PhD Research Student

Extension: 41456


Office: Room 517a, ACEX Building

Department of Chemical Engineering 




2012 - present

PhD & DIC in Chemical Engineering, REaCT group, Imperial College London

Project: Catalytic Hydrothermal Transformation of Glycerol into Value-added Chemicals

2009 - 2011

Synthetic Chemist, Plaxica Ltd., Imperial Incubator, South Kensington, London

Team-orientated Research on Biodegradable Polymer Manufacture from Biomass

2008 - 2009

MRes (Merit) in Green Chemistry, Imperial College London

Project: Conversion of Biomass to Valuable Chemicals using Metal-based Catalysts in Sub-critical Water

2007 - 2008

BCS Diploma in Information & Communication Technology, Grafton College London

March - May 2004

Research Assistant, Natural Products & Organic Synthesis Research Unit, Kasetsart Univsersity, Thailand

2001 - 2005

BSc (Hons) in Chemistry, Mahasarakham University, Thailand

Research culminated in the Development of Two Compounds Displaying Beneficial Properties for HIV Sufferers


The growth of the biodiesel industry over the last decade resulted in a surplus of cheap glycerol making it an attractive feedstock for transformation into value-added chemicals. Finding a commercially interesting application of the waste glycerol would not only make the biodiesel production more economical but also decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.

Suna Srisamai is a PhD student currently working on transformation of glycerol into value added chemicals such as acrolein, acetic acid, methanol and lactic acid which is of main interest due to its emerging applications in biodegradable polymers and “green” solvents. This project investigates the potential of environmentally friendly hydrothermal process catalyzed by metal incorporated zeolites.

Suna has outlined the main reasons of choosing hydrothermal process for the transformation of glycerol. “Hydrothermal process involves the use of hot-compressed water or hot-pressurized water as a reaction medium and, I personally think that, water is a good candidate for a solvent when it comes to a green and sustainable process. Crude glycerol from the biodiesel industry typically contains 20wt% water, if we use hydrothermal process there is no need for expensive drying. In addition, hydrothermal process has the potential to overcome the difficulties associated with other methods of glycerol transformations such as the long reaction time of fermentation. It has been well established that water acts as a highly reactive acid-base catalyst in hydrothermal region allowing short reaction times. The selectivity to desired conversion products under hydrothermal conditions can be controlled by i) the temperature and pressure influencing the properties of sub- and super-critical water (SCW) and/or ii) addition of a catalyst(s)."

As for the catalysts, Suna is always keen to work on heterogeneous catalysis and this time zeolites are her choices. Zeolites are commonly used as both supporting materials and solid acid catalysts in several commercial processes due to their high surface area, catalytic performances, thermal stability and low prices. Beta zeolite is of particular interest in this study due to its large diameter 3D-channel system and a high Si/Al ratio which makes the framework hydrophobic and stable under hydrothermal conditions. Different Si/Al ratios of zeolites correspond with different Brønsted acidities making it a good catalyst for acid-catalysed reactions. Most importantly for this work, zeolites have a high ion exchange capacity and hence their Brønsted/Lewis acidity properties can be controlled by (i) ion exchange reaction between cation of the zeolites and other metal ions such as Sn, Fe and Zn (ii) incorporating of metal ions into their structures, and this can be done effectively in the case of Beta-zeolite due to its large pore diameters.

Honours and Memberships

  • Rector's Gold Medal (Highest GPA in year group), Mahasarakham University, Thailand