Northwestern University

Fri 2:00 PM

EES Seminar: Patricio Carnelli

When: Friday, May 24, 2019
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM  

Where: Technological Institute, A230, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Tierney Acott   847.491.3257

Group: McCormick - Civil and Environmental Engineering

Category: Lectures & Meetings


A Tale of Two Lignins: Obtaining Chemicals and Resins from Undervalued Biomass

In a world fighting against climate change and looking for sustainable, renewable-sourced processes, obtaining resources from (waste) biomass is at the same time a goal and a challenge. In this context, comes lignin: a tridimensional, amorphous, and complex biopolymer that accounts for 30 % of all plant biomass (second most abundant after cellulose). It is no surprise that lignin has been the focus of intensive research over the past hundred years. Nowadays, there are several treatments available that yield a wide variety of products from lignin, mainly aromatic compounds, used as fuel or chemical precursors. These treatments are usually energy-intensive, making use of high temperature and pressure, and involving often expensive catalysts. As an alternative, we are developing an integrated process that makes use of the effluent from a microbial electrolysis cell for wastewater treatment, at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. With this high-pH, phosphate-rich effluent we reached up to 80 % conversion from solid lignin into soluble aromatic compounds, which can be used as they are obtained, or further functionalized, to deliver valuable chemicals. We also showed that from the remnant, partially-depolymerized solids it is possible to obtain lignin-phenol-formaldehyde resins for engineered woods. In this talk I will guide you through this tale of two lignins: an undervalued biopolymer burned or considered as waste, but also a great source of renewable products without competing with food reserves.

Patricio Carnelli is currently working as a postdoc in the Gray Group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University. His broad area of study is resource recovery and waste valorization, focused specifically in mild depolymerization of lignin to produce aromatics and resins. Previously, after realizing he did not have a chance as a professional soccer player, he received a MSc in physics from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA, 2009) and a PhD in Physics from the National University of San Martín (UNSAM, 2014), both in Argentina. For his PhD research he spent two years working at the Physics Division of Argonne National Laboratory. Before coming to Northwestern, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Environmental Research and Engineering (3iA) at UNSAM, where he is planning to return to hold his recently-obtained permanent position.

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