The research group of Sustainable Energy, Air and Water Technology (DuEL) is part of the Department of Bioscience Engineering and was created in 2007 by professor Silvia Lenaerts.
Research at University of Antwerp
The core focus in sustainable air purification lies in (plasmonic) photocatalysis and plasma catalysis. Our group’s activities include both catalyst synthesis and activity testing, as well as chemical engineering and optimization of new photoreactors and plasma reactors. The latter is complemented by Multiphysics CFD modelling. An important aspect of our research on photocatalytic air purification is making optimal use of freely available solar energy. This is achieved by developing plasmonic nanostructures, and converting solar to chemical energy in photoelectrochemical cells. Plasma catalysis is studied as sustainable technology in combination with photocatalysis for air purification in underground parking lots, tunnels and industrial environments. We are focussing on the whole process approach including the development of reactors in order to apply our more fundamental and basic research aspects in realistic conditions.
The food production value chain ranges from fertilizer over feed and food to fork. In that process wasting scarce natural resources such as nutrients, while the global demand for meat and animal-derived products strongly rises. To provide novel solutions, we develop microbial cleantech for bioproduction and resource recovery or treatment of side streams, such as wastewater. Through smart design and operation of bioreactors, our processes are resource-efficient, emission-poor and cost-effective. We produce dietary protein and next-generation fertilizers and wastewater technology that is energy- and climate-friendly. In these processes we investigate the production of high value Single Cell Protein from microalgae and bacteria in different types of metabolisms such as photoheterotrophic, aerobic heterotrophic and photoautotrophic.
A final line of research aims at carbon sequestration, where microalgae are used to fix carbon dioxide from gaseous waste streams.
The four research lines result all in high value building blocks, sustainable products and energy which can be recycled towards industry and society, contributing to the circular economy and sustainability. The evaluation towards sustainability of the developed processes and their potential environmental implications are also part of the research. To investigate this, we use methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Material Flow Analysis.
Research at VITO
The focus in this team is on combining separation and conversion technology. Such combinations allow (bio)chemical processes to become more energy efficient. Several projects are running and in most of them membrane technology plays a major role. Currently a project is running on the development of biocatalytic membranes, which combine enzymatic conversion with membrane separation.