The TANDEng project, led by Gonzalo Prieto, a researcher at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ITQ), has been awarded by the Consolidator Grants program of the European Research Council (ERC).
The prestigious ERC Consolidator Grants are part of the most competitive and prestigious program of support to individual researchers in the European Union. Its objective is to endorse young researchers, who have demonstrated excellence and a high degree of originality in their activities, to consolidate their teams and continue to develop their scientific career in Europe by implementing a project considered ambitious and highly innovative in any scientific discipline. Each awarded project receives funding for an amount of ca. 2 million euro.
The project’s goals: to decipher and control the cooperation of two catalysts in so-called tandem chemical processes.
TANDEng (Engineering catalyst interoperability in next-generation tandem reactions for intensified chemical processes), is going to extend until 2024 and has as the major purpose to fundamentally study, and on this basis to gain control over, the cooperation of couples of solid catalysts –materias which accelerate and steer chemical reactions to the products of interest – in so-called tandem catalytic processes, i.e. processes in which several chemical transformations take place sequentially in a single reactor.
As Prieto explains “tandem catalytic processes, in which two catalysts are integrated to direct sequential chemical reactions in a cooperative manner, are considered an stepping stone towards the intensification of processes in the chemical industry. Potentially, they can significantly reduce the energy needs and environmental footprint of existing processes, eliminating separation and purification stages and achieving higher yields to the desired products. But they can also enable other selective transformations which are out of reach at this point in time».
“Our objective”, explains the ITQ researcher, “is to understand and control spatial, thermal and chemical distances between the active centers of the catalysts integrated in tandem, to open the door to selective and highly intensified conversion processes that are not possible at present». As Prieto explains, the project aims to develop catalysts and processes for the valorization of unconventional carbon sources and therefore contribute towards a more sustainable chemical industry. “In order to convert carbon resources alternative to petroleum, such as unconventional natural gas, carbon dioxide waste streams or biomass-derived gases into products of interest, a complete re-design of current chemical processes is necessary, including their intensification and miniaturization to make them compatible with the small scale and spatial delocalization of these new raw materials. Contributing to this transition is the ultimate goal of the project».
“The project is inspired by preliminary results obtained during my time as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Kohlenforschung in Germany, and after the recent relocation of the group to the ITQ in Valencia, it is going to mean a decisive endorsement to consolidate and expand our activities,” he concludes.