Dr Stelios Stefanidis is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) within Aston University, UK.
Carrying out interdisciplinary research in applied sciences often requires specialized equipment, skills and knowledge. Transnational access research programmes provide mobility for researchers and they allow them to access resources not available locally. By taking advantage of such programmes, researchers can visit organizations in other countries to use equipment, gather knowledge and collaborate with researchers working in similar areas.

In 2018, I was awarded a Marie S. Curie postdoctoral fellowship. This has given me the opportunity to live in the United Kingdom for two years to carry out research at Aston University on new catalytic materials for the conversion of biomass-derived molecules. It has given me access to the European Bioenergy Research Institute’s (EBRI’s) advanced materials characterization and biomass conversion facilities. It has also connected me to other researchers working on catalytic materials and biomass conversion, such as Dr Amin Osatiashtiani, Dr Scott Banks, Prof Georgios Kyriakou and Prof Tony Bridgwater.

As a result I am developing in-depth knowledge of analytical techniques such as nitrogen physisorption, Temperature Programmed Desorption, X-ray Diffraction, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy, Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. Working with EBRI’s staff, we have expanded the lab’s capabilities by designing and building a new fluidized bed reactor for the testing of novel catalysts on a larger scale than was previously possible. Moreover, utilizing the fellowship’s travel funding, I visited the University of Cordoba in Spain for a month and gained additional knowledge on catalyst synthesis techniques. I have also attended conferences in Japan, Ireland and Finland on catalytic biomass conversion.

Overall, this fellowship has been an opportunity to work abroad and experience new places, acquire new skills, meet colleagues, strengthen my international research network and build the foundation for future collaborations. Equally important was the transfer of knowledge between the host institutions. This has been pivotal in meeting research goals, as well as future research efforts on the utilization of biomass resources.