Patricia Luis Alconero
Recent publications

research interests address CO2 capture and recovery, process intensification in the chemical industry by applying advanced separation technology (membrane technology) and, exergetic and environmental analyses. She has authored more than 70 publications in these fields with more than 1000 citations. Since 2013 she is member of the Editorial Board of the ‘Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology’ and, since 2014, member of the Editorial Board of the journal ‘Separation and Purification Technology’

IMMC main research direction(s):
Civil and environmental engineering
Chemical engineering

membrane technology
reaction engineering
process intensification

Research group(s): IMAP

PhD and Post-doc researchers under my supervision:

Targeting the elimination of antineoplastic compounds in hospital wastewaters
Raphael Janssens

This research project aims to develop an advance oxidation process able to remove anti-cancer drugs from wastewaters. Therefore wastewaters from Beligum, Portugal and India will be analyzed and compared in term of drug concentration. Then drug removal efficiencies of different separation and oxidation processes will be studied: membrane filtration, chemical oxidation, photocatalysis and electro-oxidation. The compounds will be spiked in different matrices: pure water, drinking water, surface water and wastewater biologically treated. First results indicate that the water matrix has an important influence on the treatment efficiency.

CO2 capture with NaCl: An approach based on membrane technology
Israel Ruiz Salmon

In this project, the general objective is to capture CO2 from flue gases and to convert it into a valuable product (Na2CO3) by using NaCl solution as the only material source.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere is increasing yearly, leading to a global impact in the environment, economy and society. The industry accounts for almost 40% of worldwide CO2 emissions, thus, immediate actions are required. In this context, membrane technology appears as a promising technology to separate gases and to treat waste water for compound recovery. The characteristics, advantages/drawbacks and applications of membrane technology, especially, membrane contactors, will be shown.
As example of this technology, an integrated strategy combining several membrane-based technologies in order to capture CO2 from flue gases from combustion processes will be shown. Besides, this scenario also includes the use of membrane distillation/crystallization to obtain a product (i.e.,salts) that can be reused in the industry as raw material (e.g., ceramic and cement industry).

Enhancing transesterification reactions by pervaporation
Wenqi Li

completed his master studies in the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven holding a degree in Materials Engineering and in Chemical Engineering. He developed his research and engineering skills through internships and academic studies. During his master studies, he gained knowledge on membrane processes and wrote a research paper based on the work of his master thesis, with the cooperation of his supervisor (prof. Patricia Luis) and promoter (prof. Bart Van der Bruggen). He was also involved as co-author in a second paper on the development of environmental friendly ink for spray coating of organic photovoltaics, which has been published in the Journal of Advanced Functional Materials. Mr. Li strongly feels that membrane processes and membrane technology are very useful in industrial processes in the present and the future. Thus, after completing his master studies, he started his PhD within the research group led by prof. Patricia Luis at the Université catholique de Louvain. The main objective of the research work is the separation of organic-organic mixtures by using pervaporation in order to achieve a high purity product and a low energy consumption process.

Biomimetic fixation of CO2 as source of salts and glucose
Mar Garcia Alvarez

Global warming and climate change are issues of great concern today. The increasing of greenhouse gases emissions to the atmosphere is responsible for various environmental problems. Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage can greatly reduce CO2 emissions from new and existing power plants. Membrane technology is highly considered as one of promising post-combustion technologies for reducing CO2 emissions due to its simple operability and energy efficiency.
The overall objective of this project is CO2 capture using membrane technology from flue gases by using bio-enzymes as catalysts by mimicking nature for converting into valuable chemicals.
Two enzymatic conversions will be studied in this project. The first one is based on the action of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which facilitates the reversible hydration of CO2 to bicarbonate. The second enzyme is RuBisCO (Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) carboxylase/oxygenase). The great advantage of using RuBisCO is that this enzyme converts inorganic carbon to its organic form through the formation of a relatively high-molecular weight ligand in the form of phosphoglyceric acid, which may subsequently form glucose.

Recycle more plastics from residual waste/ Bio-sourced polymer composites
Naïma Sallem

holds a PhD in Materials Sciences from the University of Lille 1 in France in 2008, in collaboration with l’Ecole des Mines de Douai. The theme of her works was to establish the relationships between the mechanical behavior, structural and macromolecular orientation of multilayer films composed of Polyamide 6 and Polyethylene for the food packaging industry. Then, she worked as research assistant at the BSMA institute at UCL on Walloon Region projects concerning reactive extrusion, polymer nanocomposites, polymer from biomass waste. She is now working on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and studying the environmental impacts of recycling the plastics from residual waste and she is involved in a project based on bio-sourced composites.

CO2 post-combustion capture by means of membrane absorption-crystallization using amino-acid salts
Marie-Charlotte Sparenberg

Climate change remains a huge challenge today. The most mature and popular CO2 capture method in post-combustion processes is the absorption of CO2 into a solvent, often MEA. Nevertheless it has been shown that this method could be improved both in terms of solvent and in terms of device. The project aims at studying the CO2 post-combustion capture by means of membrane absorption with amino-acid salts and convert the absorbed species into valuable carbonate crystals after a concentration step by means of a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane. The crystallization will be performed thanks to a membrane distillation-crystallization step. A comparison between the osmotic membrane distillation system and the vacuum membrane distillation system will be performed. This whole process should minimize the energy consumption thanks to the use of membrane technologies instead of absorbtion columns while producing pure crystals that could be sold in the industry.

Vida Sang Sefidi

High performance membranes for CO2 capture involving advance materials and biomimicking Nature
Cristhian Molina Fernandez

Global warming is a major problem of our current society. Since our energy demand is continuously increasing it is still expected to rely on fossil fuel supply in the following years. That is why much effort has been dedicated to find industrially feasible solutions to recover the CO2 present in flue gases. This research project aims to provide more and better solutions for CO2 capture and reutilization using membrane technology involving advance materials and biomimicking Nature.

Daria Nikolaeva

Process intensification

Rational Design of Metal-Organic Frameworks/Covalent Organic Frameworks Hybrid Membranes for Pervaporation
Xiao Xu

MMMs have become one of the research hotspots in the field of separation membranes in recent years.In MMMs, the poor compatibility between fillers and organic polymers makes the membrane surface prone to defects, which leads to the decline of separation and stability of the membrane. Therefore, improving the compatibility between hybrid particles and polymers becomes an urgent problem to be solved.MOFs and COFs have the advantages of adjustable pore size, high specific
surface area, and organic components in the framework structure, which enhances compatibility with polymers and reduces defects.The super high specific surface area and selective adsorption characteristics of MOFs and COFs materials enable MOFs hybrid membranes and COFs hybrid membranes to simultaneously increase separation factor and permeation flux, breaking the "trade-off" phenomenon.
In this study, metal-organic framework complexes (MOFs) and covalent organic framework materials (COFs) will be used as hybrid particles.Hybrid membranes will be prepared by impregnation method and applied to the separation of organics/water.The separation performance of the pervaporation membrane will be improved by utilizing the characteristics of high specific surface area and selective adsorption of MOFs and COFs particles.The morphology and surface characteristics of the hybrid membranes under different membrane formation conditions will be studied by means of XRD, SEM, EDX, FTIR, CA, AFM, etc. And the effects of membrane formation factors and operating conditions on the properties of the separation
membranes will be investigated

Efficient membrane-based affinity separations for chemical applications
Tim Van Geel

Many chemical companies are nowadays confronted with very challenging liquid separations, aiming at separating molecules with very similar physical properties. The current trend towards more bio-based and/or highly-tailored chemicals, will only increase the number of these demanding separations. These challenges would benefit from efficient Affinity Separations (AS).

The most traditional AS technology is liquid-liquid extraction, where the extracting solvent acts as the separation agent (ASA). The most selective AS is liquid chromatography, driven by the affinity between molecules and a functionalised stationary phase, the separation material (ASM). Although successful in different situations, both AS processes have important drawbacks. The EasiChem project aims at tackling these limitations, by developing more efficient, and/or more sustainable AS processes, focusing on promising, energy-poor liquid separation technologies like membrane-based AS processes.

The goal of developing these membrane-based AS processes is to bring the selectivity of chromatography to membrane separations, using functionalised ceramic membranes tailored to match the separation problem. The work programme is intended to extensively explore, understand and benchmark the capabilities and limitations of this new AS process, using a myriad of functionalized ceramic materials.

A division is made between processes driven by an Affinity Separation Agent (ASA), and processes driven by an Affinity Separation Material (ASM). In addition to continuous chromatography, three promising membrane-based AS processes will be developed within the EasiChem project: open membrane extraction using hydrophobized ceramic microfiltration membranes (ASA process), innovative tight membrane extraction and affinity nanofiltration, both with functionalised ceramic membranes (ASM processes). Polymeric membranes will be used for comparison.

Within the framework of the EasiChem project, several work packages were defined, of which this research project represents work package 5. This work package deals with open membrane extraction using hydrophobized ceramic microfiltration membranes.

Recent publications

See complete list of publications

Journal Articles

1. Li, Wenqi; Molina-Fernández, Cristhian; Estager, Julien; Monbaliu, Jean-Christophe M.; Debecker, Damien P.; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Supported ionic liquid membranes for the separation of methanol/dimethyl carbonate mixtures by pervaporation. In: Journal of Membrane Science, Vol. 598, p. 117790 (2020). doi:10.1016/j.memsci.2019.117790.

2. Gérardy, Romaric; Estager, Julien; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Debecker, Damien P.; Monbaliu, Jean-Christophe M. Versatile and scalable synthesis of cyclic organic carbonates under organocatalytic continuous flow conditions. In: Catalysis Science & Technology, Vol. 9, no.24, p. 6841-6851 (2019). doi:10.1039/c9cy01659g.

3. Cristóvão, M.B.; Torrejais, J.; Janssens, R.; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Van der Bruggen, B.; Dubey, K.K.; Mandal, M.K.; Bronze, M.R.; Crespo, J.G.; Pereira, V.J. Treatment of anticancer drugs in hospital and wastewater effluents using nanofiltration. In: Separation and Purification Technology, Vol. 224, no.1, p. 273-280 (2019). doi:10.1016/j.seppur.2019.05.016.

4. Romaric Gerardy; Julien Estager; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Debecker, Damien P.; Jean-Christophe Monbaliu. Versatile and scalable synthesis of cyclic organic carbonates under organocatalytic continuous flow conditions. In: Catalysis Science & Technology, (2019). doi:10.1039/C9CY01659G (Accepté/Sous presse).

5. Sparenberg, Marie-Charlotte; Ruiz Salmón, Israel; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Economic evaluation of salt recovery from wastewater via membrane distillation-crystallization. In: Separation and Purification Technology, Vol. 235, p. 116075 (2020). doi:10.1016/j.seppur.2019.116075.

6. Sang Sefidi, Vida; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Advanced Amino Acid-Based Technologies for CO2 Capture: A Review. In: Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, Vol. 58, no.44, p. 20181-20194 (2019). doi:10.1021/acs.iecr.9b01793.

7. Ruiz Salmon, Israel; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Membrane crystallization via membrane distillation. In: Chemical Engineering and Processing: Process Intensification, Vol. 123, p. 258-271 (2018). doi:10.1016/j.cep.2017.11.017.

8. Zhang, Rui-Xin; Braeken, Leen; Liu, Tian-Yin; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Wang, Xiao-Lin; Van der Bruggen, Bart. Remarkable Anti-Fouling Performance of TiO2-Modified TFC Membranes with Mussel-Inspired Polydopamine Binding. In: Applied Sciences, Vol. 7, no.1, p. 81 (2017). doi:10.3390/app7010081.

9. Ruiz Salmon, Israel; Janssens, Raphaël; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Mass and heat transfer study in osmotic membrane distillationcrystallization for CO2 valorization as sodium carbonate. In: Separation and Purification Technology, Vol. 176, p. 173-183 (2017). doi:10.1016/j.seppur.2016.12.010.

10. David Lukumu Bampole; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Emmanuel Lukumu Mulamba. Effect of Substrates During the Adaptation of Indigenous Bacteria in Bioleaching of Sulphide Ores. In: American Scientific Research Journal for Engineering, Technology, and Sciences, Vol. 32, no.1, p. 200-214 (2017).

Conference Papers

1. Molina Fernandez, Cristhian; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Thin film enzyme - poly(ionic liquid) – free ionic liquid composite membranes for enhanced CO2 absorption with carbonate aqueous solutions.

2. Sang Sefidi, Vida; Winand, Inès; Luis Alconero, Patricia. A comparison of different amino acid solutions for CO2 capture using a membrane contactor.

3. Sang Sefidi, Vida; Luis Alconero, Patricia. A comparison of different amino acid solutions for CO2 capture using a membrane contactor.

4. Sparenberg, Marie-Charlotte; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Ruiz Salmon, Israel. Economic evaluation of salt recovery from wastewater via membrane distillation-crystallization.

5. Molina Fernandez, Cristhian; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Application of enzyme integrated supported ionic liquid membranes and poly(ionic liquid)-free ionic liquid composite membranes in CO2-N2 separation.

6. Sparenberg, Marie-Charlotte; Ruiz Salmon, Israel; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Salt production by membrane distillation-crystallization:economic analysis.

7. Janssens, Raphaël; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Slurry photocatalytic membrane reactor technology for cytotoxic drugs removal from wastewater.

8. Ruiz Salmon, Israel; Luis Alconero, Patricia; Clérin, C.. Membrane crystallization of valuable salts from waste streams.

9. Janssens, Raphaël; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Targeting the elimination of antineoplastic compounds in hospital wastewaters.

10. Ruiz Salmon, Israel; Simon, K.; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Osmotic and thermal membrane distillation for CO2valorization as carbonate crystals.

Book Chapters

1. Amelio, A.; Van der Bruggen, B.; Lopresto, C.; Verardi, A.; Calabro, V.; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Pervaporation membrane reactors: Biomass conversion into alcohols. In: Membrane Technologies for Biorefining , Elsevier Inc., 2016, p. 331-381. 978-008100452-4. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100451-7.00014-1.

2. Van der Bruggen, B.; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Pervaporation. In: Progress in Filtration and Separation , xxx, 2014, p. 101-154. 978-012398307-7;978-012384746-1. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-384746-1.00004-5.

3. Van Der Bruggen, B.; Escobar, I.C.; Luis Alconero, Patricia. Analysis of the development of membrane technology for gas separation and CO2 capture. In: Modern Applications in Membrane Science and Technology , xxx, 2011. 13: 9780841226180.

4. Luis Alconero, Patricia; Albo, J.; Afonso, C.; Irabien, A.. Environmental risks of magnetic ionic liquids: Ecotoxicity (EC50, Vibrio fischeri). In: Ecotoxicology around the Globe , xxx, 2011, p. 359-371. 978-161761126-1.