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Assistant Professor Dr. Valerio D’ Elia

Email valerio.delia@vistec.ac.th


C-Footprint free recycling of CO2 to value-added chemicals


Research Overview

Convenient strategies for the utilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a C-1 feedstock for the preparation of commodity chemicals are urgently sought in the light of the unsustainable levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and as an alternative to fossil fuels consumption. In our laboratories we pursue catalytic pathways for CO2 utilization under mild conditions to afford CO2 fixation in a sustainable and C-footprint free fashion.

Advancing in CO2 management

As an effect of anthropogenic activities, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have recently passed the symbolic mark of 400 ppm and they keep growing at a rate of about 3 ppm/year. CO2 is considered as a main driver of global warming and ocean acidification and global leader have acknowledged the urgent need for reducing emissions. Along with an increased use of alternative energy sources and CO2 capture and storage technologies, CO2 conversion to bulk commodity chemicals appears as a viable strategy. Nevertheless, in an economy where power generation and fossil fuels are indissolubly related, CO2 should be converted to chemicals under extremely mild conditions to avoid the indirect carbon costs related to high reaction temperatures, gas compression, purification and transportation etc. Our research team at VISTEC is committed to develop convenient catalytic strategies for the sustainable conversion of CO2 to useful chemicals. At this purpose, the choice of the right catalyst and substrates is of crucial importance. In the long term, CO2 should come from impure sources (industrial exhausts, fermentation reactors, geothermal) and the substrates from renewable sources (bio-olefins, natural resins, biomass). The reaction products (solvents, plastics, fuels, additives, chemical intermediates) should find a broad range of applications and progressively replace oil-derivatives. This would allow us to enter in a real era of “CO2 economy”.


Cyclic organic carbonates are produced by the reaction of epoxidized olefins and CO2. They are used as solvents for Li-batteries, additives and chemical intermediates for the production of polycarbonate. The crucial cycloaddition reaction can proceed under very mild conditions because it is driven by the release of the strain of the 3-membered ring of the epoxide substrate. We have already developed readily available early transition metal-based catalysts able to promote the cycloaddition process under ambient conditions and even by using highly diluted CO2 flows. This was exploited for the first synthesis of carbonates using flue gas collected from an industrial exhaust without the need of separation, purification, compression and external sources of energy. Future advances in this field will require the development of heterogeneous catalysts and of organic renewable catalysts to replace the molecular systems used thus far. Moreover, very active catalysts should be developed for the carbonation of natural substances and olechemicals that can be used as biopolymers and plasticizers respectively. Opportunely functionalized cyclic carbonates can, as well, be thought as attractive building blocks for the preparation of polymers with a high CO2 content.

CO2 to methanol and other reactions

The conversion of CO2 and H2 to methanol is regarded as a viable strategy to circumvent the limitations of H2 as an energy carrier (low energy density, safety, distribution etc.). The large scale utilization of methanol as a renewable fuel has been proposed by Olah et al. as a “methanol economy”. At VISTEC we are currently developing heterogeneous catalytic system based on the development new metal oxide materials as supports. These will be opportunely functionalized according to the protocols of advanced surface organometallic chemistry technique (SOMC) that can be applied for the preparation of well-defined surface catalysts and nanocatalysts. Other reactions that can be accessed by this technique involve the synthesis of industrially attractive acrylates and oxalic acid from CO2 by mean of monometallic and bimetallic Ni catalysts and the utilization of CO2 as an oxidant in the process of olefin oxidative dehydrogenation.

About Dr. Valerio D’ Elia

Dr. Valerio D’ Elia received his master of Chemistry from the University of Perugia (Italy) in 2001. After 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Regensburg (Germany) in 2009 by working in the group of Prof. Dr. O. Reiser. Subsequently, he carried out his postdoctoral studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU, Germany) in the group of Prof. H. Zipse. In 2010 he moved to Kaust (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) Catalysis Center in Saudi Arabia as a group leader and responsible for the international collaboration with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Since July 2015 he works at VISTEC as a faculty member and group leader. He is course coordinator for the class of thermodynamics and various elective courses.

His areas of expertise include homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, reaction engineering, reaction mechanisms investigation, in operando techniques, surface science, technical chemistry, nanocatalysis and dynamic reactors. He has active collaborations with the group of Prof. J.-M. Basset (Kaust, Saudi Arabia) Prof. F. E. Kühn, Prof. K. Köhler, Prof. U. Heiz (TUM, Germany) and Prof. H. Zipse (LMU, Germany).

He has co-authored several papers in some of the most important chemistry (Nature Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Chemical Science, Green Chemistry) and catalysis (Catalysis Science and Technology, ChemCatChem) journals.

Selected Publications

  • A. Barthel, Y. Saih, M. Gimenez, J. D. A. Pelletier, F. E. Kühn, V. D’Elia and J.-M. Basset, Green Chem., 2016, 18, 3116.
  • V. D´Elia, H. Dong, A. J. Rossini, C. M. Widdifield, S. V. C. Vummaleti, A. Poater, E. Abou-Hamad, J. D. A. Pelletier, L. Cavallo, L. Emsley and J. M. Basset, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 137, 7728.
  • V. Guillerm, Ł. J. Weseliński, Y. Belmabkhout, A. J. Cairns, V. D’Elia, Ł. Wojtas, K. Adil and M. Eddaoudi, Nat. Chem., 2014, 6, 673.
  • V. D’Elia, A. A. Ghani, A. Monassier, J. Sofack-Kreutzer, J. D. A. Pelletier, M. Drees, S. V. C. Vummaleti, A. Poater, L. Cavallo, M. Cokoja, J.-M. Basset and F. E. Kühn, Chem. –Eur. J., 2014, 20, 11870.
  • M. E. Wilhelm, M. H. Anthofer, R. M. Reich, V. D’Elia, J. M. Basset, W. A. Herrmann, M. Cokoja and F. E. Kühn, Catal. Sci. Technol., 2014, 4, 1638.
  • B. Dutta, J. Sofack-Kreutzer, A. A. Ghani, V. D’Elia, J. D. A. Pelletier, M. Cokoja, F. E. Kühn and J. M. Basset, Catal. Sci. Technol., 2014, 4, 1534.
  • A. Monassier, V. D’Elia, M. Cokoja, H. L. Dong, J. D. A. Pelletier, J. M. Basset and F. E. Kühn, ChemCatChem, 2013, 5, 1321.

Research Group Members:

Dr. Valerio D’ Elia (Assistant Professor)
Dr. Daniel Crespy (Associate Professor)
Dr. Sunatda Arayachukiat (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Dr. Silvano Del Gobbo (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Dr .Rafik Rajjak Shaikh (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Ms.Suriyaporn Pornpraprom
Ms. Vatcharaporn Aomchad
Ms .Prapussorn Yingcharoen
Ms. Chutima Kongtes
Ms. Ounjit Sodpiban

International Research Collaborator:

Prof. J.-M. Basset KAUST Catalysis Center (KCC)
Prof. F. E. Kühn Technical University Munich (TUM)