Get to know more about CERENA's new Team Member- José Granjo
What will you be doing at CERENA?
We will be mainly focused on designing and evaluating novel engineering solutions to produce value-added products and energy from waste biomass, such as forestry and agricultural residues. The work has a component of mathematical modeling, i.e., models will be constructed so that we can realistically predict things like the thermodynamic properties of biomass-related mixtures, transport phenomena, or rates of chemical reactions.
These models are crucial for the other part of the work, where we try to solve key problems, including how to design and integrate reaction and separation operations to obtain flexible and product-tailored processes for given renewable feedstocks. Mainly, we are interested in screening through optimization studies mass and energy integration opportunities to reduce wastes and increase profitability. Also, we will be engaged in assessing the incorporation of CO2 utilization systems in the biorefining of biomass, aiming at decreasing further the carbon emissions and going to a closed-loop production. These studies will be performed with chemical process simulators and programming systems to assist with decision-making.
These initiatives intertwine with the experimental/theoretical knowledge existing in CERENA and have strong interactions with academic and industrial partners. We look to identify regions with potential interest to operate the processes and to benchmark alternative flowsheets that help to direct laboratory or pilot-scale experiments. Reversely, the data gained from experimental works help us to validate the models used and the engineering solutions found.
Could you please tell us about your scientific journey?
My scientific journey started at the University of Coimbra, where I initially was involved in a project to create a virtual platform to support the teaching of chemical processes in Portuguese-speaking countries. My role was to develop computer simulators of separation processes and web interfaces that still today have hundreds of visits per month and are used in the classrooms.
Then, I pursued my Ph.D. work, where my interest was to study the production of biofuels, namely biodiesel and bioethanol, integrated with industrial facilities processing oil-bearing crops. The main idea was to figure out how the processes could be reconfigured and integrated together to improve economic performance while saving energy and material resources. To achieve this, I developed and applied mathematical methodologies to build models and techniques to support decision-making. The main results indicate that through process integration significant energy savings, reduce of freshwater consumption and effluent generation, while the process becomes more robust to economic indicators.
Before embracing this new challenge, I was in the 'INPACTUS - Innovative Products and Technologies from Eucalyptus’ Project, a research and development project promoted by The Navigator Company, RAIZ, among other partners. My work was to design and perform techno-economical benchmarks of processes with economic potential for the conversion of forestry residues into energy, fuels and other value-added chemicals.
Any tips for young researchers, PhD students and Pos-docs, or someone reading us who wants to become a scientist?
Be passionate about what you do, which probably it is a cliché, but I think it is absolutely right. Doing research demands a lot from us, and usually, the rewards from your work come not before several months or years of hard effort. By loving what you do helps to find the strength to persevere in the face of difficulties and motivate you to solve the problems ahead.
The other tip that I would give is to invest your time in networking and in establishing collaborations. Nobody is an expert on every subject they need to work at some point in their professional life. So, take some of your time to know people that are experts in fields of knowledge which you are not so comfortable with, and let others know what kind of things you are good at. For sure this will unlock future opportunities to create or be part of far-reaching projects and do works with higher impact.