Research in my group is centred around the production of porous carbon materials and silica (for rice straw only) from lignocellulosic biomass. We are using an innovative biomass conversion process called “Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC)" which is able to convert biomass into carbon materials is water in only a few hours. The resulting carbon materials can have a wide range of applications from solid fuels to renewable energy materials.
In relation to UKCCS we are particularly interested in designing new and efficient adsorbent materials for CO2 capture using renewable precursors (i.e. straws, algae, food waste, etc).
The advantage of using the HTC process is the fact that we can precisely tune the morphology, porosity and surface functionality of our resulting materials in order to produce very efficient and low cost CO2 capture adsorbents. In addition, using biomass as a precursor for our production of our adsorbents will trap additional CO2 from the biomass into the solid carbon material so that we can have a double gain in CO2 capture.
We can also process the resulting carbon materials as monoliths, in one step during the carbonization process, which offers great advantages in terms of cost and processing for industrial applications.
Our biomass-derived CO2 sorbents satisfy the following requirements:
- large CO2 uptake;
- high sorption rate;
- good selectivity between CO2 and other competing gases in the stream (i.e. N2);
- easy regeneration and
- low-cost and high availability
One of our current projects involves the synthesis, characterization, processing and CO2 capture properties of algae-derived microporous carbons. Algae have very high photosynthesis efficiency and are considered a fast growing biomass, commonly doubling their biomass within a 24 h growth window which ensures quick availability of this precursor. An additional advantage of microalgae is that some species are rich in proteins and therefore have relatively high nitrogen contents, which may allow the synthesis of N-doped materials. N-containing surface functionalities grant basicity to carbon materials, which is expected to be favourable for the adsorption of acidic gases, such as CO2, SO2 or H2S.
We also work on replacing the classical activation methodologies to produce microporous carbons with more benign and facile alternatives.
More details on our research can be found at: http://titiricigroup.org/