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Department of Chemical Engineering

James Chadwick Building

James Chadwick Building and Industrial Hub for Sustainable Engineering

This development is one of the largest and best equipped of any European university, and our pilot plant, laboratory and workshop facilities are available to industrial collaborators, along with the services of an excellent team of academic and support staff.

The challenge

The UK set the world’s most ambitious target by aiming to slash its GHG emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, becoming carbon neutral by 2050 - and delivering 250 TWh of energy in the form of hydrogen.

The North West is planning to achieve this by 2040, while creating the world’s first low-carbon industrial cluster by 2030. As part of this vision, the North West will save 38.5 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, turbocharge the UK economy with £206bn investment and safeguard or create over 660,000 jobs.

These ambitious targets set requirement to chemical industries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. That means significant optimisation of their current processes and, in the longer-term, use of energy from renewable sources, while building technologies and infrastructure for efficient energy storage.

The Industrial Hub for Sustainable Engineering, based in the University's James Chadwick Building, can bring cutting-edge innovations in sustainable processes to commercial application by the industry. The innovations emerge from the fundamental research by academics and research scientists with proof-of-concept (TRL3) aiming to become commercially available in the long term. The Industrial Hub will support innovative ideas to overcome the challenges by piloting and demonstrating under relevant conditions (TRL5-TRL7). These technology readiness levels require technical development and resources from both academia and industry along with infrastructures, specialised support team and coordination. The Industrial Hub for Sustainable Engineering will provide the necessary landscape to bridge the gap between fundamental research and industrial application of technologies.

Expertise in sustainable technologies

Top – notch pilot facilities

Cutting – edge research laboratories

Industry – Academia collaboration

The solution

JCB Pilot Hall includes three floors, each 200m2 (~2100sq. ft.), located in the James Chadwick Building. It is infrastructure includes:

  • Electricity supply (up to hundreds kW scale)
  • Fuel gases (including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and natural gas)
  • Compressed air and nitrogen
  • Cooling facilities
  • Ventilation / fume cupboards
Equipment in the James Chadwick Building
James Chadwick Building (JCB) hosts an impressive range of laboratory space, dedicated computer suites and a pilot scale area containing a range of large-scale industrial processing equipment.

All these services are available all over the building, providing immediate plug-and-play opportunities to install and operate a broad range of technologies and operating conditions. In addition, the building is provided with state-of-the-art control system which can be linked with the control room (or operated remotely) using the Siemens PCS7 DCSystem (soon migrating to Siemens Neo).

To facilitate the research setting up and operation, experienced technical staff is available to support the researchers and industry over the project lifetime, thus including the design of the rig, H&S assessment, testing, operation, recording and analysis of the results.

Based in JCB, the Industrial Hub for Sustainable Engineering (the Hub) has as its mission intensification of transformative research in Sustainable Engineering and bringing it closer to the industrial, practical implementation. The Hub aims to train the next generation of chemical engineers with the knowledge and business skills to bring about a low-carbon, sustainable future..

Hub uniqueness

The Industrial Hub creates a multifunctional space where new technologies can be tested at TRLs 5-6 in order to accelerate the transition of these technologies into industrial practices. It focuses on, but not limited to, sustainable solutions in:

  • Green fuels, including hydrogen, from biomass and waste
  • Energy efficient chemical separation and purification
  • Chemical synthesis from sustainable feedstocks
  • Electrochemical processes for energy storage
  • Digital manufacturing

Pilot plants are costly and only a small number of leading Universities can afford to host them.

Unlike other pilot scale plant and research facilities, predominantly designed for demonstration, a key distinction of the Hub is to advance research and innovation projects spanning several areas of sustainable technologies, from chemical and biochemical synthesis, advanced catalytic processes, hydrogen technology, science of formulation, digital manufacturing, process control and optimisation, advanced material testing and characterisation. The Hub targets both public funded research projects and direct collaboration with industry.

The Hub has the potential to operate multiple processes at the same time allowing closer integration along the whole value chain.

Built in the heart of The University of Manchester, the Hub provides proximity to other world-leading research excellences such as the Royce Institute, the National Graphene Institute, the Engineering Building, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology. In addition, the Hub most important resources are students, research and professional staff.

Benefits for industry

  • Low risk upscale and techno-economic analysis of novel sustainable technologies
  • Top notch pilot scale facilities and pilot plant infrastructure at hand
  • Expertise of academic staff in sustainable technologies
  • Full support of highly qualified technical staff
  • Experience in long standing Academy/Industry collaboration
  • Funding application support through University dedicated teams
  • Joint project support management through University dedicated teams


RECYCLE: REthinking low Carbon hYdrogen production by Chemical Looping rEforming

RECYCLE is demonstrating the enhanced auto¬thermal reforming process for the cost ¬effective production of pure hydrogen that could be applied in refineries, chemical production and iron and steel industries with a minimum CO2 capture rate of 99% and reduced costs of production. The technology is based on modular reactors which could operate at different scales. Using gas¬solid reactors dynamically operated, the RECYCLE plant is a competitive solution for the production of low-carbon hydrogen using both natural gas and bio¬based feedstock, waste valorisation and energy recovery at small and medium scale applications to provide low ¬cost decarbonisation of heat and retrofit the existing manufacturing processes.

  • Project lifetime: March 2023 - January 2035
  • Funding budget: £5.1M 
  • Funding body: Department of Energy Security and Net Zero
  • Academics involved: Vincenzo Spallina
  • Project partners: Johnson Matthey, TotalEnergies, Kent plc, Helica Energy, ERM
  • More about the RECYLE project

Gas-to-Liquid production Pilot plant

The University of Manchester is currently building a new gas-to-liquid (GTL) integrated unit to tackle technical and scientific challenges in scaling up new low-carbon technologies for sustainable fuels and chemicals. The plant is fully integrated with process utilities and advanced control and instrumentation to provide rapid data acquisition and post-processing analysis.

The plant is designed to operate up to 4 kg/h of gases (as a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other inerts). The pilot plant includes 3 reactor configurations: 1) a 5-litre continuous stirred slurry-type reactor, multi-tubular reactor with two separate tubes of 1.6 cm ID and 2 m length each representative of industrial-scale GTL multi-tubular reactor and 3) a single tube of 3.2 cm and 2 m in length to test more intensified processes. An inline measurement system with gas chromatography for continuous recording of product composition, liquid chromatography coupled with a mass spectrometer for further analytical and particle pelletiser for new material manufacturing.

  • Project lifetime: June 2022 - December 2025
  • Project budget: £ 1M
  • Funding body: Wolfson Foundation
  • Academics involved: Vincenzo Spallina, Lev Sarkisov

SuCCEED: Sustainable Commodity Chemicals through Enzyme Engineering and Design

SuCCEED is a BBSRC-funded Prosperity Partnership multi-million project between The University of Manchester and Shell. Commodity chemicals are produced on a global scale and are normally derived from finite geological sources. The Shell-University of Manchester partnership seeks to re-imagine bulk chemicals manufacturing through industrial biotechnology, producing renewable chemical products from sustainable feedstocks and providing alternative scalable bioproduction routes to contribute to the global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The research undertaken in the James Chadwick Building includes the proof-of-concept of the biochemical synthesis route(s) and the study of innovative separation routes required to enable the use of the products as commodity and chemical additives in industry.

GLAMOUR: GLycerol to Aviation and Marine prOducts with sUstainable Recycling

This project aims at the design, scale-up and validation of an integrated process that converts the waste bio-based feedstock such as crude glycerol into aviation and marine diesel fuels using gas-solid reactions such as chemical and calcium looping and 3D-printed Fischer-Tropsch intensified reactors. The research undertaken in the James Chadwick Building includes the development of the low-quality waste glycerol purification and the proof-of-concept of autho-thermal glycerol reforming via chemical looping at TRL4. he results are later on used to validate techno-economic and environmental performance.

  • Project lifetime: May 2020 - October 2024
  • Project budget: £ 4.8M
  • Funding body: European Commission (H2020 Programme)
  • Academics involved: Vincenzo Spallina; Adisa Azapagic
  • Project partners: Argent Energy, TU Eindhoven, TNO, Spanish Research Council CSIC, Ineratec, C&CS, VITO, Ciaotech-PNO, Siirtec Nigi
  • More about the GLAMOUR project

CAFE4DM: The Centre in Advanced Fluid Engineering for Digital Manufacturing

The project pioneers the application of digital manufacturing techniques in formulated products. It brings together a multi-disciplinary team from The University of Manchester, the University of Cambridge and Unilever who are a global leader in the research, process design and manufacture of formulated products. The project is also supported by Process Systems Enterprise Ltd. The main objective is to develop a new modelling approach and the associated materials, measurement and validation to predict the properties of new formulated products associated with fast moving consumer goods (home/personal care and food products). A major outcome of the project is a demonstrator of the Industry 4.0 concept which will enable smart factories to be realised in the process sector and thus allow the UK to remain at the forefront of manufacturing in this field. This will lead to: reduced costs, minimisation of waste and acceleration of the route from lab to market place. The methodologies and data sets emerging from the Partnership are already having an impact on the way Unilever approach the design and scale-up of their products.

C4U: Advanced Carbon Capture for steel industries integrated in CCUS Clusters

C4U is a holistic interdisciplinary project involving the collaboration with 8 European countries and Mission Innovation Countries, Canada, China and USA aimed at addressing all the essential elements required for the optimal integration of CO2 capture in the iron and steel industry as part of the CCUS chain. The research undertaken in the James Chadwick Building includes the technology scale-up and testing of new intensified gas-solid reaction processes to separate the carbon dioxide and valorise the blast furnace off-gas from the integrated steelmill into hydrogen-rich feedstock.

  • Project lifetime: April 2020 - March 2025
  • Project budget: £ 12.5M
  • Funding body: European Commission (H2020 Programme)
  • Academics involved: Vincenzo Spallina
  • Project partners: University College London, The University of Sheffield, Johnson Matthey, Wood, Politecnico of Milan, Spanish Research Council CSIC, Arcelor Mittal, TNO, SWERIM, Roudboud University, Kisuma, ERM, Canmet Energy, Dalian University, Ineris, CEPS, Carmeuse, Climate Strategies
  • More about the C4U project 

Boosting Reduction of Energy Intensity in cleaN STeelworks platfORM (BREIN-STORM)

Development of next generstion processes for the valorisation of blast furnace gas from integrated steelwork into hydrogen and chemicals with reduced energy demand and near-zero CO2 emissions. The research development in the James Chadwick Building included the testing of multi-functional materials based on sorbent and oxygen carriers via experimental demonstration and long-term testing under different reactive conditions in packed and fluidised bed configurations. The results are later on used to validate techno-economic and environmental performance. Link to project information (

  • Project lifetime: July 2019 - June 2024
  • Project budget: £ 1.6M
  • Funding body: UKRI EPSRC
  • Academics involved: Vincenzo Spallina, Adisa Azapagic
  • Project partners: Cambridge University, The University of Leeds, Spanish Research Council CSIC, British Steel and Tata Steel

I-SMarD: Smart, Multifunctional Dental Implants: A Solution for Peri-Implantitis and Bone Loss

The EU-funded project develops multi-functional dental implants that can respond to environmental threats such as bacteria by releasing nanoparticles and antibiotics. I-SMarD dental implants will offer a personalised approach for preventing bacterial biofilm formation and peri-implantitis. In the lab of complex fluids and microfluidics we develop novel microfluidic tools for the evaluation of local drug delivery systems. Taking into account the in vivo microenvironment we design appropriate bioreactors that are then fabricated using 3D printing techniques. With these devices we can simulate dynamic in vivo conditions (e.g. pH, temperature, shear stress) and by utilising in line spectroscopic techniques we can monitor drug release in real time to study the pharmacokinetics of the developed materials in I-SMARD. The long term objective is to demonstrate the use of these tools in order to bridge the gap between lab research and animal trials.

  • Project lifetime: April 2021- March 2025
  • Project budget: €5,099,851.25
  • Funding body: European Commission
  • Academics involved: Antonios Anastasiou
  • Project partners: University of Leeds (UK), The University of Manchester (UK), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GR), Forschungsinstitut at Davos (CH), I.C.M.E.A. Limited at Bari (IT) and Attenborough Brush Limited at Nottingham (UK)
  • More about the I-SMarD project

Cameron’s PUREMEG® MEG Reclamation Rig

In 2011, Cameron (now part of SLB) signed a 10 year collaboration agreement and donated a bespoke a £1m PUREMEG® MEG reclamation pilot rig, which is capable of replicating real plant conditions to aid improvement of the equipment and process designs. In return they benefited from:

  • Specialist expertise in the fundamentals of modelling for multiphase systems, corrosion, crystallisation, and solids separation;
  • Product development and troubleshooting on the PUREMEG® MEG reclamation pilot rig;
  • Experimental investigation of key processes for MEG reclamation, facilitating deeper understanding and knowledge transfer;
  • Industrial trials to develop extensive in-house knowledge of end-users’ successful operation strategies, for real plant fluids with diverse characteristics;
  • Management tasks focused on best practice for embedding the newly acquired knowledge into the company, enabling successful exploitation;
  • Access for demonstrating the rig to prospective clients, which contributed to new MEG Reclamation Unit orders during and after the project.
  • Project lifetime: 2011 - 2021
  • Project budget: £1m
  • Funding body: Cameron (now part of SLB), EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account project
  • Academics involved: Peter Martin
  • Project partners: Cameron (now part of SLB)

Unilever Centre for Advances in Structured Liquid Engineering (CASTLE)

Established in 2004 by a multimillion-pound investment from Unilever. A number of pilot scale processes for mixing, tomography, high shear processing and characterisation from bench to production scale. Initial Emerson Delta V PCS has been replaced by Siemens PCS7. The collaboration enabled to create new low waste and agile manufacturing designs allowing significant improvement in customer service levels, while reducing warehouse inventory and costs.

  • Project lifetime: 2004 -
  • Funding body: Unilever
  • Academics involved: Peter Martin
  • Project partners: Unilever