ChemEng ACEX

Chemical Engineering PhD Symposium
Thursday, 29 June 2023, 09:10-17:00


09:10 RODH 306 (LT3) Welcome by the Director of PG Studies
09:15-10:15 RODH 306 (LT3) Oral Presentations - Session 1
10:15-10:30   Break
10:30-11:45 RODH 306 (LT3) Oral Presentations - Session 2
11:45-12:00   Break
12:00-13:00 RODH 306 (LT3) Oral Presentations - Session 3
13:00-14:00 ACEX 306-312 Lunch and Poster Session
14:00-14:45 RODH 306 (LT3) Academic Careers Event - Talks by academic guests
14:45-15:30 RODH 306 (LT3) Academic Careers Event - Q&A and Panel Discussion
15:30-17:00 ACEX 306-312 Drinks Reception
16:00 ACEX 306-312 Announcement of Prize Winners


Details of Oral Presentations

Symposium Accord

09:15 - Carolina Monck

Temperature-responsive synthetic cells capable of triggered cargo release using genetic regulation

My project is working to develop temperature-responsive synthetic cells: a combination of liposomes (like the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines) and cell-free protein synthesis technologies. The long-term goal is that they can be used as advanced drug delivery vehicles for cancer therapies, reducing off-target effects that occur with current methods. These "cells" are non-living entities which do not have a genome but are able to take a DNA template containing genes of interest and synthesise proteins from these genes. During my PhD so far, I have developed this synthetic cell platform which responds to temperature and uses this switching behaviour to control release of an internal cargo only at high temperatures. Such a system could be used to carry existing approved small molecule drugs, with an additional level of spatial control from external application of temperature to improve precise targeted drug release at the disease site.

09:30 - Giuliana Mastropietro

Employing the yeast Pichia pastoris as a platform for viral vaccine production

The high cost and distribution challenges hinder vaccine delivery in developing nations. To address this, new technologies aim to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing and distribution for cost-effective and widespread immunization worldwide. A novel platform utilizing yeast-expressed virus-like particles (VLPs) has been developed. These non-infectious, multi-protein structures mimic their virion counterparts and elicit robust immune responses.The project utilized Pichia pastoris, a methylotrophic yeast with the ability to achieve high cell densities using methanol as a carbon and energy source. This yeast produces large amounts of heterologous proteins while minimizing endogenous protein production. VLP-expressing strains of P. pastoriswere created by integrating plasmids containing viral genes controlled by the methanol-inducible AOX1 promoter and a signal peptide for protein secretion.Through various techniques such as polyacrylamide electrophoresis, western blot, and ELISA, the expression of viral targets in different VLP-expressing strains was assessed after methanol induction. The engineered yeast successfully expressed Hepatitis E (HEV) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) VLPs.P. pastorisoften faces secretion saturation when expressing foreign proteins, likely due to increased trafficking through the secretory pathway. To address this, a transcriptomic analysis identified cellular stress responses and metabolic changes associated with protein secretion in the VLP-expressing strains. The study suggested engineering targets to enhance protein expression. The HEV-VLP expressing strain exhibited oxidative stress response, which could be mitigated by lowering the expression temperature, thereby improving HEV VLP secretion.The HPV-11 VLP-expressing strain encountered a bottleneck in protein translocation from the cytosol to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Ongoing efforts include designing a new plasmid with a co-translation translocation signal peptide and employing the push-and-pull strategy, which involves overexpressing chaperones and helper proteins in the HPV-11 VLP-expressing strain.In conclusion, this VLP production platform holds great promise for the development of prophylactic vaccines against infectious diseases such as HEV and HPV-11. It addresses cost and distribution barriers, offering a potential solution for global vaccination initiatives in developing countries.

09:45 - Miriam Sarkis

Integrating environmental sustainability in next-generation biopharmaceutical supply chain

Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs) offer groundbreaking opportunities to cure diseases, including cancer. As more advanced therapeutics and vaccine platforms reach clinical trials and commercialisation, the sector experiences a need for innovative solutions in process development, manufacturing and infrastructure to ensure clinical availability and patient accessibility. ATMPs manufacturers face challenges that are often present across pharmaceutical supply chains, including planning under uncertainty of demands, process capabilities and dosage requirements. In this space, mathematical programming has the inherent potential to capture trade-offs that emerge during planning of the end-to-end supply chain. The aim of my PhD project is to develop a computer-aided optimisation-based tool for planning investment and production scheduling in ATMPs supply chains. The tool support decision-making and help identify good candidate supply chain networks that perform with respect to economic, social and environmental metrics. In my presentation, I would focus on the emerging aspect of environmental sustainability of supply chain operations in a sector that is primarily driven by maximising product availability to patients in need, whilst minimising therapy manufacturing and distribution costs. 

10:00 - Steven Sachio

Embedding Operating Flexibility in Process Design

Process development is typically associated with lengthy wet-lab experiments for the identification of good candidate setups and operating conditions. My PhD work focuses on developing computational tools for the identification and assessment of process design space. The framework proposed enables the assessment of different operating points and quantification of process flexibility. The framework is developed in Python and is open-source. It has been applied to assess the flexibility of a biopharmaceutical separation process (protein A chromatography for monoclonal antibody capture) and also post-combustion flue gas carbon capture (pressure-vacuum swing adsorption process). Using the framework, we were able to quantify trade-offs between process performance and flexibility. Furthermore, extensive analysis on the sensitivity of the identified design space with respect to the constraints are tractable using this framework. Such analyses are key towards designing sustainable and flexible processes. 

10:30 - May-Yin (Ashlyn) Low

 Investigation of CO2 adsorbents for direct air capture:

Material, equilibrium, and kinetic data

Direct air capture (DAC) using solid adsorbents (i.e. porous materials) has gained significant research attention as a carbon dioxide removal technology for climate mitigation. One large area of focus is the development of new adsorbent materials for DAC. However, the data needed to evaluate these adsorbents at a process scale is rarely available. Of the more than 200 DAC adsorbents proposed since 2016, only two materials have all the necessary parameters reported. The objective of my research is to start to fill in this data gap by measuring all the material, equilibrium sorption, and kinetic sorption properties needed for process modelling for a few select adsorbents. Here, we have investigated a commercial polymeric resin and an ultra-microporous metal organic-framework (MOF) and compared their properties to that of a benchmark adsorbent for DAC. Our results demonstrate that the resin has the highest CO2 uptake per gram of material, while the MOF has the fastest CO2 adsorption kinetics. Based on these results thus far, both the resin and MOF could prove suitable for a DAC process, though the process would have to be tailored to meet the adsorbents’ varied properties. 

10:45 - Adam Ward

Modelling and optimisation of multi-sorbent carbon capture processes

In an adsorption-based process, carbon dioxide is removed from the flue gas by concentrating it at the surface of a solid sorbent. We investigate the operation and design of adsorption-based systems which utilise multiple adsorbent materials within a single adsorption column, which can improve the efficiency of the separation as compared to classical systems, which use only a single type of adsorbent. In this work, we have deployed a computational framework for describing these systems and carry out design to identify the optimal performance.

11:00 - Juan Pablo Valdes

On the dispersion dynamics of surfactant-laden liquid-liquid flows in static mixers

My PhD focuses on the fundamental physics behind immiscible liquid-liquid mixing (for example oil and water) in the presence of surface active agents (surfactants). Given the broadness of the subject, I focus on static mixers at low flow rates (laminar regime), where I study the main mechanisms behind liquid drop deformation and breakage, as well as the overall mixing performance for different types of surfactants. 

11:15 - Kleio Aikaterini Zervidi

A hybrid system for capturing CO2 directly from the air

My PhD aims to assess the design of a hybrid process for capturing CO2 directly from ambient air. The hybrid process proposed in this study integrates adsorption and absorption. The latter is a proven technology at the large scale, while the former benefits from high separation factors and the versatility given by the wide range of sorbent materials available. For the first stage, a four-step temperature vacuum swing adsorption process is considered (TVSA), using commercial sorbents, while for the second stage, an aqueous amine absorption process is developed. For the first stage, we compared the performance of different adsorbents in terms of purity of CO2 produced and energy required to complete the purification. It was found that the intermediate concentration of the CO2-enriched stream coming out from the first (adsorption) stage ranges from 0.5 to 25 % depending on the adsorbent and the operating conditions. For the second stage, we developed a simplified meta model for the second stage to serve as a design tool for the optimisation of the process. This model was abstracted from detailed process simulations modelled in the Aspen Plus process simulator. Technoeconomic optimisation on the second stage was performed resulting in a capture cost of 79 $/tCO2.

11:30 - Riley Latcham

Phase Behaviour for the Development of Greener Processes

My PhD revolves around generating new experimental data on the phase behaviour of industrially relevant mixtures and optimising models based upon this data that can be applied in process development. Such data is often in surprisingly short supply, even for basic mixtures that account for huge fractions of industrial output and energy consumption, lowering efficiencies, slowing development, and limiting safety. Isobutane and carbon dioxide (CO2), for example, are the leading green refrigerants and can be blended together for increased performance, yet development has been held back by a lack of mixture data. Many hydrogen (H2) mixtures are similarly poorly studied, both for existing processes and for those proposed in the growing hydrogen economy. New experimental data on the phase behaviour of mixtures of isobutane with CO2 and with H2 helps to fill the gaps, supporting models that engineers may use to develop the processes the world needs on its path towards net zero.

12:00 - Yasmine Baghdadi

Cs3Bi2Br9/g-C3N4 direct Z-scheme heterojunction for enhanced photocatalytic reduction of CO2 to CO

The optoelectronic properties of Cs3Bi2Br9, a lead-free halide perovskite derivative, make it a suitable candidate for photocatalytic CO2 reduction to CO. However, there is a need for further research to enhance charge separation and improve the overall efficiency of the photocatalyst. My research presents the synthesis of a heterojunction between Cs3Bi2Br9 and g-C3N4 at varying ratios. The heterojunction was achieved by growing Cs3Bi2Br9 crystals on the surface of g-C3N4 using a simple anti-solvent crystallization method. The synthesized powders exhibit improved gas-phase photocatalytic CO2 reduction in the absence of hole scavengers, with a rate of 14.22 (±1.24) μmol CO g-1 h-1 for the composite containing 40 wt% Cs3Bi2Br9. In contrast, pure g-C3N4 and Cs3Bi2Br9 demonstrate rates of 1.89 (±0.72) and 5.58 (±0.14) μmol CO g-1 h-1, respectively. Photoelectrochemical measurements also revealed enhanced photocurrent in the 40 wt% Cs3Bi2Br9 composites, indicating improved charge separation. Furthermore, stability tests demonstrate that the heterojunction remains structurally stable even after 15 hours of illumination. An analysis of the band structure alignment and selective metal deposition confirm the formation of a direct Z-scheme between the two semiconductors that facilitated efficient charge separation. These findings highlight the potential of the g-C3N4/Cs3Bi2Br9 Z-scheme photocatalyst for enhanced CO2 photocatalytic activity and improved stability.

12:15 - Luis Torquato

Coupling of Microfluidics and Dynamic Light Scattering for Formulation Engineering

Everyday products across all industries are made from a wide variety of substances that all effect their performance for the given task. With growing interest in alternative components to fossil fuels and more renewable and sustainable raw materials, my work focuses on developing measurement techniques coupled to microfluidic systems for high throughput and control, and low cost and waste scanning of model formulations to understand both the fundamental physics and effects of new materials in cleaning products. For my project, I have focused on the coupling of Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS), a technique that measures how fast particles are moving in solution (diffusion coefficient) and thus their size, giving insights into kinetic, phase transition, rheological, etc properties of the formulation. This has led to critical analysis of current theories and models to develop my own, engineering of a setup within limits where measurements are possible, particle size scans of formulations of interest, and implementation into ‘cleaning’ experiments for insights into the fundaments of grease and fat removal from surfaces.

12:30 - Fuyue Liang

A numerical vinaigrette in stirred mixer: Simulation of surfactant-laden emulsion formation

My PhD is mainly about fundamental physics underlies immiscible liquid-liquid mixing systems (say, oil-water). Specifically, my research focuses on stirred mixers in the presence of surface-active agents (surfactants), where I study the temporal evolution of interface behaviours (for example, deformation, drop formation), and the overall mixing performance under different operating conditions and for different types of surfactant.

12:45 - Paula Pico

Multiscale Computational Study of the Dynamics of Microfluidic Systems with interfaces

My PhD project focuses on the computational modelling of interfacial flows at the microscale. These flows are relevant to various high-end industrial applications (such as inkjet printing and two-phase coolers) and are found in multiple real-life systems (such as pulmonary airways and volcanic conduits). In particular, the project investigates a continuous-flow microreactor used to synthesise silver nanoparticles. Here, I identify crucial links between hydrodynamics and kinetics in the reactor, permitting a targeted synthesis based on specific particle properties and minimising size polydispersity, two desirable production features for multiple applications. The project also dives into the dynamics of gas-liquid flow in microchannels in complex scenarios. These involve interfacial singularities (i.e., interface breakup and coalescence), the presence of surface-active agents, and complex interactions between capillarity, viscosity, and inertia. The intrinsic difference in the underlying physical phenomena and applications between these systems motivates the adoption of separate numerical models for their investigation. For the synthesis of nanoparticles, I employ an approach based on coupling computational fluid dynamics with population balances, whereas for the gas-liquid flows I use high-fidelity direct numerical simulations with a rigorous method to treat the interface. 

Details of Poster Presentations and Academic Careers Event

Symposium Accord

Poster presentations

PosterPresenterPoster title
1 Shubhani Paliwal Solubility prediction of paracetamol in polyvinyl pyrrolidone using the SAFT-g Mie Group-Contribution approach
2 Debashis Panda Oscillations manipulate the fate of drops
3 George Ebri Development and optimization of continuous synthesis of Cu2O/Cu nanoparticles using Design of Experiment
4 Essa Ali Sayed Mohammed Alhashmi Zeolite-supported Single-atom Catalysts for Acetylene Hydrogenation
5 Gustavo Chaparro Maldonado Development of thermodynamically consistent machine-learning equations of state: Application to the Mie fluid
6 Yihan Zhang A Conformable Holographic Sensor for Wound Monitoring
7 Jiaxian Luo Guaiacol hydrogenation with in-situ hydrogen from glycerol aqueous phase reforming
8 Oscar Marshall Next Generation Synthesis of Glycoproteins Using an Optimised Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) Cell-Based Cell-Free Protein Synthesis (CFPS) System
9 Ivet Angelova Development of a non-invasive biosensor for the characterisation of a highly potent recombinant neurotoxin process
10 Tanuj Karia Fast & accurate classifier models to check miscibility in optimisation-based design of solvent mixtures
11 Zain Ahmed A multiplexed microfluidic approach for cleaning
12 Luxi Yu Towards quality control of biotherapeutic products through soft sensing of intracellular states
13 Mariana Monteiro Hybrid dynamic model of monoclonal antibody production using CHO cells
14 Konstantinos Flevaris Development of a machine learning framework to extract the biomarker potential of IgG N-glycans
15 Tom Copeman Design considerations for the bioproduction of plasmid-based therapeutics


Academic Careers Event

The following session is organised and led by members of the student committe of the Sargent Centre for Process Systems Engineering.

The talks will be held online via MS Teams and streamed in RODH 306 (LT3).

14:00-15:00: Careers talks by international young academics

SpeakerRoleFurther information
Dr. Jana Marie Weber Assistant Professor at TU Delft Linkedin
Dr. Calvin Tsay Lecturer at Imperial College London Linkedin Homepage
Dr. Styliani Avraamidou Duane H. and Dorothy M. Bluemke Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison Homepage
Prof. Sergio Lucia Professor at TU Dortmund University Homepage
Prof. Matteo Maestri Professor at Politecnico di Milano Linkedin Homepage
Dr. Xiaonan Wang Associate Professor at Tsinghua University Linkedin

15:00-15:30: Q&A and panel discussion