Grupos de investigación

Fisico-Química de Procesos Industriales y Medioambientales

Physico-Chemistry of Industrial and Environmental Processes

The name of FQPIMA has old roots, and it has been maintained by historical reasons, we are a group which subject is Chemical & Biochemical Reaction Engineering.

We belong to the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, within the Faculty of Chemistry of the UCM. This department is one of the highest rated Chemical Engineering Department in Spain, but it is also where Chemical Engineering was born in Spain: the first course, with the name of Technical Chemistry (from German influence) in the forties of the last century, the first books, already with the name of Chemical Engineering, in the fifties, arose in this Department; in the sixties a specialization of Chemistry studies, called Industrial Chemistry, was implemented in this Faculty, and then, in the seventies, extended to other universities in Spain;  although the studies of Chemical Engineering separated from Chemistry studies arrive very late, on 1992.

The FQPIMA group started its activity in the eighties of XX Century, and even before, in the last seventies, working on Applied Catalysis, Applied Chemical Kinetic and fixed and fluidized bed reactors, mainly.

The catalytic line evolved to the study of wastewater treatments, in particular to the use of catalytic oxidation of refractory pollutants by different methods.

From the middle of the eighties, we already begin to study bioprocesses, both enzymatic and microbial processes. In the first case, we studied the hydrolysis of lactose with commercial enzymes. In the case of microbial processes, the production of xanthan, a polysaccharide, in fact the polysaccharide with the highest production nowadays in the world.

In the following decade, we continued studying lactose hydrolysis, with enzymes from thermophile, and the biodesulfuration process, with different microorganisms, wild and also genetically modified. Both bioprocesses, xanthan production and biodesulfurization, in principle were promoted by oil companies.

We have continued since then working with enzymes and microorganisms, bacteria mainly. But we have try to carry out more theoretical studies; for example, trying to use the enzymes for synthesis instead of hydrolysis, using what is now called enzymes in organic phase.

Also we have paid attention to the development of kinetic models for microbial processes, integrating transport phenomena, mainly oxygen transport and uptake rates.

In order to support these more theoretical objectives, we have developed projects delivering the valorization of glycerol, a co-product of biodiesel manufacture. For this valorization, we have used chemical, enzymatic and microbial systems, to obtain different products, by esterification and transesterification reactions, producing esters of rosinic acids, glycerol carbonate and solketal, monoesters of cinnamic acid and ibuprofen, using enzymes; or the production process of some platform chemicals, such as 1,3-propanediol, 2,3- butanediol, di-hydroxy-acetone, using microbial processes.

We have dedicated a big effort to the study and better understanding of OTR, OUR and the hydrodynamic stress that can be associated to the power input to the reactor.

And recently we have started to research into the subject now called biorefineries, the production of biofuels and chemicals from biomass, in particular from lignocellulosic biomass. Always trying to join chemical, enzymatic and microbial processes, because within the research group there are people specialized on these types of processes, almost always poly-phasic systems.

Nowadays we deal mainly with the following subjects: Development of bioprocesses, Kinetic models formulation, Oxygen Transport & Uptake Rates, and the relation to stress or cell damage. All of these are matters of critical importance to scale-up microbial bioprocesses.

In the last decades we have worked with several microbial systems, all of them culturing bacteria, wild type or genetically modified. We have studied some processes that we knew, as those already cited: the production of xanthan, the DBT desulfurization, and the production of 1,3-propanediol, and others more recently, as the production processes of 2,3-butanediol, iso-butanol, succinic and fumaric acid, etc.