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PhD Research Project

Biomass conversion using heterogeneous catalysis – using in situ spectroscopy and nanomaterials approaches to understand reaction mechanisms


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Durham University
Department of Chemistry
Dr SK Beaumont
No more applications being accepted
Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Heterogeneous (solid) catalysts are used in 90% of all petrochemical-based industrial processes; heterogeneous catalyst manufacture is worth $250bn annually. Currently, 99% of carbon-based feedstocks used by the chemicals industry (and indirectly by many others) are derived from petroleum and natural gas. The pressure to switch existing chemical processes to more sustainable feedstocks requires the development of new catalysts with significantly different properties. Following the mechanisms of chemical reactions on a solid catalyst’s surfaces, where all the chemistry occurs, is key to understanding the way these catalytic processes work, and how to improve them.
Many heterogeneous catalysts are comprised of small metal particles on a metal oxide support. This project aims to develop greater understanding of the surface chemistry in these catalysts in situations where the oxide support is not an inert spectator. This will be achieved through adopting a nanomaterials approach to prepare tailor made model catalysts that can be characterised ex situ and in situ using a large range of techniques, including Raman Laser spectroscopy, DRIFTS, TPR/TPO, TEM, XPS, cyclic voltammetry and may also include synchrotron X-ray adsorption measurements. There will be a strong focus on both synthesising well defined nanomaterials and studying these using in situ spectroscopy to understand changes in the catalyst and elucidate reaction mechanisms.

Applications are welcomed from enthusiastic and motivated physical chemistry students who have (or expect to obtain) at least the equivalent of a UK 2.i honours masters level degree in an appropriate subject. The position is available from October 2014, and the studentship is tenable for 39 months.

Due to funding restrictions the position is only open to applicants from the UK (viewed as UK students for fee purposes)

Further information of the PI can be found at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/chemistry/staff/profile/?id=10598

Interested applicants should contact Dr Simon Beaumont (Simon.Beaumont@durham.ac.uk) with a covering letter and CV, including the names of two suitable references (academic or placement/project supervisors). Potential applicants are also welcome to contact Dr Simon Beaumont with informal enquiries about this opportunity in advance of a formal application.

Upcoming Deadline – 15th March, but early applications are encouraged as the position may be filled if a suitable candidate is identified prior to the deadline.



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