Imperial College London

Dr Roberto Rinaldi FRSC

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Chemical Engineering

Reader in Applied Chemistry



+44 (0)20 7594 1302r.rinaldi1 Website




523ACE ExtensionSouth Kensington Campus





Welcome to the Tomorrow's Chemical Technologies Lab!

We're all about innovative research and development in Sustainable Chemistry for the Circular Economy.

We are working on new ways to maximise our resources, extract their total value during use, and then recover and regenerate these products and materials at the end of their life.

Catalysis is at the core of our research activities. We are creating new avenues for the utilisation of renewable raw materials, such as lignin, cellulose, and vegetable oil. These components of plant biomass possess the remarkable potential for creating a globally sustainable economy and moving away from reliance on petroleum.

Employing innovative approaches like the 'lignin-first' concept and mechanocatalysis, we're exploring exciting possibilities, from creating fine chemicals to developing sustainable aviation fuels and materials. Additionally, we're investigating the potential medical applications of lignin and its derivatives.

Our research adventure towards the circular economy also includes devising inventive methods for chemically recycling plastics and composites. By regenerating their raw materials, we are transforming what was once considered 'waste' into valuable resources.

Join us as we shape the course towards a more sustainable future!

To bring our mission to life, we're excited to invite ambitious PhD students to join our team and contribute to groundbreaking research in Chemistry and Chemical Technology. We currently have positions available for UK-based candidates.

If you're driven by a passion for innovation and eager to be part of a dynamic research environment, we'd love to hear from you. We specifically encourage UK and overseas applications from self-funded PhD students who share our passion for innovation and sustainability. Together, we can make a lasting impact on Sustainable Chemistry for the Circular Economy. 

When postdoctoral research fellow positions become available, we will ensure to advertise them on this platform. However, we also warmly welcome inquiries from self-funded candidates interested in joining our lab by securing funding from an organisation in their home country or the UK. Organisations supporting postdoctoral research fellows include the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (EU), and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation/Stiftung (Germany).

If you are a self-funded candidate and would like to explore the possibilities of joining our lab, please don't hesitate to contact us at We are genuinely excited to hear from you and discuss potential opportunities for collaboration.


Born in Brazil, Roberto Rinaldi is a naturalised British scientist and a Reader / Associate Professor in Applied Chemistry. His commitment to Sustainable Chemistry for the Circular Economy has steered his research primarily towards heterogeneous catalysis. More specifically, Rinaldi has centred his research on using plant biomass, such as inedible parts like lignin and cellulose, as renewable raw materials for chemical and biofuel production. His recent work has expanded to include the chemical recycling of plastics and composites, further reinforcing the sustainability of the chemical industry.

Rinaldi's academic journey began at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), where in 2006, he successfully defended his PhD thesis on the epoxidation of nucleophilic olefins using aluminium oxide and hydrogen peroxide, under the supervision of Prof. Ulf Schuchardt. The subsequent year marked his move to Germany, where he joined the renowned Max-Planck-Institut (MPI) für Kohlenforschung as a postdoctoral research fellow in Prof. Ferdi Schüth's group. During his early years at MPI, Rinaldi conducted research on cellulose depolymerisation in ionic liquids and pioneered the use of ionic liquid solutions in molecular solvents. This innovative work laid the groundwork for advanced calorimetry studies, enabling a deeper understanding of why these ionic liquid solutions outperform parent ionic liquids as solvents for cellulose.

In 2009, Rinaldi advanced to the role of Junior Group Leader at MPI. The following year, his potential was acknowledged by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which bestowed upon him the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award (1.54 M€). This prestigious award provided him with the resources to establish his research group, dedicated to exploring innovative methods for utilising lignin. While at MPI, he also became an external co-principal investigator in the Cluster of Excellence "Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass" at RWTH Aachen University. He directed research activities with an additional individual budget of 0.9 M€. Among his numerous contributions, he pioneered the 'lignin-first' concept for the fractionation of plant biomass, a breakthrough that has enhanced the valorisation of lignin.

In 2015, Rinaldi moved to London to take up the post of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College. In 2018, he was promoted to Reader in Applied Chemistry. He currently leads Tomorrow's Chemical Technologies Lab and has been awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant "LIGNINFIRST" (2.0 M€, 2017-2022).

Rinaldi's innovative contributions to developing new methods for processing and using plant biomass were recognised in 2014 with the Willi Keim Prize, awarded by the Advanced Fluids Subject Division of ProcessNet, a joint initiative of DECHEMA and VDI-GVC. Additionally, he has secured industrial funding from Henkel and Susano Fibria, totalling 0.35 M€.

Rinaldi's significant contributions to the field are evident in his over 90 research papers, 14 patent applications in the field of biomass conversion and catalysis, and his supervision of numerous PhD (17), MSc (21) students, and Postdoctoral Research Fellows (20). His scientific work has garnered over 10,500 citations (Google Scholar).

In 2017, Rinaldi's contributions to Chemistry were further acknowledged when he was appointed a Fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). This esteemed honour is bestowed upon those who have significantly advanced chemical science or demonstrated exceptional professionalism in the field.

He serves as a member of several editorial boards, including ChemCatChem (Advisory Board), Green Chemistry (Advisory Board), Sustainable Chemistry (Advisory Board), Scientific Reports (Editorial Member), npg Materials Sustainability (Associate Editor).

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Rinken R, Posthuma D, Rinaldi R, 2022, Lignin stabilization and carbohydrate nature in H-transfer reductive catalytic fractionation: the role of solvent fractionation of lignin oil in structural profiling, Chemsuschem, Vol:16, ISSN:1864-5631, Pages:1-14

Kessler M, Rinaldi R, 2022, Kinetic energy dose as a unified metric for comparing ball mills in the mechanocatalytic depolymerization of lignocellulose, Frontiers in Chemistry, Vol:9, ISSN:2296-2646

Bartling AW, Stone ML, Hanes RJ, et al., 2021, Techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment of a biorefinery utilizing reductive catalytic fractionation, Energy & Environmental Science, Vol:14, ISSN:1754-5692, Pages:4147-4168

Abu-Omar MM, Barta K, Beckham GT, et al., 2020, Guidelines for performing lignin-first biorefining, Energy & Environmental Science, Vol:14, ISSN:1754-5692, Pages:262-292

Kaufman Rechulski MD, Käldström M, Richter U, et al., 2015, Mechanocatalytic depolymerization of lignocellulose performed on hectogram-and kilogram-scales, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, ISSN:0888-5885

Ferrini P, Rinaldi R, 2014, Catalytic biorefining of plant biomass to non-pyrolytic lignin bio-oil and carbohydrates through hydrogen transfer reactions, Angewandte Chemie - International Edition, Vol:53, ISSN:1433-7851, Pages:8634-8639

Schüth F, Rinaldi R, Meine N, et al., 2014, Mechanocatalytic depolymerization of cellulose and raw biomass and downstream processing of the products, Catalysis Today, Vol:234, Pages:24-30

Wang X, Rinaldi R, 2013, A route for lignin and bio-oil conversion: Dehydroxylation of phenols into arenes by catalytic tandem reactions, Angewandte Chemie - International Edition, Vol:52, Pages:11499-11503


Rinaldi R, 2014, Catalytic Hydrogenation for Biomass Valorization, Royal Society of Chemistry, ISBN:9781849738019


Rinaldi R, 2014, Solvents and Solvent Effects in Biomass Conversion, Catalytic Hydrogenation for Biomass Valorization, Editor(s): Rinaldi, Royal Society of Chemistry, ISBN:9781849738019

More Publications