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Heterogeneous Catalysis, Biomass and Coal

Roberto Rinaldi has become Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London in December 2015. Information on his current research is available here. This web page documents the activities of his group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (until 2015).

The escalating oil price draws our attention to alternative feedstocks for liquid fuels. Plants are the largest reserves of renewable carbon on Earth. To obtain desired products from them, it is necessary to understand the reactivity of their main constituents (cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose) and to invent catalysts able to handle simultaneously different chemical functionalities. This is a great challenge and it is also what our research group is aiming at.

Roberto Rinaldi

Dr. Roberto Rinaldi

since April, 1st 2015: Senior Lecturer at Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London
Independent Group Leader (Sofja Kovalevskaja awardee, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation)
Group Leader, MPI für Kohlenforschung (Prof. Ferdi Schüth)
Post doctoral fellow, MPI für Kohlenforschung (Prof. Ferdi Schüth)
Post doctoral fellow, Brazilian Synchrotron Laboratory (LNLS), Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Dr. Daniela Zanchet)
PhD work and graduate teaching assistant, UNICAMP (Prof. Ulf Schuchardt)
BSc. Chemistry, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Born September 8th in Campinas, Sao Paulo/Brazil
Sofja Kovalevskaja Award - Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Thieme Chemistry Journal Award
TMFB Outstanding Project Award 2010 der Shell Global Solutions
Member of the Global Young Faculty - Mercator Foundation
Award for outstanding PhD work, Evonik-Degussa and Brazilian Catalysis Society
Lavoisier medal, outstanding student of chemistry, Sao Paulo Council of Chemistry
15 invited lectures and oral presentations
Academic exchange, RWTH-Aachen (Prof. Wolfgang Hölderich)
Academic exchange, TU-Berlin (Prof. Herbert Schumann)

Research Topics



Analyzing the composition of materials that contain cellulose (e.g. crop residues, straw, sugarcane bagasse, leaves and wood) reveals that lignin corresponds up to 30 % of plant biomass. Therefore, the success of the cellulosic biofuels also depends on finding uses for lignin. Our activities on lignin chemistry cover the extraction of lignin by the organosolv process, characterization of lignin and development of catalysts for lignin hydrogenolysis, oxidation and depolymerization.

Figure: The use of lignin poses a challenge for catalysis.



The huge reserves of coal are estimated to last for the next 100 years. Considering that the production of biomass is seasonal, co-feeding biorefineries with coal emerges as an interesting process choice for the production of clean fuels. The similarity between the chemical structures of low ranking coals and lignin encourages us to develop integrated strategies to process coal and biomass together. Our activities on coal chemistry cover the direct coliquefaction of low ranking coals and biomass to produce liquid fuels.

Figure: Coal chemistry may fill the feedstock gap in the transition towards a renewable-based economy.



To use cellulose as material requires commonly its dissolution. From cellulosic solutions, the biopolymer is transformed into desirable products (e.g. rayon). Here, we are aiming at understanding the process of dissolution of cellulose in non-conventional solvent systems and at exploring the reactivity of cellulose in new solvent systems.


Research Reports