Francesco Contino
Recent publications

Francesco Contino focuses his research effort on four strands: Energy systems, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations of reactive systems, Real Driving Emissions and Robust Optimisation — optimisation combined with uncertainty quantification. About energy systems, he works at micro and macro levels to understand what are the key drivers to help us succeed the energy transition. For numerical simulations, he has developed a reduction method (TDAC), in collaboration with Politecnico di Milano, to use detailed mechanisms in CFD simulation; it is included in the official release of OpenFOAM. Francesco Contino also works on real driving emissions of passenger cars and heavy duty; he includes uncertainties in emission factors and uses Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS). Finally, he works on making robust design optimisation affordable by working on efficient optimiser and fast uncertainty quantification methods.

IMMC main research direction(s):
Fluid mechanics

bayesian inference
energy storage
reacting flows
internal combustion engine

Research group(s): TFL

PhD and Post-doc researchers under my supervision:

Robust optimisation of the pathway towards a sustainable whole-energy system: role of synthetic fuels
Xavier Rixhon

Securing energy supply while mitigating the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions embodies one of the biggest challenges of today’s -and tomorrow’s- society. In this perspective, renewable energies, mainly wind and solar, will be extensively installed. However, these resources per se present a time and space disparity which generally leads to a mismatch between supply and demand. Therefore, to harvest their maximum potentials, the energy system shall become more flexible, especially through the storage of this renewable electricity. The integration of electro-fuels seems to be a promising solution. They could play the role of long-term storage of electricity and energy carriers to supply other sectors (e.g. heat or mobility). To address the question of the role of these fuels in the energy transition, a multi-energy and multi-sector model, Energy Scope TD (ESTD), will be further developed. It optimizes the design of an energy system to minimize its costs and emissions. Defining an energy transition strategy for a large-scale system, such as a country, implies decisions with long-term impacts (20 to 50 years) and, hence, many uncertainties. To perform the uncertainty quantification (UQ), ESTD will be complemented with a surrogate-assisted UQ framework. The perspective of this project is then to provide the designers and the decision-makers with optimized energy system designs, including the knowledge we have on the uncertainties, in order to pave a robust pathway towards sustainability.

Techno-economic analysis of e-fuels
Davide Tonelli

Despite the massive penetration of renewable energy sources (wind, solar) in the system represents one of the pillars to achieve a deep decarbonization, their intermittent nature calls for long-term energy storage capacities to ensure the power system security and adequacy. Due to their capacity constraints and energy losses over time, the batteries alone are not a feasible solution. To satisfy the large capacity volumes at a national scale a chemical storage system is the most feasible candidate, namely the production of hydrogen, electro- and synthetic fuels via the Power-to-Gas (PtG) and the Power-to-Liquid (PtL) conversion processes.

Given the complexity hidden behind the energy system transition at a country level, within the BEST project we carry out techno-economic analyses based on a stochastic modelling approach to support policy makers in shaping the energy system at a national and European scale. With the perspective of achieving the least carbon-intensive energy system at the minimum cost, the analysis is carried out in an optimization framework, implemented in the open-source energy model EnergyScope from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Study on HCCI engines
Sara Spano

Operational flexibility of micro gas turbine towards integration in smart systems.
Angelos Gaitanis

The main scope of the current research project is understand the optimal MGT operational settings for alternative themodynamic cycles and also different fuels. More specifically, an optimization model will be developed, to identify the optimal operational mode that maximizes efficiency and minimizes operating costs, based on specific demand. This model will be established with the use of in-house codes and commercial software. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis will be conducted to determine the effect of various operational parameters on dynamic system performance, and to assess the resilience of the specific setup. Finally, several system configurations will be addressed numerically in order to incorporate increased system flexibility. Thus, this research is expected to demonstrate the ability of MGT systems to be interfaced with other technological systems, for example smart grids.

Robust integration of carbon capture in renewable methanation
Dierderik Coppitters

Robust and antifragile design optimization of energy systems, considering computationally-efficient uncertainty quantification methods.

Improvement of computational efficiency of surrogate models for uncertainty quantification, using active learning methods.

Process simulation and optimization of direct air capture systems in power-to-gas systems.

FLEXibilize combined cycle power plant through Power-to-X solutions using non-CONventional FUels (FLEXnCONFU)
Azd Zayoud

FLEXnCONFU project aims to demonstrate the flexibility of combined cycle power plants, using hydrogen, or an ammonia carrier, as an energy storage elements.

A comprehensive model will be developed to evaluate the contribution of imported synthetic/electro fuels and their usages and the non-energy use of energy vectors. The model will be used in different scenarios considering two objectives: the minimization of the economic cost (LCOE) and the minimization of the Global Warming Potential (GWP). However, when taking the parameters to optimize as perfectly known, the real objective could even be really far, leading to a fragile optimum, and therefore insecurity of supply. Instead of deterministic optimization, this task will include uncertainty quantification analysis in order to perform robust optimization instead. Considering the uncertainties, it will provide much richer information to policy maker or system designers.

Developing a low-NOx ammonia burner
Charles Lhuillier

In collaboration with a startup company, the goal of this project is to develop, characterise and optimise an innovative burner adapted ammonia combustion with low nitrogeneous pollutant emissions.

Carnot batteries as effective sector-coupling systems for heat and power: techno-economic analysis and robust optimisation
Antoine Laterre

The first concepts of Carnot batteries appeared in the early 2010s. These systems propose to use excess energy from the grid to produce heat and store it in thermal form. This energy can then be returned in the form of electricity through thermal cycles. By their very nature, these “batteries” allow for efficient coupling between electrical and thermal systems, which is an asset regarding the challenges prescribed by the energy transition. For example, they can take advantage of waste heat (< 100°C) to increase their power output to power input ratio to values above 100%. The heat they generate can also be used for other purposes (e.g. industrial).

Theoretical studies to date have shown that this technology has great potential for development. However, they also reveal that the performance can deteriorate severely when certain parameters deviate slightly from the optimal design conditions (i.e. variation of waste heat temperature, of isentropic efficiencies, etc.). In order to evaluate their real potential, this project proposes to integrate, by simulation means, the uncertainty dimension on these parameters to quantify more efficiently the sensitivity of Carnot batteries to them.

To identify the designs that are robust to uncertainty and to evaluate the actual techno-economic performance of these systems, Uncertainty Quantification and Robust Optimisation (optimisation under uncertainty) techniques will be applied. Using metrics such as LCOS, we will assess with more certainty the potential of this technology compared to other storage systems, such as batteries.

Towards more sustainable mobility practices in Wallonia? A mixed-method research on the boosts and brakes for the development of such practices, and on the COVID-19 pandemic consequences.
Line Vanparys

In the transportation sector of Wallonia, despite the existing policy goals and scenarios aiming to reduce energy consumption, and therefore car use, car is still the most used mode of transport. Moreover, in Belgium, the number of wage cars almost doubled between 2008 and 2020. And, if fewer people travelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a more intensive use of the car is conceivable: people intend to use public transport less and use the car more because of health security reasons. There is thus an emerging need to pursue research on the development of more sustainable mobility practices. Social practice theories are the theoretical framework. By rejecting the distinction between macro- and microscopic levels of analysis,

they consider the practices as the unit of analysis explained by norms and values, infrastructures, socioeconomic, characteristics, other practices, … Even if there are surveys on how people explain their use of different means of transport, nearly no social practice theories’ studies have been carried out in Wallonia to understand the adoption and defection of sustainable mobility practices. A mixed-methods approach will be used, with quantitative data from existing surveys (notably BELDAM, Monitor, BeMob, and Mo’-vid19), and with qualitative data collected through three sets of in-depth interviews with a) individuals who changed their mobility practices to more sustainable ones, b) individuals wanting to do so but failed, and c) individuals having access to a company car. The research will focus on several aspects of mobility practices: means of transportation, distance, frequency, time allowed for each trip, type of energy (fuel, electric, …), and type of car (SUV, family car, more or less fuel/energy-efficient, weight…). The last elements have not yet been studied with a sociological approach.

The Impact of Energy Policies on the Energy System
Panagiotis Varelas

There are many difficulties in the upcoming years toward a carbon-neutral planet. The main issue that renewable energy sources are facing in the energy transformation is the security of supply. Alternative fuels like hydrogen and ammonia might be a solution to this challenge as possible energy carriers. The main barrier they are currently facing is the increased cost compared to other fuels. This project is aiming to promote alternative fuels and green applications in mobility and other sectors and to highlight the importance of alternative fuels as a solution to tackle climate change and reach our goals.

In this direction, academia should play a vital role by providing the necessary facts and guidelines to the policymakers. Currently, researchers and policymakers are acting independently, and coordinating actions are very often lacking. The main goal of this research is to provide evidence and facts that can help policymakers take decisions. This implies measuring the impact of the energy policies on energy systems. Thus, every time an energy policy will be implemented or modified our model will be able to predict the potential impact both for investors and consumers.

Existing models are not considering the effect of the energy policies on the energy systems. Traditionally these models are scenario-oriented. According to their input parameters such as demand, consumption, and available technologies, they can suggest a couple of different scenarios to the policymakers.

Modern societies are rapidly changing by the decisions of political institutions. Recent major events in Europe and United States proved that energy transition is a dynamic condition affected by a plethora of different parameters that should be considered. Designing energy models needs to be a vice versa task proposing the optimal scenarios to the policy makers, considering at the same time the impact of energy policies.

The second novelty of this research proposal is that it will take into consideration both the financial and the societal impact of energy policies.

Developing a framework for CFD simulation of the combustion of micron-sized iron powder using a Lagrangian-Eulerian formulation in OpenFOAM.
Zakarie Bruyr

The goal of my research is to perform simulations of iron powder combustion in OpenFOAM (CFD) and to validate it experimentally.

Metal powders feature a high energy content similar to hydrocarbon fuels. They could also be easily and safely transported while their oxidation is carbon-free. Moreover, after being burned,

they can be recycled to close the metal-fuel cycle and be reused again. Therefore, metal-fuels, and particularly iron power, constitute a promising alternative energy carrier to currently used fossil fuels. However, their combustion is still not fully understood which prevents the development of adapted metal-fuel combustors. Such phenomena as the mixed combustion regime, the radiative heat transfer and the production of thermal NOx must be included in my combustion model. This latter will be used to study the impact of the particle size distribution, the burner geometry, ...

The first step in the development of the numerical combustion model in OpenFOAM is to take into account the mixed combustion regime between kinetics-limited and diffusion-limited. A model of the radiative heat transfer will then be added followed by the production of thermal NOx. Once the model completed and numerically validated, the fuel and burner conditions could be analysed.

Recent publications

See complete list of publications

Journal Articles

1. Tipler, S.; D’Alessio, G.; Van Haute, Q.; Parente, A.; Contino, Francesco; Coussement, A. Predicting octane numbers relying on principal component analysis and artificial neural network. In: Computers & Chemical Engineering, Vol. 1, no.1, p. 107784 (2022). doi:10.1016/j.compchemeng.2022.107784.

2. Coppitters, Diederik; Tsirikoglou, Panagiotis; De Paepe, Ward; Kyprianidis, Konstantinos; Kalfas, Anestis; Contino, Francesco. RHEIA: Robust design optimization of renewable Hydrogen and dErIved energy cArrier systems. In: Journal of Open Source Software, Vol. 7, no.75, p. 4370 (2022). doi:10.21105/joss.04370.

3. Coppitters, Diederik; Verleysen, Kevin; De Paepe, Ward; Contino, Francesco. How can renewable hydrogen compete with diesel in public transport? Robust design optimization of a hydrogen refueling station under techno-economic and environmental uncertainty. In: Applied Energy, Vol. 312, no., p. 118694 (2022). doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2022.118694.

4. De Paepe, Ward; Pappa, Alessio; Coppitters, Diederik; Montero Carrero, Marina; Tsirikoglou, Panagiotis; Contino, Francesco. Control Strategy Development for Optimized Operational Flexibility From Humidified Micro Gas Turbine: Saturation Tower Performance Assessment. In: Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power, Vol. 144, no.6, p. 061012 (2022). doi:;

5. Coppitters, Diederik; De Paepe, Ward; Contino, Francesco. Robust design optimization of a photovoltaic-battery-heat pump system with thermal storage under aleatory and epistemic uncertainty. In: Energy, Vol. 229, no.1, p. 120692 (2021). doi:10.1016/

6. Beckers, J.; Verstraten, T.; Verrelst, B.; Contino, Francesco; Van Mierlo, J. Analysis of the dynamics of a slider-crank mechanism locally actuated with an act-and-wait controller. In: Mechanism and Machine Theory, Vol. 159, no.1, p. 104253 (2021). doi:10.1016/j.mechmachtheory.2021.104253.

7. Dyakov, Igor V.; Bergmans, Benjamin; Idczak, François; Blondeau, Julien; Bram, Svend; Cornette, Jordi; Coppieters, Thibault; Contino, Francesco; Mertens, Jan; Breulet, Hervé. Intercomparative measurements of particle emission from biomass pellet boiler with portable and stationary dilution devices. In: Aerosol Science and Technology, Vol. 55, no.6, p. 665-680 (2021). doi:10.1080/02786826.2021.1888865.

8. Alfonso-Cardero, A.; Pagés-Díaz, J.; Contino, Francesco; Rajendran, K.; Lorenzo-LLanes, J. Process simulation and techno-economic assessment of vinasse-to-biogas in Cuba: Deterministic and uncertainty analysis. In: Chemical Engineering Research and Design, Vol. 169, no.1, p. 33-45 (2021). doi:10.1016/j.cherd.2021.02.031.

9. K. P. Shrestha; Lhuillier, Charles; A. A. Barbosa; Pierre Bréquigny; Contino, Francesco; C. Mounaïm-Rousselle; L. Seidel; F. Mauss. An experimental and modeling study of ammonia with enriched oxygen content and ammonia/hydrogen laminar flame speed at elevated pressure and temperature. In: Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, Vol. 38, no.2, p. 2163-2174 (2021). doi:10.1016/j.proci.2020.06.197.

10. Rixhon, Xavier; Limpens, Gauthier; Jeanmart, Hervé; Contino, Francesco. Taxonomy of the fuels in a whole-energy system. In: Frontiers in Energy Research, Vol. 9, no.660073, p. 1-6 (2021). doi:10.3389/fenrg.2021.660073.

Conference Papers

1. Coppitters, Diederik; Alexis Costa; Lionel Dubois; Diane Thomas; Guy De Weireld; Contino, Francesco. Robust integration of direct air capture in power-to-methane systems: techno-economic feasibility study under uncertainty. In: Proceedings of ECOS 2022 35th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of. Vol. 35, no.35, p. 1497-1508 (2022). Brian Elmegaard: Copenhagen, 2022 xxx.

2. Zayoud, Azd; Coppitters, Diederik; Verleysen, Kevin; Dias, Véronique; Laget, Hannes; Jeanmart, Hervé; Contino, Francesco. Importing renewable energy to EU via hydrogen vector: Levelized cost of energy assessment. In: ECOS 2022 35th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems. Vol. 35, no.35, p. 295-304 (2022). Brian Elmegaard: Copenhagen, 2022 xxx.

3. Verleysen, Kevin; Coppitters, Diederik; Parente, Alessandro; Contino, Francesco. Remote ammonia production for the future energy demand of Belgium: Techno-economic optimization of local and remote ammonia production under uncertainty. In: Proceedings of ECOS 2022 35th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of. Vol. 35, no.35, p. 149-160 (2022). Brian Elmegaard: Copenhagen, 2022 xxx.

4. Gaitanis, Angelos; Laterre, Antoine; Contino, Francesco; Ward De Paepe. Towards Real Time Transient mGT Performance Assessment: Effective Prediction Using Accurate Component Modelling Techniques. In: Proceedings of Global Power and Propulsion Society. Vol. GPPS Xi’an21, p. 8 (2022). 2022 xxx.

5. Jeanmart, Hervé; Vanparys, Line; Jacques, Pierre; Dupont, Elise; Lits, Grégoire; Bartiaux, Françoise; Contino, Francesco. The energy transition cannot remain in a technological silo. 2022 xxx.

6. Banaï, M.; Contino, Francesco; Ducarme, D.; Malcourant, E.; Raskin, Jean-Pierre. Collaborations entreprises – universités : un levier vers un changement systémique ?. 2022 xxx.

7. Thiran, Paolo; Hernandez, Aurélia; Limpens, Gauthier; Matteo Giacomo Prina; Jeanmart, Hervé; Contino, Francesco. Flexibility options in a multi-regional whole-energy system: the role of energy carriers in the Italian energy transition. 2021 xxx.

8. Rixhon, Xavier; Colla, Martin; Tonelli, Davide; Verleysen, Kevin; Limpens, Gauthier; Jeanmart, Hervé; Contino, Francesco. Comprehensive integration of the non-energy demand within a whole-energy system: Towards a defossilisation of the chemical industry in Belgium. In: Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energ. Vol. 34, no. 34, p. 154-165 (2021). Enrico Sciubba: Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy, 2021 xxx.

9. Rixhon, Xavier; Colla, Martin; Tonelli, Davide; Verleysen, Kevin; Limpens, Gauthier; Jeanmart, Hervé; Contino, Francesco. Comprehensive integration of the non-energy demand within a whole-energy system: Towards a defossilisation of the chemical industry in Belgium. 2021 xxx.

10. Lhuillier, Charles; Brequigny, Pierre; Contino, Francesco; Mounaïm-Rousselle, Christine. Experimental investigation on ammonia combustion behavior in a spark-ignition engine by means of laminar and turbulent expanding flames. In: Proceedings of the Combustion Institute. Vol. 38, no.4, p. 5859-5868 (2021). Elsevier BV, 2021 xxx. doi:10.1016/j.proci.2020.08.058.

Book Chapters

1. Mounaïm-Rousselle, C.; Halter, F.; Foucher, F.; Contino, Francesco; Dayma, G.; Dagaut, P.. Fuel class valerates. In: Biofuels from Lignocellulosic Biomass: Innovations beyond Bioethanol , xxx, 2015, p. 59-85. 9783527338139. xxx xxx. doi:10.1002/9783527685318.ch3.


1. Tsirikoglou, Panagiotis; Kyprianidis, Konstantinos; Kalfas, Anestis I.; Contino, Francesco. Optimization in probabilistic domains: an engineering approach. 2020. 978-0-12-819714-1. 24 pages.


1. Contino, Francesco. Combustion in homogeneous charge compression ignition engines : experimental analysis using ethyl esters and development of a method to include detailed chemistry in numerical simulations, prom. : Jeanmart, Hervé ; Gerin, Patrick, 30/05/2011.