Adriana Estrada Leon Ghent University Belgium

PhD student Adriana Estrada Leon from Ghent University

During lockdown, we have been speaking to various partners and teams within ABC-Salt. PhD Student Adriana Estrada Leon from the University of Ghent works on Work Package 4 within the project. We asked Adriana for her thoughts and what she has been working on during this time.

COVID and the impact on Research

In general, COVID-19 has caused significant delay in research, particularly with regard to laboratory progress. For ongoing long-term experiments (lasting days/months), the impact of the quarantine measures has been more overwhelming. In many cases have had to be terminated. Fortunately, with short-term experiments (lasting minutes/hours), there has been more flexibility. The research I conduct as a PhD student at Ghent University and also as a member of ABC-Salt consortium focuses mainly on short-term microprolysis studies and autoclave experiments. Some experiments, while postponed, will still be able to be completed. The ‘pause’ from lab work has been helpful in other respects though, in that it has allowed me to do literature reviews and process results so far. I have been able to start writing up my research on the micropyrolysis of different lignocellulosic biomass in molten salts, and these also come under the umbrella of WP4 within ABC-Salt.

Lockdown and carbon levels

A recently published paper on nature research (Le Quéré et al. 2020) shows that global lockdown has led to a temporary decrease of global CO2 emissions of – 17 Mt CO2d-1 (- 17 %) by early April 2020, compared to the levels in 2006. More than half of the CO2 reduction was caused by the land transport and aviation activity ceasing, cutting emissions by – 43 % and – 10 % respectively. I think this occurrence certainly provides governments with a clear perspective on the size of the challenge we will need to undergo in order to fight climate change. Most importantly, I believe that the support for bioenergy research from governments will increase from now on, given bioenergy’s potential to replace fossil-based fuels and as a result, reduce CO2 emissions. In that sense, it is great to be involved in ABC-Salt. For readers new to the project, ABC-Salt is working towards the laboratory validation of transportation fuels production from different lignocellulosic waste streams using a molten salt medium.

ABC-Salt Summer School

In 2019, the project organized a summer school on Advanced Thermochemical Conversion biomass technologies. I am glad I attended because the technical topics presented were in line with my research. Moreover, I had an opportunity to visit EBRI’s facilities and see the work they conduct in the bioenergy field. Using molten salts in biomass thermochemical conversion poses challenges, but it’s a topic within bioenergy research that definitely deserves investigation. In that respect I think my PhD research on “Hydropyrylosis of residual biomass in molten salts” can contribute to the advance/development of this technology in the near future. As a second year PhD student, I am committed to the pursuit of green fuels and chemicals production. After completing my PhD, I will definitely continue my career in this field.

Adriana Estrada Leon and her work with biofuels