulations or functional nano materials. We are working on methods of modelling chemical processes, starting from molecular modelling methods and extending to multi-objective process optimisation and life cycle assessment. We have pioneered methods of machine learning for automated process optimisation, and are exploring methods of Big Data in application to chemical reaction networks. We are working with many industry sectors, from inorganic materials and formulations, to platform chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and have an international network of collaborations, including an Erasmus exchange programme with RWTH Aachen (Prof. Alexander Mitsos).


Current research areas within the group:


Bio-feedstocks for chemicals manufacture

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.

Our group is developing tools of data-mining, automatic evaluation of process routes and global multi-objective optimisation using non-gradient methods to assemble optimal reaction pathways. We are developing process models for multi-step reaction sequences and optimising these processes at flowsheet level. We are exploring environmental impacts from the proposed processes using life cycle assessment. 

Another aspect of bio-based feedstocks is the utilisation of waste, either from large scale processes, such as bio-diesel production and agriculture, but also from food processing. In collaboration with our partners within C4T project in Singapore, we are working on a number of new catalytic processes for utilisation of such waste products.


Process development in speciality, polymer and pharmaceutical chemistry

We are involved in several projects on translation of batch processes to continuous and on process development methods. Our current focus is on automation of data generation, automation of models assembly, phenomena-based process models, use of machine learning methods for design of experiments, model-based design of experiments. Our active projects are supported by several companies in polymer and pharmaceutical industries and by EPSRC. We are collaborating with a number of colleagues involved in Dial-a-Molecule grand challenges network on the topic of 'predictive scalability'.

Our main internal collaboration in chemistry are with the groups of Prof. Matthew Gaunt and Jonathan Goodman (Chemistry @ Cambridge) on continuous flow reactors, as well as the tools of computational chemistry, model-based design of experiments and statistical DoE.


Process intensification

Process intensification is one of most important technical approaches to reduction of energy and resource intensity of chemical manufacturing. We are working on developing new reactor concepts for controlled assembly of functional nano-structured materials and for synthesis of organic molecules. We are also developing new hybrid processes, combining multiple functionalities within a single unit operation, when this brings a synergistic performance enhancement. An aspect of PI is process monitoring, when real time information about the process can be used for process optimisation and control, as well as for increased process understanding. We are collaborating with groups developing novel sensor and analytical technologies, and with groups developing novel physical models that can be used as part of a sensor.


Singapore-based projects

Our group is involved in the C4T project of CARES ( The work package IRP1 of the 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 feedstocks. Our active projects are on methanol synthesis, glycerol hydrogenolysis and methods of synthesis of catalytic support materials.

Our group is involved in the new project eCO2EP between the University of Cambridge and Berkeley University' entities in Singapore in collaboration with NUS and NTU. The project will develop a demonstrator mini plant integrating scaled-up electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to ethylene with product separation.

Publications from Sustainable Reaction Engineering group


P.-M. Jacob, Alexei Lapkin, Statistics of the network of organic chemistry, React. Chem. Eng., 3 (2018) 102118. DOI: 10.1039/c7re00129k.

E. Bradford, A.M. Schweidtmann, A. Lapkin, Efficient multiobjective optimization employing Gaussian processes, spectral sampling and a genetic algorithm, J. Global Optim., (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s10898-018- 0609-2.

D. Kralisch, D. Ott, A.A. Lapkin, P. Yaseneva, W. De Soete, M. Jones, N. Minkov, M. Finkbeiner, The need for innovation management and decision guidance in sustainable process design, J. Cleaner Prod., 172 (2018) 2374-2388. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.11.173

S.M. Aworinde, A.M. Schweidtmann, A.A. Lapkin, The concept of selectivity control by simultaneous attenuation of feed concentration and temperature in a microstructured reactor, Chem. Eng. J. 331 (2018) 765-776. DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2017.09.030



D. Russo, I.D. Somma, R. Marotta, G. Tomaiuolo, R. Andreozzi, S. Guido, A.A. Lapkin, Intensification of Nitrobenzaldehydes Synthesis from Benzyl Alcohol in a Microreactor, Org. Process Res. Dev., 21 (2017) 357-364. DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.6b00426

D. Helmdach, P. Yaseneva, P.K. Heer, A. Schweidtmann, A. Lapkin, A multi-objective optimisation including results of life cycle assessment in developing bio-renewable-based processes, ChemSusChem (2017). DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201700927.

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. DOI: 10.3762/bjoc.13.18

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 202 (2017) 483-496. DOI: 10.1039/C7FD00073A.

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. 92 (2017) 2254-2266. DOI: 10.1002/jctb.5292

I. Penafiel, A. Lapkin, Flow systems for NHC catalysis, in “Science of synthesis reference library: N-heterocyclic carbenes in organic synthesis”, Eds., S.P. Nolan, C.S.J. Cazin, Georg Thieme Verlag KG, Stuttgart, New York, 2017, pp 369-394.

A. Lapkin, K. Loponov, G. Tomaiuolo, S. Guido,Solids in continuous flow reactors for specialty and pharmaceutical syntheses, in “Sustainable Flow Chemistry - Methods and Applications”, Ed. L. Vaccaro, Wiley, 2017.

A. Lapkin, P. Yaseneva, Life Cycle Assessment of Flow Chemistry Processes, in “Sustainable Flow Chemistry - Methods and Applications”, Ed. L. Vaccaro, Wiley, 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. DOI:

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. DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.5b00210

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. DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.5b00397

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. DOI: 10.1039/c4cy00829d

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. 

Earlier papers are affiliated with: University of Warwick, University of Bath, and Boreskov Institute of Catalysis.