Come along to any gathering of SCCS scientists and you will soon notice not only the diversity of research under way within the partnership but also the multi-cultural aspects of the group.
This pool of carbon capture and storage (CCS) expertise received a boost earlier this year with the arrival of three academics with links to institutes based in Norway, Spain, Wales and the USA. We spoke to them about their research interests and what their new roles at the two Edinburgh partner institutes will involve.
Your research is a great example of a cross-disciplinary collaboration. What will you be focusing on?
I will be collaborating with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, working with Prof Stefano Brandani and Dr Maria-Chiara Ferrari on CO₂ capture using membrane and organic solid adsorbents. We’ll be providing our Polymers of Intrinsic Microporosity (PIMs) for Prof Brandani’s group to study.
Will you be continuing with a previous line of research?
My work involves organic materials synthesis (microporous polymers and nanoporous crystals). For Carbon Capture, I’m particularly interested in prepared CO₂ and hydrogen-selective membranes. Before coming to Edinburgh, I was based in Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry. The work I was doing there was much the same.
When did you join Heriot-Watt and what does your work there entail?
I joined Heriot-Watt University in May this year as Lecturer in Chemical Engineering. My future research plans include further insights into energy-related fields and, more specifically, into CCS technologies. As for my teaching plans, these will include lecturing in the Chemical Engineering programmes at Heriot-Watt.
What interests you most about your new role?
I’m really thrilled to have become a member of the academic community within the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Its renowned reputation, leading-edge research, international character, innovation and links with industry are of particular interest to me. As a new academic, I’m hoping to contribute to the Chemical Engineering teaching programme at all levels, and advance research within the area of CCS.
Your research covers the full chain of CCS. Can you describe some areas of work?
My expertise and interests cover energy and engineering fields, such as “clean coal” technologies; the deployment of adsorption technologies with solid sorbents for CO₂ capture; new materials for CO₂ capture; simulation of gas-phase adsorption processes; CO₂ storage by different trapping mechanisms; experimental and modelling studies on the mineralogical changes and fluid chemistry derived from the injection of CO₂ and co-injection of gas mixtures into saline aquifers; and CO₂ transportation for CCS and CO₂ utilisation.
What was your research pathway to Edinburgh?
I completed an MEng in Chemical Engineering at the University of Oviedo, in Spain, in 2004, and obtained my PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham in 2010. For my PhD studies, I focused on the injection of CO₂-SO₂ mixtures in geological formations for CO₂ storage. I was then involved in a collaborative academic-industrial research project at Nottingham before moving to the Spanish National Coal Research Institute (INCAR-CSIC), in Oviedo, as a Post-doctoral Research Member. My research there was mainly focused on CO₂ capture by solid sorbents.
You're a physicist by training, so what does your CCS research involve?
I work at the interfaces between engineering, physics and mathematics, studying multi-phase [CO₂] flow phenomena in porous media. This includes physical and mathematical modelling on spatial scales that range from millimetres to kilometres, and temporal scales from seconds to centuries. More specifically, I investigate trapping and mobilisation phenomena, and the differences between drainage and imbibition (fluid displacement) processes.
What led you to focus on this particular aspect of CCS?
I completed joint post-doctoral research with Michael A Celia at Princeton University, in the US, and Jan M Nordbotten from the University of Bergen in Norway. The focus was on investigating the impact of effects that are often ignored in modelling on predictions. The application context was CO₂ storage.
Your new role sounds both fascinating and complex. What are your research aims?
I plan to establish a research lab within the IPE to address questions that emerge when bridging scales from millimetres to kilometres, and seconds to centuries. This will include high-performance computing (computational fluid dynamic simulation at pore scale) as well as paper-and-pencil mathematical approaches for large-scale assessment. This approach requires knowledge from physics, mathematics and engineering, which makes it interesting but also renders the education for it challenging. I plan to share my knowledge within the existing Masters programmes at the IPE and offer courses for PhD candidates.
How important is location for you?
At the IPE I really enjoy the application-focused approach while being curious about and appreciating fundamental sciences, which is the field I come from. Furthermore, Edinburgh is a fantastic city with history, music, arts, the outdoors – and lovely people.
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