Turning waste into a green product

(14-01-2022) In her PhD, Alexandra Bouriakova investigated how waste released from the production of edible oils can play an important role in a green and sustainable economy.

In her PhD, Alexandra Bouriakova investigated how waste released from the production of edible oils can play an important role in a green and sustainable economy.

The use of (waste) biomass helps to reduce dependence on depleting fossil oil sources by using renewable resources.

"In my research, I focused on the valorization of waste or by-product streams of vegetable oil processing. These streams are typically characterized by a low economic value and, hence, provide unique opportunities to realize a green and sustainable economy," Alexandra Bouriakova explains.

On the one hand, a heterogeneous Cu catalyst was designed to convert glycerol, i.e. a by-product in the biodiesel production , via a hydrogenolysis reaction to 1,2‑propanediol, which finds applications in polyester resins, de-icing liquids, food, medicine, cosmetic industries, etc. The addition of dopant metals such as Ba, Ce and La improved the catalytic performance, in particular stability and selectivity.

The La-doped Cu catalyst was further investigated to gain more insight into the active sites and the effect of the carrier material on the hydrogenolysis reaction.

On the other hand, it was investigated how valuable components for the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, such as squalene, tocopherols and sterol, can be recovered from the so-called deodorizer distillate, which is generated as a waste stream in the production of edible oils. A flexible process configuration was designed that can ensure the extraction of squalene from deodorizer distillates originating from various vegetable oils in an economically feasible manner.

"Thanks in part to my PhD, a future without fossil energy has come a step closer," Alexandra concludes.

Read the entire PhD


PhD Title: Valorization of Side Streams in Vegetable Oil Processing: From Molecular Catalysis to Process Design


Contact: Alexandra Bouriakova, Jeriffa De Clercq, Joris Thybaut

Alexandra Bouriakova was born on 22 October 1990 in Volgograd, Russia. After completing her secondary studies in science-mathematics at the Nieuwen Bosch Humaniora in Ghent in 2009, she started the engineering program at Ghent University.

During her studies she did summer internships at BASF Antwerp and Exxon Mobil Refinery Antwerp. In July 2015, she obtained her master's degree with high distinction, receiving the jury prize of the ie-net engineering association for her master's thesis.

In August 2015, Alexandra started her doctoral studies with an assistantship affiliated with the Laboratory of Chemical Technology (LCT) and the research group Industrial Catalysis and Adsorption Technology (INKAT), under the supervision of Prof. Joris Thybaut, Prof. Jeriffa Declercq and Dr. Benjamin Katryniok.

During her PhD, Alexandra was involved in assisting the courses in Materials Science, Chemical Reactors, Cross-Curricular Project, Research Methodology and General Chemistry. Alexandra supervised a total of five master's thesis students. Furthermore, she was also actively involved in the workshop on biofuels and gas adsorption, as well as the organization of the annual faculty symposium FEARS.

To date, her research has led to two A1 publications as first author and numerous contributions at national and international conferences.


Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Final editing: Ilse Vercruysse - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke