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Chemical and Process Engineering

The two areas of Explosions and Fire, and Green Process Engineering are at the centre of our research activity

Explosions and Fire research focuses on hydrogen safety - examining the likelihood of ignition of hydrogen-air mixtures (mechanical and electrostatic), characterisation of underwater hydrogen releases and mitigation of hydrogen gas explosions using water fog, nitrogen dilution and chemical additives. The results have been used to help Sellafield Ltd address knowledge gaps in their current hydrogen safety guidance and assist in the development of safety cases for nuclear decommissioning operations. Such research enables the development of strategies to prevent or mitigate hydrogen explosion accidents, helping to maintain the integrity of the nuclear waste plants and protect the environment from the threat of an uncontrolled radioactive release.

Green Process Engineering (GPE) is one of the active and emerging research areas at LSBU that looks at designing sustainable and safe chemical processes. It integrates new, environmentally-friendly chemical routes and technical innovation to achieve green chemical process development. The research covers greening of alkene/terpene epoxidation, graphene from supercritical fluid technologies, biodiesel production from used cooking oil (UCO), CO2 conversion to value added chemicals and fuels and continuous synthesis of value added products using multi-functional reactors such as FlowSyn continuous flow reactor, reactive distillation column (RDC) and chromatographic reactor. The research has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The Royal Society and the industrial partners.

Key achievements

  • £1.98M in external research grants/contracts and 105 publications since 2008
  • Over £1M of funding from Sellafield Ltd to research hydrogen mapping and mitigation, saving the company £550M. Awarded Centre of Expertise status by Sellafield in 2011
  • Ground breaking research for the National Nuclear Laboratory to define the characteristics of runaway "red oil" reactions has significantly improved process safety
  • Innovated a patented, continuous, clean alkene epoxidation process technology recognised by the Royal Society Brian Mercer Feasibility Award as an outstanding scientific breakthrough
  • Pioneering work on protein crystallisation with calixarenes published in Nature Chemistry

Themes

Explosions and Fire
Including the properties of hydrogen-air mixtures, the mitigation of hydrogen explosions using inert agents, run-away "red-oil" reactions and the modelling of fire and smoke spread in buildings.
Green Process Engineering
The development and integration of new, environmentally-friendly chemical routes and technical innovation to achieve green chemical processes.

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