Smiling broadly and telling enthusiastically, she sits in front of us. “Yes, the beginning was difficult. The corona measures, difficulty finding housing, finding your way in an unknown country and a different culture.” Just take it as a 22-year-old bachelor student from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Fortunately, the dust settled quickly and she quickly found her niche among students and colleagues from CoE BBE. Now the countdown to the return journey has already started. “I will take an unforgettable experience back to Brazil. Luggage that I hope I can use to take steps at home in the sustainable development of chemical processes.”

Publication date
21 June 2022

Manuela Cota Guimaraes Mendonca Lage is a chemical engineering student. She is in her 5th year at the UFMG and participates in the Living Lab Brasil exchange program. So she arrived in ‘the Low Countries’ last February and settled in Breda. As an intern at the CoE BBE, she participates in the Pyrochem project, and she also lends a hand in some other projects.

Ecological impact

Participating in the Pyrochem project has helped Manuela in various ways. In the project we investigate how the chemical industry can be made more sustainable by optimizing and scaling up the chemical recycling of plastic waste and the pyrolysis of other (biomass) residual flows. Manuela is involved in the project with the so-called LCA, or Life Cycle Assessment. “We map out the ecological impact of the entire process. Raw materials and energy use, transport, residual flows, etc.” Everything is modeled in special software, so that it can ultimately be analyzed which steps of the process, measured in terms of ecological impact, can still be improved. And how the new process relates to how plastic and other residual flows are currently treated.

Part of the team

Manuela: “By participating in this real project, I personally learned a lot from pyrolysis and from working with LCAs, but especially about what it is like to work in a team. With fellow students, supervisors and project partners. We use input from project partners in the models and supplement this with input from literature study. Then, with the help of the software, we make analyzes about different phases and draw conclusions from them. As students, we discuss this with each other, but also with our supervisors and partners. We are appreciated and we can really contribute to a practical case. That feels really good.”
In addition, Manuela very clearly establishes the connection with her homeland. “LCA, or sustainability in chemical processes at all, has not yet been discussed in my training and the Netherlands is still far ahead of Brazil in its development. I take the knowledge I gain here home and want to use it in my further development. “In fact; in the Netherlands we are investigating the production of materials with raw materials that come from Brazil (residual flows from the cane sugar industry), while in Brazil this is not even considered. A lot of things have to change.”
Manuela will be with Avans until mid-July, then she will return home and in the new school year she will continue her studies at UFMG. Next on the schedule is to write a thesis, which she wants to do again on sustainability in chemical processes. Until then, she still works in Pyrochem. The results of Manuela’s research are transferred to new students, also from Brazil, who will continue the work in the project from September. “I am grateful that I was able to do this internship here. It has enriched me in several ways. But really; you Dutch are still too attached to your bread, cheese and cucumbers! 😉”

The Pyrochem project

Living Lab Brasil

The PyroCHEM project has a value of € 2.9 million and is made possible in part by the European Regional Development Fund and the province of Noord-Brabant in the context of REACT-EU.

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