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Materials Research Institute


Dr Roberto Volpe

Roberto Volpe

Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering

School of Engineering and Materials Science
Room 117A, Engineering, Mile End Campus
+44 (0)20 7882 7748


renewables, sustainable energy, Gasification of solid fuels, biomass char

Research Interests

Research Overview

Providing pathways for low emissions renewable based technologies to ensure secure and sustainable energy supplies has been a goal during many years of research and currently one of UK national importance for ‘Achieving energy security and efficiency’ and 'Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on the circular economy'. I concentrate my research work on biomass conversion for energy purposes in pyrolysis and gasification set-ups.

Much of the technological challenges facing biomass pyrolysis and gasification, relate to current lack of fundamental knowledge of biomass thermochemical breakdown. I design experiments to fill these knowledge gaps, break through existing barriers and allow scaling-up of a robust and versatile small-scale gasification technology.

My current research interests are:

1. Gasification of solid fuels in moving bed set-ups
2. The evolution of solid biofuels during thermal breakdown
3. Synthesis of renewable carbon materials through biomass thermal conversion
4. The use of biomass char in catalytic tar cracking

Publications of specific relevance to Materials Research



  • Chen C, Volpe R and Jiang X (2021). A molecular investigation on lignin thermochemical conversion and carbonaceous organics deposition induced catalyst deactivation. Applied Energy  vol. 302, 10.1016/j.apenergy.2021.117557
  • (2021). In situ observation of the evolution of polyaromatic tar precursors in packed-bed biomass pyrolysis. Reaction Chemistry and Engineering  vol. 6, (9) 1538-1547. 10.1039/d1re00032b
  • Barr MR, Volpe R and Kandiyoti R (2021). Identifying Synergistic Effects between Biomass Components during Pyrolysis and Pointers Concerning Experiment Design. Acs Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering  10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c00051
  • Barr MR, Jervis R, Zhang Y, Bodey AJ, Rau C, Shearing PR, Brett DJL, Titirici M and Volpe R (2021). Towards a mechanistic understanding of particle shrinkage during biomass pyrolysis via synchrotron X-ray microtomography and in-situ radiography. Nature Publishing Group  Scientific Reports  vol. 11, (1) 10.1038/s41598-020-80228-x


  • Saha N, Volpe M, Fiori L, Volpe R, Messineo A and Reza MT (2020). Cationic Dye Adsorption on Hydrochars of Winery and Citrus Juice Industries Residues: Performance, Mechanism, and Thermodynamics. Mdpi Ag  Energies  vol. 13, (18) 4686-4686. 10.3390/en13184686
  • Barr MR, Volpe M, Messineo A and Volpe R (2020). On the suitability of thermogravimetric balances for the study of biomass pyrolysis. Elsevier Bv  Fuel  vol. 276, 118069-118069. 10.1016/j.fuel.2020.118069
  • Volpe M, Messineo A, Mäkelä M, Barr MR, Volpe R, Corrado C and Fiori L (2020). Reactivity of cellulose during hydrothermal carbonization of lignocellulosic biomass. Elsevier  Fuel Processing Technology  vol. 206, 10.1016/j.fuproc.2020.106456
  • Maniscalco MP, Corrado C, Volpe R and Messineo A (2020). Evaluation of the optimal activation parameters for almond shell bio-char production for capacitive deionization. Bioresource Technology Reports  vol. 11, 10.1016/j.biteb.2020.100435
  • Taylor MJ, Alabdrabalameer HA, Michopoulos AK, Volpe R and Skoulou V (2020). Augmented Leaching Pretreatments for Forest Wood Waste and Their Effect on Ash Composition and the Lignocellulosic Network. American Chemical Society (Acs)  Acs Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering  10.1021/acssuschemeng.0c00351
  • Messineo A, Maniscalco MP and Volpe R (2020). Biomethane recovery from olive mill residues through anaerobic digestion: A review of the state of the art technology. Elsevier  Science of The Total Environment  vol. 703, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135508


  • Volpe R, Bermudez Menendez JM, Ramirez Reina T, Volpe M, Messineo A, Millan M and Titirici MM (2019). Free radicals formation on thermally decomposed biomass. Fuel  vol. 255, 10.1016/j.fuel.2019.115802
  • Barr M, Volpe R and Kandiyoti R (2019). Influence of reactor design on product distributions from biomass pyrolysis. American Chemical Society (Acs)  Acs Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering  10.1021/acssuschemeng.9b01368


  • Volpe R, Zabaniotou AA and Skoulou V (2018). Synergistic Effects between Lignin and Cellulose during Pyrolysis of Agricultural Waste. Energy and Fuels  vol. 32, (8) 8420-8430. 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.8b00767
  • Di Trapani D, Volpe M, Di Bella G, Messineo A, Volpe R and Viviani G (2018). Assessing Methane Emission and Economic Viability of Energy Exploitation in a Typical Sicilian Municipal Solid Waste Landfill. Waste and Biomass Valorization  1-12. 10.1007/s12649-018-0321-y
  • VOLPE R, Mäkelä M, Volpe M, Fiori L and Dahl O (2018). Spatially resolved spectral determination of polysaccharides in hydrothermally carbonized biomass. Royal Society of Chemistry  Green Chemistry  10.1039/C7GC03676K


  • VOLPE R, Messineo S, Volpe M and Messineo A (2017). Catalytic Effect of Char for Tar Cracking in Pyrolysis of Citrus Wastes, Design of a Novel Experimental Set Up and First Results. Italian Association of Chemical Engineering - Aidic  Chemical Engineering Transactions  vol. 50, 181-186. 10.3303/CET1650031
  • Nicolosi G, Messineo A and VOLPE R (2017). An Innovative Adaptive Control System to Regulate Microclimatic Conditions in a Greenhouse. Energies  vol. 10, (5) 722-722. 10.3390/en10050722
  • Volpe R, Menendez JMB, Reina TR, Messineo A and Millan M (2017). Evolution of chars during slow pyrolysis of citrus waste. Fuel Processing Technology  vol. 158, 255-263. 10.1016/j.fuproc.2017.01.015


  • VOLPE R, Volpe M, Fiori L and Messineo A (2016). Upgrading of Olive Tree Trimmings Residue as Biofuel by Hydrothermal Carbonization and Torrefaction: a Comparative Study. Italian Association of Chemical Engineering - Aidic  Chemical Engineering Transactions  vol. 50, 13-13. 10.3303/CET1650003
  • De Marchis M, Milici B, Volpe R and Messineo A (2016). Energy Saving in Water Distribution Network through Pump as Turbine Generators: Economic and Environmental Analysis. Energies  vol. 9, (11) 877-877. 10.3390/en9110877
  • Messineo A, Bonasera D, Volpe R, Messineo S and Marvuglia A (2016). Technical and Economical Assessment of Biomass Potential for Power Production: A Study in the South of Italy. Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management  vol. 4, (3) 287-299. 10.5890/JEAM.2016.09.004
  • Volpe R, Messineo A and Millan M (2016). Carbon reactivity in biomass thermal breakdown. Fuel  vol. 183, 139-144. 10.1016/j.fuel.2016.06.044


  • Volpe R, Messineo S, Volpe M and Messineo A (2015). Carbon Footprint of Tree Nuts Based Consumer Products. Mdpi Ag  Sustainability  vol. 7, (11) 14917-14934. 10.3390/su71114917
  • Volpe M, Panno D, Volpe R and Messineo A (2015). Upgrade of citrus waste as a biofuel via slow pyrolysis. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis  vol. 115, 66-76. 10.1016/j.jaap.2015.06.015
  • Volpe R, Messineo A, Millan M, Volpe M and Kandiyoti R (2015). Assessment of olive wastes as energy source: pyrolysis, torrefaction and the key role of H loss in thermal breakdown. Energy  vol. 82, 119-127. 10.1016/


  • Volpe M, D¿Anna C, Messineo S, Volpe R and Messineo A (2014). Sustainable Production of Bio-Combustibles from Pyrolysis of Agro-Industrial Wastes. Sustainability  vol. 6, (11) 7866-7882. 10.3390/su6117866


  • La Rocca A, La Rocca V, Messineo A, Morale M, Panno D and Volpe R (2013). Numerical Solution of Foodstuff Freezing Problems Using Radial Basis Functions. Advanced Science Letters  vol. 19, (3) 1044-1047. 10.1166/asl.2013.4862


  • Messineo A, Freni G and Volpe R (2012). Collection of Thermal Energy Available from a Biogas Plant for Leachate Treatment in an Urban Landfill: A Sicilian Case Study. Energies  vol. 5, (10) 3753-3767. 10.3390/en5103753
  • Messineo A, Volpe R and Asdrubali F (2012). Evaluation of Net Energy Obtainable from Combustion of Stabilised Olive Mill By-Products. Energies  vol. 5, (5) 1384-1397. 10.3390/en5051384
  • Messineo A, Volpe R and Marvuglia A (2012). Ligno-cellulosic biomass exploitation for power generation: A case study in sicily. Energy  vol. 45, (1) 613-625. 10.1016/
  • Messineo A, Panno D and Volpe R (2012). Technical and Economical Feasibility of Biomass Use for Power Generation in Sicily. International Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Information Systems  vol. 3, (1) 40-50. 10.4018/jaeis.2012010104