Bridging Scales in Bioenergy and Catalysis: A Review of Mesoscale Modeling Applications, Methods, and Future Directions

Peter N. Ciesielski*, M. Brennan Pecha, Nicholas E. Thornburg, Meagan F. Crowley, Xi Gao, Oluwafemi Oyedeji, Hariswaran Sitaraman, Nicholas Brunhart-Lupo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Between the molecular and reactor scales, which are familiar to the chemical engineering community, lies an intermediate regime, here termed the “mesoscale,” where transport phenomena and reaction kinetics compete on similar time scales. Bioenergy and catalytic processes offer particularly important examples of mesoscale phenomena owing to their multiphase nature and the complex, highly variable porosity characteristic of biomass and many structured catalysts. In this review, we overview applications and methods central to mesoscale modeling as they apply to reaction engineering of biomass conversion and catalytic processing. A brief historical perspective is offered to put recent advances in context. Applications of mesoscale modeling are described, and several specific examples from biomass pyrolysis and catalytic upgrading of bioderived intermediates are highlighted. Methods including reduced order modeling, finite element and finite volume approaches, geometry construction and import, and visualization of simulation results are described; in each category, recent advances, current limitations, and areas for future development are presented. Owing to improved access to high-performance computational resources, advances in algorithm development, and sustained interest in reaction engineering to sustainably meet societal needs, we conclude that a significant upsurge in mesoscale modeling capabilities is on the horizon that will accelerate design, deployment, and optimization of new bioenergy and catalytic technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14382-14400
Number of pages19
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number18
StatePublished - 16 Sep 2021


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