Chemical Engineering: Research @ Brunel

Articles (co)published by Chem Eng Brunel staff

Below are recent articles (co-)authored by Brunel academic staff. Please click the title of the article to access the full-text.

  • Editorial: Nutrition and sustainable development goal 12: responsible consumption
    Frontiers in Nutrition, Vol 11, Art No. 1394417 (Mar 2024)

  • A Pilot Study into the Use of Qualitative Methods to Improve the Awareness of Barriers to Sustainable Medical Waste Segregation within the United Kingdom's National Health Service
    Webb, C. et al
    Sustainability, Vol 16, No 7, Art No. 3027 (Apr 2024)
    Within the United Kingdom, most medical waste is incorrectly classified as hazardous and disposed of via incineration or alternative treatment. Currently, no research has been conducted on why such a large quantity of medical waste is erroneously segregated. This pilot study explores the barriers to correct segregation with the aim to decrease the volume of incinerated waste by investigating why medical waste is wrongly identified as hazardous. No previous data are available to compare results, and so this study demonstrates the significance of using qualitative methods (questionnaires and focus groups) to bring awareness to issues faced within medical facilities when segregating waste. The low availability of different bins as well as lack of space and the healthcare workers' busy schedules were identified as main reasons for poor segregation. Bins were sparsely placed, and staff lacked time to find the appropriate one leading to incorrect segregation of non-hazardous waste. Lack of information around whether a material was recyclable or not led to less recycled waste. When ways to engage with this issue were discussed, most medical staff favoured quick forms of information provision, such as posters, whereas a participant proclaimed longer hands-on style sessions as more effective. The findings of this study provide evidence that governmental strategies focused on sustainable medical waste management should direct their attention to the placement and availability of bins, whilst including 'on-the-ground' personnel in their decision making. This pilot study showed the value in using qualitative methods when current data are lacking and can be repeated by other healthcare facilities to collectively grow a greater awareness of the sustainability issues faced by the UK healthcare waste management system.

  • Application of Nanotechnology to Develop Carrageenan-based Films and Coatings as Carriers for Essential Oils
    Nikravan, L. et al
    Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Early Access (Mar 2024)
    This review highlights the effect of combining bioactive agents especially nanoparticles in carrageenan coating to increase the quality and stability of foods. This study is designed based on a review of previous studies. Biopolymer coatings and films are suitable for food and non-food packaging due to their degradability renewable and edible nature. Edible coatings and films are based on polysaccharides proteins and lipids. They confer some beneficial effects on foods such as improvement of appearance and texture reducing the amount of moisture loss and oxidation prevention of the release of gases and control of microbial growth delaying ripening and adverse changes in color and taste improvement of nutritional value and increasing the shelf life of the product. These improvements lead to the prevention of food spoilage and increase the shelf life of various foods. In addition nanomaterials and food additives such as antimicrobial and antioxidant agents flavorings and colors can be incorporated into food coatings and films to expand their applications. Nanotechnology can be applied in coatings and food films using nanoparticles. However more research is still needed to gather information about coating formulations especially when new materials are incorporated into them.

  • Exergy analysis in intensification of sorption-enhanced steam methane reforming for clean hydrogen production: Comparative study and efficiency optimisation
    Davies, W.G. et al
    Carbon Capture Sci. & Tech., Vol 12, Art No. 100202 (Sept 2024)
    Hydrogen has a key role to play in decarbonising industry and other sectors of society. It is important to develop low-carbon hydrogen production technologies that are cost-effective and energy-efficient. Sorption-enhanced steam methane reforming (SE-SMR) is a developing low-carbon (blue) hydrogen production process, which enables combined hydrogen production and carbon capture. Despite a number of key benefits, the process is yet to be fully realised in terms of efficiency. In this work, a sorption-enhanced steam methane reforming process has been intensified via exergy analysis. Assessing the exergy efficiency of these processes is key to ensuring the effective deployment of low-carbon hydrogen production technologies. An exergy analysis was performed on an SE-SMR process and was then subsequently used to incorporate process improvements, developing a process that has, theoretically, an extremely high CO2 capture rate of nearly 100%, whilst simultaneously demonstrating a high exergy efficiency (77.58 %), showcasing the potential of blue hydrogen as an effective tool to ensure decarbonisation, in an energy-efficient manner.

  • Application of chemically-activated recycled carbon fibres for aqueous-phase adsorptions - part I: Optimisation of activation process
    Taylor, J.H. et al
    Chemical Engineering Journal Advances, Vol 18, Art No. 100591 (May 2024)
    Carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) are an attractive and versatile material, owing to their low weight and high mechanical stability, among other characteristics. This has led to a rapid increase in their use across many industries, particularly the aviation and automotive sectors. However, large quantities of waste are being generated when CFRPs reach their end-of-life (EoL) due to limited recycling and reuse pathways. To create a circular economy for CFRPs, alternative, high-value EoL pathways for recycled carbon fibres (rCFs) are needed. At present, very few studies investigate the activation of rCFs, particularly for applications as adsorbents. Developing on from the authors' previous study, where rCFs were shown to be a promising precursor for the development of carbonaceous adsorbents, for applications in aqueous-phase, this work has focused on optimising the chemical activation procedure via a Box Behnken design-response surface methodology (BBD-RSM) approach, with an aim to maximise product yield and methylene blue adsorption capacity, using virgin carbon fibres (vCFs) as proof of concept. The optimum activated rCFs achieved an adsorption capacity of 454.55 mg/L; a significant increase of 715 % when compared to the previous study. While the optimum activated vCF counterpart achieved a maximum adsorption capacity 344.83 mg/L.

  • The environmental impact of beef and ultra-processed food consumption in Brazil
    da Cruz, G.L. et al
    Public Health Nutrition, Vol 27, No 1, Art No. e34
    Objective: This study evaluated the independent and combined environmental impacts of the consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods in Brazil. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Brazil. Participants: We used food purchases data from a national household budget survey conducted between July 2017 and July 2018, representing all Brazilian households. Food purchases were converted into energy, carbon footprints and water footprints. Multiple linear regression models were used to assess the association between quintiles of beef and ultra-processed foods in total energy purchases and the environmental footprints, controlling for sociodemographic variables. Results: Both beef and ultra-processed foods had a significant linear association with carbon and water footprints (P < 001) in crude and adjusted models. In the crude upper quintile of beef purchases, carbon and water footprints were 477 % and 308 % higher, respectively, compared to the lower quintile. The upper quintile of ultra-processed food purchases showed carbon and water footprints 144 % and 228 % higher, respectively, than the lower quintile. The greatest reduction in environmental footprints would occur when both beef and ultra-processed food purchases are decreased, resulting in a 211 % reduction in carbon footprint and a 200 % reduction in water footprint. Conclusions: Although the environmental footprints associated with beef consumption are higher, dietary patterns with lower consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods combined showed the greatest reduction in carbon and water footprints in Brazil. The high consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods is harmful to human health, as well as to the environment; thus, their reduction is beneficial to both.

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