Dr. Kyriaki Polychronopoulou
Dr. kyriaki polychronopoulou Professor Director, Center for Catalysis and Separation Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information


Prof. Kyriaki Polychronopoulou is currently a Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Khalifa University, and Visiting Professor at ETH-Zurich. She is also the Founding Director of the Catalysis and Separation Center (CeCaS) at KU, the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. CeCaS is actively supporting the vision of the UAE towards alterative fuels (hydrogen, biofuels), decarbonization though CO2 conversion to useful fuels and hydrocarbon exploitation.

She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cyprus (2005). Before her appointment at Khalifa University she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University (IL, USA) and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL, USA). During her independent career, she has also worked as a Research Fellow in the National Physical Laboratory (UK), Texas A&M (USA), and KAIST (Korea).

She is recipient of the Khalifa University Top 1% Journals Award 2021, Commendation for Research 2018, Khalifa University Teaching Excellence Award 2018, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) Award for Research Excellence in three consecutive rounds in 2019, 2017 and 2015. She is also recipient of the 2015 Khalifa University Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Research, the 2007 Fulbright Award for Advanced Research in the US, and a 2008 British Council Award for Research.

Dr. Polychronopoulou's research contribution is focused on experimental and computational catalysis both from fundamental and applied perspective. She focuses her research on unlocking the reaction mechanisms and understanding of surface phenomena and their association with catalytic material microstructure. Processes of primary focus are: hydrogen (H2) production, CO2 conversion, biofuels production.  

  • MSc in Mechanical Engineering, University of Cyprus, 2008
  • PhD in Chemistry, University of Cyprus, 2005
  • BSc in Chemistry, University of Cyprus, 2000

  • Engineering Materials (MEEN 225 )
  • Fluid Mechanics (MEEN 335 )

Affiliated Research Institutes/Centers
  • Center for Catalysis and Separation
  • Petroleum Institute

Research Interests
  • Heterogeneous catalysis (H2, CO2, NH3, Biofuels)
  • H2 Production and separation
  • CO2 Conversion to fuels
  • Catalytic reactions mechanisms
  • In situ catalytic studies
  • Computational catalysis
  • Mechanochemistry in catalysis

Research Projects

ACTIVATION OF CO2: Doped ceria-based oxides are widely used as supports and stand-alone catalysts in reactions where CO2 is involved. Thus, it is important to understand how to tailor their CO2 adsorptive behavior. In this project, steering the CO2 activation behavior of mixed oxide surfaces through the combined effect of chemical and mechanical strain is thoroughly examined using both experimental and ab initio modeling approaches. Chemical strain is originated from the doping of CeO2 with aliovalent metal cations (La3+ or La3+/Cu2+), whereas mechanical strain is originated from post synthetic ball milling able to impose mechanical forces on the oxide. Ce-La-O (111), Ce-Cu-O (111) and CeO2 (111) surfaces were used as reference surfaces due to the complexity of the solid composition under investigation. Experimentally, microwave-reflux prepared oxide is imposed into mechanical forces to tune the structure, defects and CO2 surface adsorptive properties. The purpose was to decouple the combined effect of the chemical strain (εC), and mechanical strain (εM), on the modification of the surface reactivity towards CO2 activation. This project opens new possibilities to manipulate the CO2 activation for a portfolio of heterogeneous reactions. 

DRY REFORMING OF METHANE: Dry reforming of methane (DRM) is an endothermic catalytic process (CH4 + CO2 ↔ 2 CO + 2 H2) that can produce clean and green H2 fuel and synthesis gas (CO/H2). The syngas produced can be utilized for the production of fuels and high value-added chemicals such as methanol, dimethyl ether, acetic acid, and other oxygenated chemicals and long chain hydrocarbons via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. DRM is also an attractive alternative for CO2 utilization and recycling, which consequently mitigates global warming as it uses two main greenhouse gases. However, it has not been industrialized yet due to the lack of development of robust catalysts that can sustain coke-free operation and high resistance to metal sintering at high temperatures.  Ni-based catalysts present an economically viable alternative compared to noble metal-based catalyst. However, they suffer mainly from carbon deposition, which ultimately leads to catalyst deactivation. The Ni-supported catalysts prepared showed excellent stability and carbon formation reduction. 

CO2 CONVERSION: This project attempts to shed light on the effect of different synthesis parameters and on tailoring the interfacial phenomena and their impact on the performance of CO2 methanation reaction. In particular, the textural properties of catalysts and the method of synthesis of supported Ni are  explored in terms of their influence on catalyst’s activity (XCO2, %) and CH4-selectivity (SCH4, %).To unveil insights of the catalytic chemistry of CO2 methanation under in situ reaction conditions, steady-state isotopic transient kinetic analysis (SSITKA) is a powerful tool, which allows the monitoring of the concentration and reactivity of truly active adsorbed intermediate species, leading to a given reaction product. However, SSITKA combined with mass spectrometry alone cannot provide information on the chemical structure of the active adsorbed surface reaction intermediates. The latter information can be obtained using only operando methodology, such as Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy (DRIFTS). DFT Calculations are also performed to support the mechanistic studies. 

UPGRADING OF BIOFUELS: Increasing demand of clean energy and global climate change concern prompted researchers to explore the scenario of producing alternative energy from renewable resources. Under this perspective, the conversion of biomass feedstock to fuels-grade hydrocarbon has gained much attention and expanded significantly in last few years with focus to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels Typically, bio-crude oils derived biomass feed stocks or various vegetable oils are chosen to produce transportation fuels as they are analogous to the diesel-grade hydrocarbons. In first generation, the biodiesel (Fatty acid methyl ester, FAME) has been derived via the transesterification of vegetable oils/fats and their as such use or as additive with conventional fuels has been developed. However, the higher oxygen content, corrosiveness and low oxygen stability of these biodiesel limit their wide applicability as fuels. Subsequently, the hydrotreating or deoxygenation strategy have been proposed as promising upgrading process, which converts triglycerides into diesel-grade alkanes called ‘green diesel’. The hydrocarbon fuels produced from hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) process is stable and non-corrosive, which solve the transportation, engines compatibility issues for their practical use especially without restriction of blending ratio. 

Research Staff and Graduate Students:

Dr. Aasif Dabbawala Research Scientist
Dr. Eswar Komarala Post-doctoral Fellow
Omer Elfaki Research Associate
Mrs. Ayesha AlKhoori PhD in Materials Science
Mrs. Sara AlKhoori PhD in Materials Science
Mrs. Swati Singh PhD in Materials Science
Mr. Abdulhameed Kamzi PhD in Materials Science
Mrs. Latifa AlAli MSc in Materials Science
Mrs. Mariam Ahmed MSc in Materials Science
Mr. Louai Magrabi MSc in Materials Science
Additional Info

You are welcome to explore the fascinating world of catalysis and surfaces from fundamentals all the way to real life!


For any inquiries please email the PI of the group. 


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