Roberto Rinaldi became Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Imperial College London in 2015. Information on his current research is available here. This web page documents the activities of his group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (until 2015).
The escalating oil price draws our attention to alternative feedstocks for liquid fuels. Plants are the largest reserves of renewable carbon on Earth. To obtain desired products from them, it is necessary to understand the reactivity of their main constituents (cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose) and to invent catalysts able to handle simultaneously different chemical functionalities. This is a great challenge and it is also what our research group is aiming at.
Analyzing the composition of materials that contain cellulose (e.g. crop residues, straw, sugarcane bagasse, leaves and wood) reveals that lignin corresponds up to 30 % of plant biomass. Therefore, the success of the cellulosic biofuels also depends on finding uses for lignin. Our activities on lignin chemistry cover the extraction of lignin by the organosolv process, characterization of lignin and development of catalysts for lignin hydrogenolysis, oxidation and depolymerization.
The huge reserves of coal are estimated to last for the next 100 years. Considering that the production of biomass is seasonal, co-feeding biorefineries with coal emerges as an interesting process choice for the production of clean fuels. The similarity between the chemical structures of low ranking coals and lignin encourages us to develop integrated strategies to process coal and biomass together. Our activities on coal chemistry cover the direct coliquefaction of low ranking coals and biomass to produce liquid fuels.
To use cellulose as material requires commonly its dissolution. From cellulosic solutions, the biopolymer is transformed into desirable products (e.g. rayon). Here, we are aiming at understanding the process of dissolution of cellulose in non-conventional solvent systems and at exploring the reactivity of cellulose in new solvent systems.