The research in my group addresses primarily two big world challeges of the near future, namely the necessity to reverse the trend in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and water scarcity. Our efforts are spent to develop new technologies powered by low grade heat, the worst quality of energy on the Earth, available in great quantity especially as solar heat. Our work ranges from thermodynamics to actual prototyping and testing, using thermodynamics as the necessary framework for the early understanding of novel processes. The majority of our research integrates adsorbent materials because often they enables the formulation of processes otherwise impossible and the reduction of the energy demand compared to the traditional solutions. Some of the novel technologies generated in my group are:
Stand-alone adsorption refrigerator powered by solar thermal energy. This technology provides stand-alone cooling for vaccines storage. Every day thousands of children die because of vaccination-preventable diseases. A key challenge for immunization programmes in many areas of the world, where no cooling facilities or electrical grid is available, is storing the vaccines at the right temperature until the administration. With our colleagues of CNR-ITAE, our group has developed a stand-alone solar ice maker, where solar thermal energy is used to regenerate, during the day, an adsorption bed enclosed in a solar thermal collector. During the night, cold is produced and stored in form of ice.
Adsorption dishwasher. With our colleagues at CNR-ITAE, we have developed a new generation of dishwashers with 41% energy saving compared to Class A technology. The new process operates by integrating an adsorption bed in the dishwasher to dry the enclosed air and accordingly the dishes. The same bed is regenerated during the successive washing, releasing hot water vapour that is useful for more effective cleaning.
Adsorption air capture. Although the majority of research efforts focus on large, concentrated CO2 emitters, CO2 removal from the ambient air (air capture) is a complementary measure for the mitigation of small and distributed emissions. In the ACCA project, supported by the European Union, we are developing a proof of concept prototype to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Similarly to the two previous systems, this is a thermally-driven adsorption process.
Adsorption desalination. Gist of this project, supported by the European Union, is the generation of electricity from salinity gradients using a Reverse Electrodialysis in a closed-loop system. Artificial saline solutions are subject to salinity swings by means of multi effect distillation/adsorption-based separation, which uses low-temperature heat as its energy source.
Research Group members: Charithea Charalambous (PhD student, Air Capture); Chiara Di Santis (PhD student, Heat Transformers); Christopher Olkis (PhD student, Desalination)
Former members: Matteo Franciolini (visiting student, presently PhD student, Università Politecnica delle Marche, liquid-liquid equilibria); Andrea Frazzica (visiting researcher, presently Researcher at CNR-ITAE, investigation on AQSOA-Z02 for CO2 capture ); Susanna Maisano (visting researcher, presently Research at CNR-ITAE, liquid liquid equilibria); Fraser Stuart (research student, desalination); Solene Cargill (research student, liquid-liquid equilibria)