Dr. William C. McCaffrey

William McCaffreyProfessor
Office: 12-209 Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering
Edmonton, AB T6G 1H9
Phone: 780.492.6733
Fax: 780.492.2881

Research Areas: Reaction Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Polymers from Renewable Resources, Heavy Oil Upgrading


Dr. McCaffrey gained his Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph.D. degrees from McGill University before joining the University of Alberta in 1996. He is a project leader with the Centre for Oil Sands Innovation (COSI), overseeing a research project into bitumen pre-treatment and solvent-assisted extraction by cracking, contaminant adsorption, and solvent generation with single-pass low-cost catalysts.

My main research interests are in biochemical and reaction engineering of complex systems. Past research activities have included the upgrading of bitumen, molecular modeling, tertiary recycling of polymers into chemical feed stocks by reactive distillation, investigation of reaction mechanisms of thermolysis for polyethylene and polyethylene/polystyrene mixtures, Monte-Carlo modeling of the random degradation of polymers during thermal processing, the production of synchronous cultures of Candida bombicola to produce a biosurfactant and liquid/liquid extraction using reverse micelles. 

Research Interests

1. Polymers From Renewable Resources: The main objective of this project is to synthesize new biodegradable polymers from renewable resources. Currently biodegradable polymers are either produced from synthetic monomers, from monomers extracted from annual agricultural crops, or harvested from bacterial storage polymers. The most established biodegradable polymer is poly(lactic acid) (PLA). The polymer is made from lactides that are produced from lactic acid and then converting to PLA by ring opening polymerization. While PLA is well established, other polymers are needed that possess different physical and chemical properties. Two research projects are planned to develop the polymers from renewable resources: one is planed for the synthesis of monomers from microbiological and other renewable resources and another for the polymerization and modification of polymers from renewable resources.

2. Separation and Upgrading of Bitumen: Bitumen and heavy oils from oil sands are a very complex mixture of hydrocarbons that pose significant challenges to their separation from the sand and the ultimate upgrading into synthetic crude oils and other products. Because they are so complex, they are also very difficult to analyze. The approach that we are using to understand the fundamentals of heavy oils is to use advanced reactor systems, synthetic tracers, detailed chemical modeling and molecular dynamic simulations. We have achieved a significant insight into the role of mass transfer on the reactions of interest and are now investigating the role of reverse reactions.