Chemical Technology Archive

The European Federation of Chemical Engineering (EFCE) has recognised research in biomass-to-sugar conversion technologies which could reduce the size of reactor needed by a factor of up to 5 000 compared with traditional methods.

Dr Danilo Cantero was awarded the EFCE Excellence Award in Process Intensification for his thesis demonstrating supercritical hydrolysis of cellulose or biomass to sugars. Dr Cantero’s method uses water at supercritical conditions to de-polymerise the cellulose or biomass, resulting in a faster rate of reaction while also slowing down unwanted glucose decomposition.

EFCE recognises biomass conversion(L-R): Tom Van Gerven, Chair of the EFCE Working Party on Process Intensification; Danilo Cantero; and Jean-Marc Le Lann, Scientific Vice President of EFCE.

The increased rate of reaction allows for a large decrease in reactor volume. Dr Cantero’s research demonstrated that his process could yield the same amount of sugar as conventional methods, using a reactor that’s 5 000 times smaller. His process is also faster, saving hours or even days compared with existing methods for hydrolysing cellulose or biomass.

In addition, the reactor can act as a heat exchanger; the process employs instantaneous heating and cooling methods which allows for a high yield of sugar from cellulose hydrolysis – as high as 95 %.

Dr Cantero completed his thesis titled: ‘Intensification of Cellulose Hydrolysis Process by Supercritical Water, Obtaining of Added Value Products’, at the University of Valladolid, Spain.

The award, which comprised a €1,500 cash prize, was presented to him by the EFCE Working Party on Process Intensification during the fifth European Process Intensification Conference (EPIC 5), which was held in Nice, France, last September.

Founded in 1953, The European Federation of Chemical Engineering (EFCE) is a non-profit-making association, whose object is to promote co-operation in Europe between non-profit-making professional scientific and technical societies in 30 countries for the general advancement of chemical engineering and as a means of furthering the development of chemical engineering. See or contact Trish Regis, information and communications officer, EFCE, on tel: +44 (0)7825 266814 or email:

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