Process intensification and digitalisation

Schematic drawing PIGeneral theme: Process intensification aims at the development of chemical process technology which allows chemical and metallurgical processing with high materials and energy efficiency. Process digitalisation aims at developing Industry 4.0 tools in order to improve process and data management.

Flagship Topics:

Process intensification

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. The research stretches from fundamental studies (reaction activation, transfer of mass, heat and momentum) to equipment design and scalability. 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.

Process digitalisation

Process digitalisation is a new challenge in the process industry within the vision of Industry 4.0. It includes topics such as artificial intelligence, new immersion technologies (e.g. AR/VR) and data mining. For the development of this new topic for SIM² KU Leuven, contact will be made with KU Leuven experts in the field, amongst other colleagues that are active in the Leuven Center for Artificial Intelligence.

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. 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.

Prof. Bart Blanpain
Prof. Bart Blanpain

Prof. Bart Blanpain (RL Leader) 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. Koen Binnemans
Prof. Koen Binnemans
Prof. Koen Binnemans (RL Leader) 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 Steering Committee Member of ERECON (DG Enterprise and Industry). Vice-chair of the European Rare-Earth and Actinide Society (ERES).
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).