Catalytic Conversion of Bio-Renewables with Heterogeneous Catalysts

Imperial College London

Department of Chemical Engineering

Project Description

Non-renewable fossil resources currently account for the production of 96 % of all organic chemicals on an industrial scale, which limits the overall sustainability of the chemical sector. Amongst renewable sources of carbon, biomass (annually renewable organic matter) is one of the most viable options for future chemical production. However, turning biomass into chemicals requires researchers to develop ways to rearrange the chemical bonds present in these compounds into forms of relevance to society. A promising approach is to use heterogeneous catalysts, which are solid materials that speed up chemical reactions without themselves being used up during the process. With only a small amount of these catalysts, it is feasible to rearrange the chemical bonds in biomass into the desired compounds. Consequently, it is important that new types of catalytic processes are developed and explored for these new chemical processes of interest.

Outline of PhD
This PhD will focus on developing catalytic methods to convert bio-renewable compounds into useful chemicals. The project combines elements of applied catalysis, materials chemistry, reaction engineering and process simulation, and builds on several of our group’s recent discoveries related to biomass upgrading, such as 1) ACS Sust. Chem. Eng. 6 (2018) 16341; 2) ACS Catal. 8 (2018) 7131; 3) React. Chem. Eng. 3 (2018) 155; 4) Green. Chem. 19 (2017) 2711.

The project will entail a wide range of methods, including material preparation, catalytic testing (batch, continuous flow, mini-plant), analytical studies, (in situ) spectroscopy and process simulation. We are especially interested in expanding our existing activities in two directions, including: 1) converting new types of renewables, in addition to more established compounds such as lignocellulose, and 2) probing the scale up of these systems in a prototype mini-plant. Opportunities for industrial and international collaboration are available on this project.

Funding Information

Our team has two fully-funded, 42 month PhD studentships available. These studentships are available to UK/EU students and international students. We anticipate students commencing their PhD studies between July 2020 and January 2021.

Eligibility Requirements

We are seeking exceptionally talented and motivated students to join our young, ambitious research team. Students should hold – or soon expect to obtain – a first class or upper second class – degree (or equivalent) in chemical engineering, chemistry or materials chemistry. Previous knowledge of catalysis, chemical reaction engineering and inorganic materials chemistry is useful but is not a requirement.

Application Process

Candidates should send a CV and a personal statement directly to Ceri Hammond (). The personal statement should include the rational for applying for the position, a summary of previous research experience, and an overview of their suitability for the position.

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