Merging the Gap Between Catalysis and Process Intensification
Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and to producing 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources within 35 years. But given our growing population and dependence on fossil fuels, how will we able to meet these targets?
As Canada Research Chair in Intensified Mechano-Chemical Processes, Dr. Daria Camilla Boffito is looking to tap into the potential of Canada’s bio-resources with the help of catalysts (substances that speed up chemical reactions). Because of the composite nature and high viscosity of biomass, using it as a feedstock is challenging. But solid catalysts offer the key to producing chemicals and fuels from bio-resources while minimizing by-products.
Process intensification is a new chemical and process design approach that leads to substantially smaller, cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient technologies. However, these technologies are still immature and struggle to find a place because of the lack of background knowledge and tools to quantify them.
Boffito and her research team are responding to this problem by finding and exploiting the synergies between catalysis and process intensification techniques, such as ultrasound, microwaves and hydrodynamic cavitation. They are combining alternative energy sources, such as ultrasound and microwaves, with solid catalysts to reduce the energy and time needed for chemical processes.
Ultimately, Boffito’s work will help Canada make the necessary shift from fossil fuels to renewable biomass—and meet its commitments to move toward renewable energy.