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unit built by the Pyrochar project consortium and proved to have better performance than existing commercial catalysts used as a benchmark. A related area of our work is the conversion of syngas into long-chain hydrocarbons, substitutes for diesel fuels, through the Fischer- Tropsch catalytic process.


We are also currently investigating the conversion of carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals by polymerisation. The utilisation of carbon dioxide by chemical conversion is a valuable idea, which is envisaged to provide answers to two other burning questions of the 21st century, namely around global warming and fossil fuel depletion. Chemical conversion of carbon dioxide into other useful chemicals not only provides a tangible solution to curb the ever increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, it also serves carbon dioxide as a cheap, abundant and natural feed stock.


We are also seeing important developments around us – and we must respond to these accordingly. The recent go-ahead on the Tees Renewable Energy Plant is fantastic news for the region and for those of us who champion sustainable technologies. Based near Teesport, it will be one of the biggest biomass- powered combined heat and power (CHP) plants in the world. There are huge opportunities for us to directly


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contribute to Tees REP. We would like to work with project owners MGT Teesside to improve their technology and to train their workforce, not least through developing short courses to tailor and to meet the Tees REP’s substantial human resources demand. It is a great opportunity for the University to get involved and to make a success of this collaboration.


I also only see more of these plants emerging in the UK. There is a need to use alternative technologies to reduce global warming emissions and reduce their harmful impacts on our health, environment and climate. The UK renewable energy target is 15% by 2020 and this will increase demand for more biomass plants.


So what needs to happen to make biomass plants more common place? From a scientific point of view, I would say, applying process intensification techniques to the whole plant from the boiler (which, as far as I understand, for Tees REP will be a circulating fluidised bed) to electrical transformers via the steam turbine, generator, condensers and filters. This will lead to increased efficiency and to lower prices per energy unit. CHP plants can be built at different scales, to provide heat and electricity at affordable prices, as long as they use renewable feedstocks in a sustainable manner.


Our ultimate goal is “zero waste, zero emissions” and we are confident


that we are not far away from achieving that. Improved catalysts and processes for the cost-effective conversion of a wide range of feed-stocks have been designed, developed and, most importantly, proven by myself and colleagues. Including biomass sludge from the wastewater treatment plants, waste plastics, and waste oil; to a tailored range of gas and liquid fuels and chemicals, through mainly synthesis gas (syngas) chemistry.


However, our work does not end in the laboratory. Through our teaching we are able to share our passion for saving the environment. We teach undergraduate and postgraduate students in reaction engineering, environmental and waste minimisation, process improvements, enzyme kinetics, and catalytic processes.


Through this we are able to raise the awareness of the environmental impact of individual day-by-day actions and to challenge students, who are also specialists and managers of the future, to adopt pollution prevention rather than pollution control and to opt for re- use/recycle rather than disposal. It’s a long journey, but as the world is running out of oil and gas and urgently needs to find alternative fuel supplies, we all have a responsibility to provide some solutions.


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