Laboratory of Alternative Fuels and Environmental Catalysis

News from LAFEC

  • Home

    Relentless in the pursuit of excellence

    The Laboratory of Alternative Fuels and Environmental Catalysis (LAFEC), is attached to the Department of Environmental and Pollution Control Engineering, of the Technological Education Institute of Western Macedonia (TEIWM). The laboratory was established in September 2005. Its director is Professor Dr. Maria Goula. LAFEC's main research interests are focused on the following:

    • Design and development of heterogeneous catalysts
    • Environmental catalysis (NOx, SO2, H2S)
    • Development of novel environmental catalytic technologies for industrial NOx control
    • Catalytic technologies for hydrogen production (steam reforming of biogas and bioethanol)
    • Experimental and theoretical study of multiphase flows in porous media and transport phenomena
    • Flow of colloidal systems (surfactants, foams, etc.) through porous media and relevant stability studies (thin film thickness, contact angles, disjoining pressure, surface energies)
    • Risk assessment of the pollution of soils and aquifers and rational design of soil reconstitution methods
    • Biomass sustainability through Life Cycle Analysis
    • Energy policy and Energy security issues.



    Catalysts / Special Issue "Catalysis for Energy Production"

    Special Issue Information

    Dear Colleagues,

    The necessity of replacing fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and developing greener, more efficient technologies is becoming more intense given the finite nature of fossil resources and the detrimental consequences on climate by increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The scientific community currently works towards addressing the shortcomings of renewable energy originating from wind, solar, oceans, hydropower, and geothermal.

    On the other hand, production of liquid fuels coming from ligno-cellullosic biomass or non edible vegetable oils and animal fats or from (photo)electro reduction of CO2 is a promising direction towards tackling energy issues. In particular, the use of biomass as an energy source leads to decreasing emissions of CO2, NOx, SOx, and particulate matter into the atmosphere. Moreover, the production of hydrogen and syngas from reforming reaction/biomass gasification for power generation and chemicals appears to be the main effort for meeting the goal for biomass-based energy technologies. Synthesis gas (syngas) is a crucial intermediate resource for the petrochemical industry as it is necessary for the production of ammonia and Fischer–Tropsch liquid energy carriers, (e.g., methanol, olefins, paraffins, aromatics and oxygenates). The design and engineering of active catalysts is the enabling key that facilitates such molecular chemical transformations, as those discussed above, towards the desired product (selectivity) for long duration on stream (stability). In some catalytic reactions in situ product removal would allow these reactions to proceed beyond equilibrium. Such a process integration can lead to an ultimate sustainable technology less energy-intensive with much less production of waste. This Special Issue of Catalysts aspires to put together and discuss the current progress and trends in this field.


    Manuscript Submission Information

    Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

    Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Catalysts is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

    Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


    Keywords: reforming; biomass; syngas; hydrogen; catalyst development; CO2 utilization; renewable energy

    Published Papers

    This special issue is now open for submission. Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2019

    Guest Editors

    Prof. Dr. Maria A. Goula

    Prof. Dr. Kyriaki Polychronopoulou




Research focus


Reforming of Glycerol

Biodiesel production has grown, between 2005 and 2015, at almost 25% per annum (reaching approximately 32 billion liters), leading to a seven-fold expansion of the sector. Although biodiesel is thought of as a renewable, biodegradable, environmentally-friendly fuel, there are concerns over the production of glycerol, the main by product of the transesterification reaction (it accounts for 10% of the volume of oil undergoing the reaction).

An innovative option is the energetic utilization of glycerol via steam reforming (SR), as every mole of glycerol fed to the reactor can theoretically produce seven moles of hydrogen. At LAFEC we have devoted our efforts towards the design of appropriate catalysts based on transition metals that can be used in the GSR. In some of our previous works, we reported on the performance of different transition metals (Ni, Co, Cu) on silica [BioResources 11 (2016) 10173-89] and alumina [Fuel Process Technol 152 (2016) 156-75], of Ni catalysts based on alumina, zirconia, silica [Top Catal 60 (2017) 1226-50] and apatite-type lanthanum silicates supports [RSC Adv 6 (2016) 78954-8], the influence of the synthesis method on Ni/Al catalysts [Chinese J Catal 37 (2016) 1949-65], the effect of the addition of lanthana on Ni/Al catalysts [Int J Hydrogen Energ 42 (2017) 13039-60], the effect of the addition of CaO-MgO on Ni/Al catalysts [Int J Hydrogen Energ 44 (2019) 256-273], the use of AlCeO3 as supporting material for a Ni catalyst [Catalysts 9 (2019) 411], the effect of the addition of silica [Top Catal 60 (2017) 1226-1250] or yttria [Int J Hydrogen Enrg, In press] on Ni/ZrO2 catalysts. We have also tested Ce-Sm-xCu [Sust Energ Fuels 3 (2019) 673-691] and Ni/Ce-Sm-xCu [Nanomaterials 8 (2018) 931] catalysts. A comprehensive literature review with particular focus on the main catalysts and support systems under development has also been carried out [Surf Coat Technol 352 (2018) 92-111].

Moreover, we have also examined glycerol reforming via chemical looping using Ni/ZrO2 nano-composite oxygen carriers [Int J Hydrogen Energ 43 (2018) 13200-11].


CO2 Utilization - Biogas Dry Reforming

It is well understood that human activities, emanating from current practices relating to the production and consumption of fossil based energy have an unequivocal impact upon the global climate. A promising technology is the Dry Reforming of Biogas, as the process makes use of the main greenhouse gases (CH4 and CO2), and can provide a renewable resource with a potential zero carbon footprint. The product of this process is syngas, a key chemical feedstock for the synthesis of oxygenated chemicals and hydrocarbons from Fisher – Tropsch synthesis.

At LAFEC we have examined the performance of nickel catalysts based on alumina modified with ceria, lanthana [J Nat Gas Sci Eng 31 (2016) 164-83 & Catal Today 195 (2012) 93-100], magnesia or calcium [Waste Biomass Valori 7 (2016) 725-36]. A theoretical investigation of Ni-Al2O3 and Ni/CeO2-Al2O3 has also been performed [Int J Hydrogen Energ 35 (2010) 9818-27].

We have also devoted effort in investigating the performance of Nickel catalysts based on zirconia modified with ceria, lanthana [Int J Hydrogen Energ 42 (2017) 13724-40] and tugsten [Front Environ Sci 5 (2017) 66]. Moreover, we have examined different synthesis techniques in an effort to maximize the dispersion of active phase and optimize the active species [Catal Today 46, 175-83; Int J Hydrogen Energ 40 (2015) 9183-00].

Finally, we have committed ourselves at investigating the carbonaceous species formed during the reaction [J Catal 161, 626-40; Adv Mater Proc 2 (2017) 807-12; Mater Today: Proc. 5 (2018) 27607-27616; Int J Hydrogen Energ 43 (2018) 18955-18976; Appl Surf Sci 474 (2019) 42-56], as it is one of the main reasons for catalyst deactivation.


NOx and SO2 abatement

Nitrogen and sulphur oxide abatement is a subject of major environmental importance, as Nitric (NOx) and Sulphur (SOx) oxides are recognized as important precursors of acid rain, contributors to the formation of photochemical smog and to the destruction of the ozone layer. Recently, a lot of academic and policy attention has focused on N2O emissions control. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is listed as one of the most harmful greenhouse gases with a strong global warming potential (310 times higher than that of CO2), that severely contributes to the stratospheric ozone layer depletion.

At LAFEC, we were the first to investigate the lean NOx reduction by propene, H2 as well as by propene + H2 over supported (on γ-Al2O3), low loading (0.5 wt%), Pt, Pd and Ir catalysts [J Environ Chem Eng 4 (2016) 1629-41]. In addition, we have examined the impact of alkali promoters (K) on the physicochemical properties and catalytic performance of Ir/Al2O3 catalysts towards the N2O decomposition [Top Catal 59 (2016) 1020-7]. Finally, we have examined the deactivation and regeneration procedures of copper oxide catalysts/sorbents that are supported on Al2O3, SiO2, CeO2-Al2O3, in the presence of SO2 and identified the appropriate conditions for the simultaneous removal of NO and SO2 [Global Nest J 14 (2012) 166-74].

lafec copy copy







Selective deoxygenation (SDO) of natural triglycerides

There are two main drawbacks associated with the production of biodiesel through the transesterification reaction: (a) The unsuitability of plant oils with relatively high acidity for transesterification catalyzed by basic solutions, and (b) the increasing accumulation of glycerol, the main sub-product of the process.

However, natural triglycerides can be upgraded using selective deoxygenation (SDO), which is realized by hydrotreatment via decarboxylation (deCO2), decarbonylation (deCO) and hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), to hydrocarbons in the range of petro-diesel (green or renewable diesel).

At LAFEC we have set up appropriate experimental procedures and are investigating the: (i) effect of supports, metal loading and promoters on catalytic performance, (ii) SDO pathways over transition metallic catalysts, and (iii) effect of preparation method on catalytic performance.

We have recently published a comprehensive literature review on the topic [Energies 12 (2019) 809].