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Award success for chemical engineers

19 Dec 2011

Two University of Manchester academics have received awards for the quality of their research into sustainable chemical engineering.

Dr Theodoropoulos (left) and Professor Webb with their award

Dr Constantinos Theodoropoulos and Professor Colin Webb from the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science are the recipients of the 2011 IChemE Innovation and Excellence Award for Bioprocessing.

They received the award for their work on ’Sustainable biorefineries through the co-production of fuels and chemicals: The biochemical production of succinic acid from biorefinery glycerol”. The IChemE awards took place last month at the ICC in Birmingham.

The rise of biorefineries has led to a worldwide surplus of glycerol, the main byproduct of biodiesel production, and prices have dropped significantly.

Current markets cannot absorb the predicted increase in glycerol as demand grows for biodiesel, so new uses must be found. One option is turning it into commodity chemicals.

The academics, along with their research groups at The University of Manchester, found that a bacterium, Actinobacillus succinogenes, can convert glycerol into succinic acid, used in a variety of products from medicines to food flavours to plasticisers.

The team studied A. succinogenes under a variety of conditions and nutrients and developed predictive computational models for the process and for relevant integrated biorefinery designs.

This process will add significant value to this byproduct stream leading to the construction of integrated biorefineries with significantly-improved economic sustainability, which co-produce fuels and chemicals.

University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP) funded the development of the scale-up of the process through its Proof-of-Principle (PoP) funding programme and has protected the intellectual property by patent filing.

Dr Theodoropoulos said: “We are very happy to have won this notable award, for our research, which combines experimental and theoretical biotechnological advances.

“We are continuing our work towards the commercialisation of our technology, for the next generation of sustainable biorefineries”.

Simon Clarke, UMIP Licensing Manager, said: “It is great news that this exciting technology has been recognised at the IChemE Innovation and Excellence Awards, which are highly regarded throughout the international chemical, process and biochemical engineering community.

“The research team has made good progress so far and we are now working together on a commercialisation plan which will ultimately enable scaling up to industrial levels.”

IChemE Chief Executive David Brown said: “Winning an IChemE award is a real achievement. Our awards are globally recognised and attract entries from all over the world. To be deemed the best in a particular area of chemical engineering like this is something worth celebrating and in past years, has proven to be the launch pad to even greater successes.”

Notes for editors

Images are available on request

Professor Webb and Dr Theodoropoulos are available for interview on request.

For media enquiries please contact:

Daniel Cochlin
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8387
Daniel.cochlin@manchester.ac.uk