Ongoing research projects

IMMC

Ongoing research projects in iMMC (May 2021)


This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
Hereunder, you may select one research direction or choose to apply another filter:

Biomedical engineering

Computational science

Civil and environmental engineering

Dynamical and electromechanical systems

Energy

Fluid mechanics

Processing and characterisation of materials

Chemical engineering

Solid mechanics


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List of projects related to: Chemical engineering




Vortex Chamber Spray Dryer
Researcher: Thomas Tourneur
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde

High-G operations in vortex chamber allow to intensify transfer of mass, heat and momentum. This technology can be applied for treating particles (solid powder or liquid droplets in a precursor state) with, preferably, a rotating fluidized bed in various industrial fields like coating, granulation or spray drying. In the presented work, a first pilot unit is designed with the objective to create a multi-zone environment with axial separation in order to fed air into the reactor at different temperatures to improve the process of drying. Numerical simulations are run simultaneously to validate the model used and once accepted to predict new design effect without going through the experimental study. Different designs for the vortex chamber are tested to study their effect on the vortex flow pattern.



DNS of reacting particle flows for mesoscale modeling
Researcher: Baptiste Hardy
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde, Grégoire Winckelmans

Gas-solid flows are encountered in many natural and industrial phenomena. Fluidized beds are the most well known application of gas-solid reactors in the chemical industry (catalytic cracking, biomass conversion,...).
However, the simulation of such equipments at large scale is still an issue due to the tracking of billions of particles carrying the reaction while interacting with the gas flow. Eulerian-Eulerian models are currently very popular because they describe the solid phase as a continuum, hence drastically lowering the computational cost. Though, these models require closure relations for momentum, heat and mass transfer, often obtained on empirical bases.
The goal of this research is to extract closure laws from Direct Numerical Simulations at particle scale using the Immersed Boundary Method in order to provide new mesoscale models built on physical grounds.



Multi-scale modeling of a structured catalytic reactor for steam methane reforming
Researcher: Florent Minette
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde

Methane reforming is the most widely practiced process for the production of hydrogen and syngas. The process is however strongly limited by heat transfer between the furnace and the process gas, pressure drop and intra-particle diffusion limitations. Structured catalytic reactors are promising in order to intensify the process and deal with the limitations encountered in conventional reformers.
The multi-scale modeling of ZoneFlow structured catalytic reactors is addressed. The intrinsic reaction kinetics is experimentally studied in a micro-packed bed reactor. The Langmuir-Hinshelwood-Hougen-Watson-type rate equations are derived and non-linear regression is applied to estimate the rate parameters. A pseudo-continuum approach description of the catalyst coating is used to account for intra-catalyst diffusion limitations. The complex flow pattern is described by means of a CFD model. To bridge the scales of turbulence, the RANS approach is adopted and the k-epsilon turbulence model is applied. Thermal conduction and radiative heat transfer are included. The reactor model is validated using specific experiments including cold flow pressure drop, inert heat transfer and pilot plant tests under reactive conditions.
The developed model is then used to study and optimize the performance of ZoneFlow reactors under commercial operating conditions.



Improving the properties of glass fiber reinforced acrylic thermoplastic resin based composites
Researcher: Sarah Gayot
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

For the manufacturing of continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRTP), certain monomers can be infused through glass fabric and then polymerized in situ, in order to make a thermoplastic composite part. However, defects - e.g. porosity - can occur in the material, due to the thickness of the laminates and the shrinkage of the resin matrix during polymerization. Such phenomena must be understood, as well as their effects on the mechanical properties of the final composite part.

The originality of this work lies in the very nature of the polymeric matrix used for manufacturing the composite parts, which is thermoplastic instead of thermoset. Little is known about the behaviour of such thermoplastic composites, especially at a microscopic scale. During this PhD, we will try to understand how defects occurring in the material can influence the structural properties of the CFRTP, and we will try to mitigate (or at least control) the incidence of such defects. This will imply a better knowledge of how usual characterisation techniques can be applied from thin to thick composite parts. In particular, digital simulation will be used so as to predict the properties of thick composite parts from those of thinner samples.



High performance membranes for CO2 capture involving advance materials and biomimicking Nature
Researcher: Cristhian Molina Fernandez
Supervisor(s): Patricia Luis Alconero

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.



Improvement of gas quality in small-scale biomass gasification facilities through steam injection
Researcher: Arnaud Rouanet
Supervisor(s): Hervé Jeanmart

Biomass, as a renewable fuel, can be converted in a gasifier to produce a synthetic gas that is easier to transport and has a wider range of applications than solid biomass, including bio-fuels, chemicals or energy production.
In order to improve the quality of the produced gases, we will investigate how steam can be used instead of air as the oxidizing agent, to limit the syngas dilution with inert nitrogen and increase its heating value. The project will focus on improving an existing small-scale two-stage gasification unit owned by UCL, on which ad-hoc modifications will be brought and experimental campaigns will be performed.
Theoretical calculations and literature reviews will be performed to confirm and precise the potential for improvement of syngas composition. The design and ideal location of steam injection points will be studied, and experiments will be conducted on the modified gasifier to complement the theoretical calculations. Advanced tools and methods will be used for the characterisation of the syngas composition, to increase the accuracy of the experimental results. Finally, a numerical model of the gasification process will possibly come as complement for a more accurate prediction and confirmation of the experimental results.
This research project will take place in the frame of the project ENERBIO, in collaboration with ULB, UMons and CRA-W.



NEXTAEC
Researcher: Renaud Delmelle
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

My current research revolves around alkaline water eletrolysis, with pulsed electrical power and forced electrolyte flow. Focus is made on the development of 3D electrodes, both on laboratory scale and on pilot plant level. I am notably working on the development of 3D printed Ni electrodes.



Simulation and experimental validation of electrochemical hydrogen production via pulsed water electrolysis on 3D electrodes
Researcher: Fernando Saraiva Rocha da Silva
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

In the context of global warming, there is an increasing effort to decarbonize energy systems. With renewable sources such as windmills and solar panels increasing their share in the electric grid, energy storage is a must, since these sources are intrinsically intermittent. Among all the storage solutions, hydrogen production from water electrolysis has proven to be the best one for long-periods and high energy quantities. The principle is that the electricity is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases in electrolyzers and when needed, the produced hydrogen can be burned or used on fuel cells to recover electric energy. The main goal of the thesis is to intensify electrolytic hydrogen production by different methods, such as the use of 3-D electrodes, forced electrolytic flow, and pulsed power. Some questions are addressed such as: will the 3-D electrodes increase the performance in comparison with the conventional 2-D electrodes? Can the forced electrolytic flow remove all the gas bubbles trapped in the 3-D structure? To how extent a pulsed power can help the gas bubble removal and improve the performance? What is the best 3-D structure to intensify hydrogen production? To answer these questions, several approaches are proposed. They include electrochemical measurements like cyclic voltammetry, pulsed voltage and pulsed current experiments, and galvanostatic experiments. Additionally, hydrogen gas will be collected to estimate the production rate. All these experiments will be performed with varying 3-D structure, electrolyte temperature, and concentration. Some of the tested electrodes will be designed and produced at UCLouvain. Computational fluid dynamic simulation is also proposed as a way to better understand the electrolytic cell. As a first result, it was seen that current pulses presented a better result than voltage pulses. Furthermore, pulsed power could increase the hydrogen production rate during the time the voltage was on. Nevertheless, when considering the average production rate, including the period the voltage was off, pulsed power had the worst performance. It was observed that pulse frequency was inversely proportional to performance and that decreasing duty cycle could increase efficiency. Furthermore, it was observed that forced electrolytic flow was capable of enhancing the process performance, especially for electrodes with a high surface density (m2/m3).



Impact of membrane characteristics on enzyme reactivity and co-crystallization
Researcher: Sara Chergaoui
Supervisor(s): Patricia Luis Alconero

The project focuses on the enantioselective biocatalytic synthesis of high-value chiral amines. A combined reaction-purification process based on membrane technology and using enzymes will be developed. As opposed to classical batch and multi-step processes, such an integrated approach would allow (i) maintaining the enzyme in the reactor, (ii) intensifying the production of high added-value chemicals, and (iii) recover a highly pure co-product. Novel membranes will be developed and the effect of their composition and structure on the final performance will be studied.