Research and PhD Projects
Research Area 1: Activation of CO2 and carbon/energy storage
This PhD project focuses on the thermo-chemical conversion of CO2 to syngas, which is a mixture of CO, CO2, H2, small amounts of higher hydrocarbons and H2O. The CO2 is fed together with steam or in pure form into a fluidized bed gasifier, where biomass is converted to a high-value syngas. In this process, the end product CO2 is converted to CO which is the carbon source for further synthesis routes. This syngas is further used for the production of biofuels, synthetic natural gas, fine chemicals, proteins or nutrients in the other PhDs theses of this doctoral college. Therefore, it is import to have knowledge about the downstream processes of syngas utilization and its optimal composition as well.
In close interaction with PIs and PhD students within this doctoral college, suitable syngas compositions will be evaluated, and the CO2 biomass gasification process integrated in the CO2Refinery. The aim of this PhD project is to optimize the operation parameters during CO2 gasification to increase the CO2 conversion and carbon utilization efficiency.
PhD student: Florian Müller
The project concerns thermochemical energy storage in combination with sCO2-power cycles. In a first step thermochemical energy storage concepts, based on decarbonization / carbonization of metal oxides shall be analyzed. Additionally, even other thermochemical storage materials for Power2Heat2Power(P2H2P)-concepts will be taken into consideration. An important measure is their applicability for the combination with sCO2-cycles. After selecting the most interesting cycles they will be modelled and simulated by using a stationary process simulation software, e.g. IpsePro or Ebsilon. The different cycles will be evaluated according to technical and economic aspects.
PhD student: Leisan Mukhametshina
Research Area 2: Upgrading of CO2 into fuels, chemicals, and feed products
Upgrading of CO2 into fuels, chemicals, and feed products is of key interest in a CO2Refinery. Platform chemicals can be synthesized using chemical or biological catalysts directly from crude gas streams. Using this integrated chemo-biological refining approach, bulk and fine chemicals, fuels, energy carriers and feed will be generated as end-products. The main topic of this PhD project is the development of catalytically active polymeric hollow-fibre membrane reactor, with direct applicability for low-temperature CO2 conversion.
PhD student: Julia Kalarus
A variety of microorganisms can utilize CO2 as source for biomass growth and metabolite formation. This project will use CO2, CO and H2 from gasification of plant biomass and industrial sources as alternative carbon and energy sources to produce value-added chemicals and fuels. In addition, CO2-derived methanol obtained via chemical synthesis will be used as a co-substrate in microbial fermentations. Finally, wildtype and genetically engineered acetogenic hosts will be used to develop continuous bioprocessing strategies for efficient autotrophic and mixotrophic production of chemicals.
PhD student: Ivo van den Hurk
The conversion of CO2 to value-added platform chemicals such as methanol provides a route to address global climate change but also to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels. In this respect, catalysis plays a key role. This PhD thesis is dedicated to catalyst development for CO2 conversion, preferentially to methanol, by combining synthesis, materials characterization, reaction kinetics, and operando spectroscopy. Fundamental insights into the elementary reaction steps occurring at the catalyst surface will be the basis for a rational design and improvement of the catalytic materials.
PhD student: Gustavo Alves
Microorganisms have the ability to assimilate different C1 molecules including methanol, formate or CO2 into their biomass. Methanol is a promising intermediate chemical as it can be produced from CO2 and hydrogen streams or by direct electrolysis of CO2. It can serve as base chemical, fuel or as a substrate for microbial fermentation. Methylotrophic yeasts like Hansenula polymorphacan grow on methanol as sole carbon source and using metabolic engineering approached various chemical compounds can be produced.
PhD student: Roghayeh Shirvani
The aim of this PhD project is to optimize the production of synthetic natural gas (SNG) suitable for gas grid feed-in with variable gas mixtures derived from CO2 gasification with focus on high CO2 contents in syngas. Thereby, the fluidized bed catalysts shall be developed with increased attrition resistance and enhanced CO2 conversion, maximized carbon conversion by variable syngas compositions and limited carbon deposition on the catalyst surface. Basic research for parameter variation of e.g. reactor design, gas hourly space velocity, process temperature, process pressure and testing of different catalysts shall be conducted.
PhD student: Alexander Bartik
Research Area 3: Systems engineering, modeling, and analysis
Chemical conversion processes, in particular with regard to CO2 utilization, typically take place at elevated temperatures and/or under chemically demanding conditions. Ceramics are ideal framework materials – e.g. as substrates or carriers – for catalytic reactions and biosynthetic processes due to their excellent thermal stability, chemical and biological inertness, and corrosion resistance. This project involves the development of porous ceramics with tailored pore structures suitable for a variety of CO2 utilization processes, employing new methodological approaches.
PhD student: Katharina Rauchenwald
Process simulation allows the steady state or dynamic representation of complex multistage process routes at unit operation level. Considering thermodynamics of separation and reaction processes, material and energy balances are calculated to find optimal combinations of process units. In the context of CO2refinery, upstream processes to produce CO2, reaction processes to convert CO2 to valuables, and downstream processes to separate the valuables including recycles and by-product treatment have to be implemented into the process simulator. Due to frequent temperature changes along the process routes, energy integration is a key success factor for the selection of favourable process routes reducing energy consumption and/or energy storage needs. With key process parameters, the material and energy balances at hand, the environmental impact of process routes from cradle to gate or even from cradle to grave can be calculated. Usually, life cycle analysis fed with balancing data from process simulation or experiments is the common approach in this context.
For technologies in stages of early development (low technology readiness level, TRL) as targeted in the proposed PhD works #1 to #7 of CO2Refinery, special care must be taken in LCA studies, since most reference technologies are mature and have been optimized over decades. In contrast, low TRL processes usually have higher energy demand or solvent consumption because of not yet established heat integration and/or process optimization.
PhD student: Diana Dimande
Supervisor: Michael Harasek
Co-Supervisors: Bettina Mihalyi, Walter Wukovits
Carbon dioxide utilization for the production of fuels, chemicals and materials has the potential to decrease CO2 emissions and reduce fossil fuel consumption. It is likely that CO2 utilization can be used as a CO2 mitigation tool helping us to reach European emission reduction goals. However, for the broader implementation of this strategy, it is important to reach economic competitiveness of carbon utilization processes, as well as to ensure clear environmental benefits in the whole supply chain.
PhD student: Frank Radosits
Supervisor: Amela Ajanovic
Co-Supervisors: Reinhard Haas