UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
Research focus: valorisation of renewable chemicals to obtain environmentally sustainable value-added products and discerning their physicochemical characterization
The biodiesel industry is rapidly growing as societies seek alternative fuel sources to use in place of existing non-renewables. The main drawback is the excessive amount of glycerol generated as a by-product, which has led to a steep decrease in its value. Dr Esteban’s research aims to revalorise glycerol by developing chemical processes through green chemistry and process intensification.
Specifically, Dr Esteban has used transesterification and acetalization to convert the glycerol molecule into glycerol carbonate and solketal, respectively. These compounds can be used as green substitutes for chemicals with a variety of interesting applications. He has developed techniques to produce these compounds in high yields providing kinetic models that make implementation of these processes on an industrial scale more feasible.
In 2015, Dr Esteban completed a PhD in chemical engineering at the Complutense University of Madrid for which he won an award for best PhD thesis in experimental and technological sciences from the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, where he examines relevant phenomena in the formulation of powder detergents in cooperation with Procter & Gamble. In addition, he characterizes physical and chemical properties of green value-added products.
His work has led to the publication of over a dozen of research papers, and he regularly presents his findings at international conferences. Looking towards the future, Dr Esteban intends to pursue further studies in the exploitation of chemicals derived from renewable sources.
The jury selected Esteban for the creative innovation behind his research in finding new and improved processes for the valorisation of the glycerol molecule. In doing so, he is helping to create a more environmentally sustainable and profitable biofuel industry.