Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is pivotal for the design, development and optimization of most chemical processes in the industry, both in reaction and separation stages. Nowadays, with the increase of biotechnological industry, there is a crucial need to have thermodynamic powerful tools available for the description of highly complex systems, such as the ones involving electrolytes (e.g., ionic liquids) and mixed solvents (e.g., water and ethyl lactate).

The Thermodynamics Group has an extensive experience in the field, having an internationally recognized merit. The leader is the Portuguese Delegate to the Working Party (WP) of Thermodynamics and Transport Properties of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering since its establishment in 2007. Under the scope of this WP, the research group has been committed with industrial problems related to the synthesis and purification processes in the cosmetics, food and pharmaceutical industries.

By interacting with other institutions, the group is also committed to tackle the environmental, societal and scientific challenges of these processes, providing eco-friendly solutions. Moreover, the group leader is also the current Chair of the International Steering Committee of the European Symposium on Applied Thermodynamics (ESAT), which is the oldest European conference on applied thermodynamics, running since 1974. This position has been helping the group promoting the networking of researchers, easing the dissemination of results from research activities.

These studies were mainly focused on the measurement of liquid-liquid equilibria (LLE) of green Aqueous Two-Phase Systems (ATPS), which were applied in the recovery of biomolecules (e.g. antioxidants and vitamins) and pharmaceutical pollutants (e.g., antibiotics and anti-inflammatories). Furthermore, for these separation processes, novel ionic liquids based on choline and amino acids were synthesized and characterised in pure state and in relevant binary mixtures. The ideality of these mixtures was evaluated using vapour pressure osmometry (VPO), which helped the application of thermodynamic models for phase equilibria description. New approaches based on thermodynamic models were developed to estimate the degree of dissociation (ionicity) of ionic liquids, which is considered paramount for the design of chemical processes involving molten salts. Finally, the parameterisation of equations of state and excess Gibbs free energy models was achieved by innovative phenomenological models based on computational chemistry.

A significant part of these tasks was supported by several R&D projects of basic and applied research (Healthy-Waters, 2Smart, A08/17-CRUP), PhD scholarships from FCT (Kamila Wysoczańska, Pedro Velho) and LSRE-LCM funding from FCT. The conducted research involved strong collaborations with foreign institutions, namely the Technical University of Denmark (DTU, Denmark), the Technical University of Dortmund (TUD, Germany), the University of Vigo (UV, Spain), the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC, Spain) and the University of Las Palmas – Gran Canaria (ULP, Spain)

Major projects in this research area include: