Ion Agirre-Arisketa: Renewable Biomass

Ion Agirre-Arisketa


Production of furfural, a renewable biomass derived building block, be means of a N2 stripping coupled batch reactor


Bilbao, Spain: Universidad del Pais Vasco


Ion Agirre-Arisketa


Environmental Engineering


Ion Agirre-Arisketa holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from 2011. He is a member of SUPREN Group (Sustainable Process Engineering) and has participated in projects in the fields of biorefinery, separation processes or in biomass upgrading to produce syngas. He held a postdoc position in the University of Leoben (Austria). Since October 2012 he has been an assistant professor in the engineering faculty of Bilbao.

Project Overview

In the last years, research on the transformation of biomass into different compounds has grown significantly with the motivation being to reduce the dependency of oil and to develop of sustainable and environmental friendly energy sources. In this context biomass appears to be as the only renewable source of carbon that is able to provide a substitute for fossil fuels. In the near future, bio-refineries, in which biomass is catalytically converted into pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, plastics and transportation fuels will take the place of current petrochemical plants. Different bio-refinery types can be defined, being one of them the one that converts sugars contained in lignocellulosic biomass into the so-called “building blocks”, being furfural one of most important ones. The importance of this type of compounds lies in the fact that multiple products can be obtained from them.

In the present research activity, the student will manage a stripping coupled fully-automated lab-scale semi-batch reactor in order to produce furfural. For that purpose, real sugar dissolutions obtained by hydrolysis of biomass will be used as raw material. Therefore, this work is related to chemical reactor engineering, catalysis as well as with separation technologies, as the furfural will being extracted from the reaction medium by means of N2 stripping. Simultaneously to the experimental work a more theoretical work can also be performed, based on simulations and programming in Matlab or Aspen Plus together with some basic economic calculations.