Process Intensification

Process intensification aims at the development of chemical process technology which allows chemical processing with high materials and energy efficiency. The main focus is on the transition from batch to continuous flow systems and on the use of external energy forms (e.g. ultrasound, light, microwave, plasma) to additionally actuate chemical reactors and/or separators. While in the frame of SIM2 the developed technologies are used in particular for recycling or new materials synthesis from waste, they have a much wider applicability.

Flagship topics:

Alternative energy forms (magnetic, microwave, ultrasound) for process intensification and enhanced metal recovery

Leaching of metals is accelerated by microwave irradiation or ultrasound, but it is also possible to get more selective leaching by these methods. Separation of paramagnetic from diamagnetic metal ions by strong magnetic fields is an innovative new approach to the separation of mixtures of metal ions. On-going projects include the use of high intensity magnetic fields to separate inclusions from metal and metal droplets from slags and the use of thermal plasmas for fuming of metals.

From batch to continuous processes

With the transition of batch to continuous, the size of reactors can be deceased and transport processes (mass and heat transfer, mixing) can occur much more effectively. This allows miniaturization of the reactors without losing on productivity, thus leading to reduced inventory, higher yields and reduced losses of material and energy. Continuous flow systems for solvent extraction allow for highly effective metal separation and purification. Performing crystallization in flow devices enables quicker nucleation and better control over crystal and particle properties.

The Team

The leading members in this research line are:

Prof. Tom Van Gerven
Prof. Tom Van Gerven
Prof. Tom Van Gerven has a background in chemical engineering and is a specialist in process intensification using localised energy and alternative energy forms (ultrasound, light, microwaves etc.). Prof. Van Gerven’s role in RARE³ is the application of process intensification techniques to the leaching of low grade ores and industrial process residues and to the solvent extraction. This includes ultrasound- and microwave-assisted leaching, light-assisted separations and the use of microflow reactors for solvent extraction.
Prof. Koen Binnemans
Prof. Koen Binnemans
Prof. Koen Binnemans is a world-leading expert in the chemistry of REEs and the environmentally-friendly use of ILs in solvent extraction and critical metal recovery. Author of more than 200 papers on REEs (320 papers in total) with a h-index of 48 (54 according to Google Scholar) and over 10000 citations. General coordinator of EU FP7 MC-ITN EREAN, H2020 MSCA-ETNs REDMUD and DEMETER, and a Steering Committee Member of ERECON (DG nterprise and Industry). He is the Vice-chair of the European Rare-Earth and Actinide Society (ERES).
Prof. Bart Blanpain
Prof. Bart Blanpain
Prof. Bart Blanpain leads the HiTemp Group, has more than 20 years of experience in the field of pyrometallurgy including ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and slag processing. Bart Blanpain’s Group has an excellent track record in (mainly) strategic basic and applied science projects involving slag/residue valorisation, refractory wear, urban/landfill mining and novel/optimised metallurgical flow sheets (incl. projects with Aperam, ArcelorMittal Sidmar, Umicore, MetalloChimique, Campine, Group Machiels etc.
Prof. Georgios Stefanidis
Prof. Georgios Stefanidis
Prof. Georgios Stefanidis is an associate professor at the Faculty of Engineering Science and head of the Subdivision Alternative Energies. His research topics include process intensification, chemical reactor engineering and alternative energy forms and transfer mechanisms (microwaves, plasma).
Prof. Simon Kuhn
Prof. Simon Kuhn
Simon Kuhn is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Engineering Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Process Engineering for Sustainable Systems
Department of Chemical Engineering. His research interests include Multiphase flows, microfluidics, scale-up, transport processes, Experimental fluid mechanics: particle image velocimetry (PIV), laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) and Computational fluid dynamics: turbulence modeling, large-eddy simulations, multiphase flow simulations (VOF).
Prof. Jan Fransaer
Prof. Jan Fransaer
Prof. Jan Fransaer is a full professor of chemistry (Department of Materials Engineering). His research group has a tradition in experimental & computational electrochemistry. More than 100 peer reviewed publications and 11 patents in this field. He was involved in 7 EU projects (2 as coordinator) on electrodeposition. The group made significant contributions to the practical and theoretical understanding of the electrodeposition of particles together with metals, and was one of the first to study this process using non-aqueous electrolytes.