Prof. Raffaella Ocone FREng, FRSE, FIChemE,FRSC



School of Engineering & Physical Sciences; Mechanical,Process & Energy Engineering

  • Room 3.05
    James Nasymth Building
  • School of Engineering & Physical Sciences; Mechanical,Process & Energy Engineering
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh
  • EH14 4AS
  • United Kingdom

Research profile

Roles and responsibilities

HWU Research Ethics Committee, EPS representative
HWU Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team (SAT),


Over 25 years experience in modelling complex systems, spanning from solid/gas suspensions, to complex reaction networks. Areas of current research are:

Hydrodynamics of granular materials and particle laden flow

Early studies aimed at formulating a predictive model to be used as a design and control tool and able to handle unwanted phenomena as particle segregation, backmixing and poor chemical conversion. The model developed in our group is extensively used to understand how solid particles behave when flowing in industrial equipment and applied to the hydrodynamics of pneumatic conveying, fluidised and bubbling beds. The model is able to handle large scale systems and therefore can be used in industrial plants. One of the completed projects dealt with the experimental characterisation (by means of Electrical Capacitance Tomography) and the mathematical description of the physics of the intermediate regime which develops between dense and dilute flow, which are very common in pneumatic conveying and in many industrial equipment dealing with transport of solid particles. Our work was included in a review undertaken by the DOE.

Continuum lumping of multi-component systems

This area of research deals with the kinetics and thermodynamics of multi-component mixtures. Early work has been recently extended and applied to an industrial problem, namely hydrocracking of paraffins. At present we are working at other industrial problems including hydrocracking of heavy oil, polymerisation and crystallisation. The model that we developed is used by the EUROKIN consortium, including companies as ENI and BP. The initial programme of work was intensively undertaken in 2008-2011, paving the way to the current collaborations and projects. Our work on continuum lumping has generated a collaboration with UNICAMP (Professor Milton Mori) and Petrobras in Brazil.

Carbon capture

The research in this area is focused on two projects:

Chemical looping combustion

The research is aimed at the development of a model for chemical looping combustion, one of the best suited technologies for carbon capture and production of clean energy. Fundamental physics is investigated and input into a complete model which can then be used as a predictive tool in the design and operation of power plants based on the chemical looping technology. We have developed a model for oxidation-reduction in a packed bed and this has attracted the interest of the Chemical Process Intensification (SPI) and Multiphase Reactors (SMR) group at the University of Eindhoven. The group’s experimental data are being used to validate the model developed at HWU.

Pyrolysis of biomasses

Lignin is an organic polymer and it is the second most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth, after cellulose. Lignin is not one compound but many complex polymers; the commonality between all of them is their phenylpropane structure, that is, a benzene ring with a tail of three carbons. In their natural unprocessed form, their molecular weights may reach 15,000 or more. Our work is focused on the kinetics of lignin pyrolysis which is described by using a continuum model where the lignin structure is simplified and assumed to be formed by repeating units (monomer) which can be identified with the basic benzene ring with the tail of three carbons. This work is in co-operation with ICFAR, Western University in Canada.
Additionally, the collaboration with ICFAR has been the springboard for a successful application of a three year Leverhulme Network Grant between the UK and Canada involving ICFAR, McGill University, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Edinburgh.
We also work in the area of waste (plastics) recycling.

Funded projects:
International Network, Canada-UK, Leverhulme Trust “Biochar for Carbon Capture”
Research Grant, Leverhulme Trust, “Wet and Dry Particle Flow at the Intermediate Regime”
Science and Innovation Award, EPSRC, “Carbon Capture from Power Plant and the Atmosphere”

Key Collaborators:
Dr Yassir Makkawi, Aston University, UK
Dr Ondrej Masek, The University of Edinburgh, UK
Professor Milton Mori, UNICAMP, University of Campinas, Brazil
Professor Franco Berruti, ICFAR, Western University, Canada
Professor Cedric Briens, ICFAR, Western University, Canada
Professor Donald Smith, McGill University, Canada
Professor Ajay Dalai, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Selected publications
  • Y. Makkawi, R. Ocone, “Mass transfer in fluidized bed drying of moist particulate” in “Mass Transfer”, INTECH, ISBN 978-953-307-215-9, 2011
  • M. Adam, V. Calemma, F. Galimberti, C. Gambaro, J. Heiszwolf, R. Ocone, “Continuum Lumping Kinetics of Complex Reactive Systems, Chemical Engineering Science, 76, 154–164, 2012
  • R. Ocone, “Transport Phenomena in Packed Bed Reactor Technology for Chemical Looping Combustion”, Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 90, 1625-1631, 2012
  • M. Adam, V. Arrighi, R. Ocone, “Continuum Lumping for Step Growth Polymerisation”, Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 90(12), 2287-2292, 2012
  • M. Adam, R. Ocone, J. Mohammad, F. Berruti, C. Briens, “Kinetics Investigations of Kraft Lignin Pyrolysis”, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 52, 8645-8654, 2013
  • R. Ocone. “Ethics and the Accreditation”, Education for Chemical Engineers, 8, 113-118, 2013

For a complete list of Prof. Ocone's publications, please go to her research portal page.


Raffaella Ocone has a degree in Chemical Engineering (MEng) from the Università di Napoli, Federico II, a PhD and an MA in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University. She holds the Chair of Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University (HWU) in the UK. Before joining HWU, she was a Reader in Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Nottingham, UK, Lecturer at the University of Naples, Italy, and Visiting Professor at Louisiana State University, USA and the University Claude Bernard, France. In 2007 she was awarded the title of Cavaliere of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. She held a Royal Academy of Engineering/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship and a Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Government Support Fellowship to model carbon capture through chemical looping technology.

Raffaella has 25 years of experience in modelling complex systems and has previously been the Italian representative of the IEA Fossil Fuel Multiphase Agreement. She was in residence for a month at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota (USA) working on “Particulate Solids: Process and Rheology” and was invited to spend one month in the programme on "Granular and Particle-Laden Flow" held at the Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge. Raffaella has contributed about 185 papers in learned journals and at International conferences. She has published a book on “Transport Phenomena” (Elsevier) and contributed a number of book chapters. She has an interest in the teaching of Ethics to Engineers and she chaired the Royal Academy of Engineering Teaching Ethics working group.

Further information

Prof. Ocone is currently developing a UK-Canadian network which will allow researchers to investigate the potential of biochar as a technically and economically effective method of capturing carbon in a stabilised form while increasing soil quality and thus adaptability of agriculture to climate change. See biochar website for more details.