Professor Joe Wood B.Eng, DIS, PhD, CEng, FIChemE, PGCTLHE

Professor Joe Wood

School of Chemical Engineering
Professor in Chemical Reaction Engineering

Contact details

+44 (0) 121 414 5295
+44 (0) 121 414 5324
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School of Chemical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Joe Wood leads the Catalysis and Reaction Engineering research group in the School of Chemical Engineering.

He has published over 85 refereed research articles including journal papers and book chapters, plus over 65 conference papers covering a range of topics in catalysis, catalytic reactor operation and environmental engineering.

He has received major grants from EPSRC and industrial funding from Johnson Matthey, E.ON and Touchstone Exploration.

Professor Wood carries out research on catalyst development and testing, reactor design and engineering with application in efficient fossil energy, bio-based fuels and chemicals, and plastic materials recycling.

Professor Wood is also a part of the Birmingham Plastics Network, an interdisciplinary team of more than 40 academics working together to shape the fate and sustainable future of plastics.  This unique team brings together chemists, environmental scientists, engineers, philosophers, linguists, economists, artists, writers, lawyers, and experts in many other fields, to holistically address the global plastics problem.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, University of Birmingham, 2003
  • CEng, MIChemE, Institution of Chemical Engineers, 2002
  • PhD in Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, 2001
  • BEng in Chemical Engineering with Environmental Protection, University of Loughborough, 1995
  • Diploma in Industrial Studies, Loughborough University, 1995


Joe Wood qualified with a BEng degree in Chemical Engineering with Environmental Protection from Loughborough University in 1995. He worked at Albright and Wilson in Whitehaven from 1995-97 as a Graduate Chemical Engineer. He then studied for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, with thesis topic Transport and Reaction in Porous Catalysts under the supervision of Professor Lynn Gladden, which was awarded in 2001. Since 2001 he has worked at the University of Birmingham as Lecturer (2001-2008), Senior Lecturer (2008-2010), Reader (2010-2012) and Professor (2012-Present).

Professor Wood held a Junior Research Fellowship at Hughes Hall Cambridge from 1998-2000 and an Exxon Mobil Teaching Fellowship from 2004-2007.

Professor Wood’s research focuses on the application of catalysis and reactor engineering to solve problems of energy supply, environmental concerns and to deliver chemical products in a more sustainable way.

He teaches on Chemical Engineering programmes in the School, is Examinations Officer and IChemE Liaison Officer.


Professor Wood is a member of the core teaching staff of the BEng/MEng degrees in Chemical Engineering and teaches the following modules:

  • Process Integration and Unit Operations, Level Intermediate, Year 2
  • Reactors and Catalysis, Level Intermediate, Year 2
  • Advanced Reaction Systems A and B, Level Masters, Year 4

He also supervises MEng students in the Research and Development Project, Level Masters, Year 4.

Postgraduate supervision

Topics currently supervised include:

  • In-situ upgrading of heavy oils using Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI) and Catalytic Process In-situ (CAPRI)
  • Upgrading of biofuels via hydrodeoxygenation (HDO)
  • Production of bio-based drop-in chemicals (5-hydroxymethylfurfural, 5HMF)
  • Depolymerisation of renewable plastics such as polylactic acid (PLA)
  • Catalysis using bio-nanoparticles
  • Reaction-separation engineering including membrane reactors
  • Development of adsorbents for carbon dioxide capture
  • Modelling carbon capture at pre- and post combustion power plants.
  • Catalysis for sustainable technologies

The Catalysis and Reaction Engineering group welcome speculative applications from prospective PhD students from home and overseas. For students from the European Union, grants are sometimes available (e.g. EPSRC, NERC, School funding). Overseas (non-EU) students may apply for funding from their home country or a scholarship. For further details please email Professor Joe Wood ( ). For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.


Research Themes

Catalysis and chemical reaction engineering lie at the core of many chemical and biochemical processes. Research activities cover the fundamental catalyst design, through formulation and catalyst manufacture, to operational issues and reactor design. The group aims to optimize reactor type, design and operating conditions to get the best performance and product selectivity in a particular reaction. Application areas have recently concentrated on energy, including upgrading of heavy oils and bitumen from the Canadian oilsands, capture of carbon dioxide from power station flue gases, bio-based drop-in chemicals and plastics recycling.

Research Activity

Current EPSRC Projects:

  • Novel Membrane Catalytic Reactor for Waste Polylactic Acid Recycling and Valorisation

The disposal of plastic packaging represents a significant environmental problem; although recycling of plastics has increased in recent years, current recycling methods are mainly mechanical or chemical techniques that result in lower grade second life products and much material is also still disposed of to landfill. The introduction of plastics produced from biological sources such as plant derived sugars has potential to reduce reliance on fossil derived sources and decrease emissions of greenhouse gases associated with manufacture. Polylactide has emerged as one of the most promising biorenewable and biodegradable polymers which has uses in packaging, textile and biomedical applications. However the lack of a reliable method for recycling polylactide could limit its widespread application and market growth. We propose to address the above problems by developing a catalytic process for degradation/depolymerisation of PLA, integrated with a membrane separation to selectively isolate small molecule products within a specified molecular weight cut off range, as valuable products.

  • Electromagnetically-assisted Catalytic-upgrading of Heavy Oil (ECHO)

In order to ensure future energy security, sources of fuel that are considered unconventional today must be developed, including the existing vast heavy oil and bitumen reserves. Although there are large reserves of such oils in Canada and Venezuela, the techniques could potentially be applied in other parts of the World, e.g. sub surface recovery in partially depleted wells in the North Sea. In order to minimise the environmental impact of extraction of these reserves as much of the processing should be done sub-surface as possible, thereby reducing the requirement for expensive hydrogen and additional energy needed in 'surface upgrader' refineries. This project aims to develop an oil upgrading 'plant' to run underground, in conjunction with the oil recovery process itself, such that it has minimal surface footprint and confines emissions underground. In order to do this we will deploy several technologies in combination: THAI-CAPRI and induction heating.

Previous EPSRC Research Projects

  • Towards Realisation of Untapped Oil Resources via Enhanced THAI-CAPRI Process Using Novel Catalysts.
  • Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide: Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems.
  • The Next Generation of Activated Carbon Adsorbents for the Pre-Combustion Capture of Carbon Dioxide.
  • Novel Precious Metal Nanocatalyst Made by Biofabrication.
  • Understanding Bio-Induced Selectivity in Nanoparticle Catalyst Manufacture.
  • Novel Precious Metal Nanocatalyst Made by Biofabrication.
  • Step Change Adsorbents and Processes for CO2 Capture. Sponsors EPSRC and E.ON.
  • In-Situ Catalytic Upgrading of Heavy Crude and Bitumen: Optimisation of Novel CAPRI Reactor.
  • Functional Bionanomaterials and Novel Processing for Targeted Catalytic Applications.
  • C-Cycle.
  • Heterogeneous Catalysis in Supercritical Fluids: The Enhancement of Catalytic Stability to Coking.
  • Discipline Hopping Award: Interfacing Novel Reactor Technologies with Molecular Discovery.
  • Infrared Spectroscopy Applied to the Characterization of Catalysts and Online Analysis of Reactors.

Other activities

  • Chair of the IChemE Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Special Interest Group
  • Member of EPSRC review college
  • External Examiner for the University of Manchester and INTO Queens University Belfast


Recent publications


Yusuf, M, Leeke, G & Wood, J 2023, 'Anisole hydrodeoxygenation over nickel-based catalysts: influence of solvent and support properties', Energy & Fuels.

Mudi, I, Hart, A, Ingram, A & Wood, J 2023, 'Catalytic hydrodeoxygenation of vanillin, a bio-oil model compound over renewable Ni/biochar catalyst', Catalysts, vol. 13, no. 1, 171.

Lopeman, T, Anbari, H, Leeke, G & Wood, J 2023, 'Numerical modeling of toe-to-heel air injection and its catalytic variant (CAPRI) under varying steam conditions', Energy & Fuels, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 237-250.

Lamberti, F, Roman Ramirez, L, Dove, A & Wood, J 2022, 'Methanolysis of poly(lactic acid) using catalyst mixtures and the kinetics of methyl lactate production', Polymers, vol. 14, no. 9, 1763.

Mohammed, AM, Hart, A, Wood, J, Wang, Y & Lancaster, MJ 2021, '3D printed re-entrant cavity resonator for complex permittivity measurement of crude oils', Sensors and Actuators, A: Physical, vol. 317, 112477.

Claydon, R, Roman Ramirez, L & Wood, J 2021, 'Comparative study on the hydrogenation of naphthalene over both Al2O3‑supported Pd and NiMo catalysts against a novel LDH-derived Ni-MMO-supported Mo catalyst', ACS Omega, vol. 6, no. 30, pp. 20053-20067.

Lamberti, F, Ingram, A & Wood, J 2021, 'Synergistic dual catalytic system and kinetics for the alcoholysis of poly(lactic acid)', Processes, vol. 9, no. 6, 921.

Azpiri, R & Wood, J 2020, 'A parametric study of process design and cycle configurations for pre-combustion PSA applied to NGCC power plants', Chemical Engineering Research and Design, vol. 160, pp. 141-153.

Roman Ramirez, L, McKeown, P, Shah, C, Abraham, J, Jones, M & Wood, J 2020, 'Chemical degradation of end-of-life poly(lactic acid) into methyl lactate by a Zn(II) complex', Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, vol. 59, no. 24, pp. 11149-11156.

Roman Ramirez, L, Powders, M, McKeown, P, Jones, M & Wood, J 2020, 'Ethyl Lactate Production from the Catalytic Depolymerisation of Post‑consumer Poly(lactic acid)', Journal of Polymers and the Environment.

Hart, A, Adam, M, Robinson, JP, Rigby, SP & Wood, J 2020, 'Hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of Tetralin and Naphthalene to explore heavy oil upgrading using NiMo/Al2O3 and CoMo/Al2O3 catalysts heated with steel balls via induction', Catalysts, vol. 10, no. 5, 497.

Adam, M, Anbari, H, Hart, A, Wood, J, Robinson, JP & Rigby, SP 2020, 'In-situ microwave-assisted catalytic upgrading of heavy oil: Experimental validation and effect of catalyst pore structure on activity', Chemical Engineering Journal.,

Lamberti, F, Roman Ramirez, L, McKeown, P, Jones, M & Wood, J 2020, 'Kinetics of Alkyl Lactate Formation from the Alcoholysis of Poly(Lactic Acid)', Processes, vol. 8, no. 6, 738.

Roman Ramirez, L, McKeown, P, Jones, M & Wood, J 2020, 'Kinetics of methyl lactate formation from the transesterification of polylactic acid catalyzed by Zn(II) complexes', Omega, vol. 5, no. 10, pp. 5556-5564.


Archer, SA, Murray, AJ, Omajali, JB, Paterson-Beedle, M, Sharma, BK, Wood, J & Macaskie, LE 2020, Chapter 13: Metallic Wastes into New Process Catalysts: Life Cycle and Environmental Benefits within Integrated Analyses Using Selected Case Histories. in LE Macaskie, DJ Sapsford & WM Mayes (eds), Flow Chemistry: Integrated Approaches for Practical Applications. 63 edn, RSC Green Chemistry, no. 63, vol. 2020-January, Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 315-342.

View all publications in research portal


Catalysis and reaction engineering; upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen; capture of carbon dioxide from power stations; various aspects of industrial catalysis