1996 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

I have over 20 years experience in modelling complex systems, spanning from solid/gas suspensions, to complex reaction networks. Areas of current research are:

Hydrodynamics of granular materials and particle laden flow

This area of research constitutes one of my main research interests. Early studies aimed at formulating a predictive model to be used as a design and control tool and able to handle unwanted phenomena as particle segregation, backmixing and poor chemical conversion. The model developed in our group is extensively used to understand how solid particles behave when flowing in industrial equipment and applied to the hydrodynamics of pneumatic conveying, fluidised and bubbling beds. The model I able to handle large scale systems and therefore can be used in industrial plants. One of the completed projects dealt with the experimental characterisation (by means of Electrical Capacitance Tomography) and the mathematical description of the physics of the intermediate regime which develops between dense and dilute flow, which are very common in pneumatic conveying and in many industrial equipment dealing with transport of solid particles. Our work was include in a review undertaken by the DOE.


Continuum lumping of multi-component systems

This area of research deals with the kinetics and thermodynamics of multi-component mixtures. In this area I have contributed to the solution of the problem of intrinsically non-linear kinetics, a problem that has escaped a satisfactory solution for a long time. I developed a simplifying assumption of uniformity which makes the problem formally solvable. The early work has been recently extended and applied to an industrial problem, namely hydrocracking of paraffins. At present we are working at other industrial problems including hydrocracking of heavy oil, polymerisation and crystallisation. The model that we developed is used by the EUROKIN consortium, including companies as ENI and BP. The initial programme of work was intensively undertaken in 2008-2011, paving the way to the current collaborations and projects.

Additional, our work on continuum lumping has generated a collaboration with UNICAMP in Brazil. The group of Professor Milton Mori, working extensively with Petrobras, has started a collaboration to include our expertise in their research programme: as a consequence, a researcher from UNICAMP, is currently working at Heriot-Watt to include our continuum lumping procedure into the hydrodynamic model used at UNICAMP and Petrobras.


Carbon capture

The research in this area is focused on two projects:

  • Chemical looping combustion

The research is aimed at the development of a model for chemical looping combustion, one of the best suited technologies for carbon capture and production of clean energy.  Fundamental physics is investigated and input into a complete model which can then be used as a predictive tool in the design and operation of power plants based on the chemical looping technology.  We have developed a model for oxidation-reduction in a packed bed and this has attracted the interest of the Chemical Process Intensification (SPI) and Multiphase Reactors (SMR) group at the University of Eindhoven (contact Professor F. Gallucci). The group’s experimental data are being used to validate the model developed at HWU.


  • Pyrolysis of biomasses

Lignin is an organic polymer and it is the second most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth, after cellulose. Lignin is not one compound but many complex polymers; the commonality between all of them is their phenylpropane structure, that is, a benzene ring with a tail of three carbons. In their natural unprocessed form, their molecular weights may reach 15,000 or more. Our work is focused on the kinetics of lignin pyrolysis which is described by using a continuum model (G. Astarita, R.Ocone, “Lumping Nonlinear Kinetics”, AIChE Journal, 34, 129, 1988), where the lignin structure is simplified and assumed to be formed by repeating units (monomer) which can be identified with the basic benzene ring with the tail of three carbons. This work is in co-operation with ICFAR, Western University.

Additionally, the collaboration with ICFAR has been the springboard for a successful application of a three year Leverhulme Network Grant between the UK and Canada involving ICFAR, McGill University, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Edinburgh.

We also work in the area of waste (plastics) recycling in collaboration with Nextek and Sasol.




I have a Laurea (MEng) in Chemical Engineering from the Università di Napoli Federico II, Italy, and a MA and PhD from Princeton University, USA. Before joining Heriot Watt University, I was a Reader in Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Nottingham, Lecturer at the Università di Napoli, and Visiting Professor at Louisiana State University, USA and at the University Claude Bernard Lyon, France.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


  • TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Engineering & Product Design
  • Energy & Renewables
  • Oil & Gas


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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