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Application of non-thermal plasma-assisted heterogeneous catalysis for the upgrading of methane

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Kechagiopoulos
    Dr M N Campbell-Bannerman
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

In recent years, plasma-catalysis has emerged as a promising technology to improve the performance of existing catalytic processes. The use of non-thermal plasmas in particular has proven effective in enabling catalysts to operate at low temperatures for a range of reactions [1-3]. In non-thermal plasmas, gas temperature can be as low as environmental, however highly energetic electrons colliding with molecules can produce a variety of species such as free radicals, excited states, ions, and other molecules that can participate in subsequent reactions. As such, there are species in the plasma, available to react on catalyst surfaces, which would typically be observed only at equilibrium systems of much higher temperature [4]. In certain cases, even synergistic effects have been experimentally demonstrated, where the performance achieved with plasma-catalysis was higher than the sum of plasma-alone and catalysis-alone [1,5].

Focus of the research programme will be on the plasma-catalytic conversion of methane towards higher hydrocarbons via non-oxidative coupling at low temperatures. A combined experimental and computational approach will be followed, with specific research objectives further defined based on the skills, experience and interests of the candidate. The experimental work will utilise a dielectric barrier discharge reactor setup and aim at elucidating reaction pathways and identifying most promising catalytic materials for the reaction. Optical Emission Spectrometry will be used to detect plasma phase reactive intermediates. The modelling work will benefit from an already developed elaborate plasma-chemical kinetic model for methane conversion and will focus on extending the latter to account for catalytic effects. Microkinetic modelling will specifically be utilised to allow the systematic consideration of all elementary reaction processes taking place in the plasma phase and on the catalyst surface and the explicit description of the interactions between them.

The studentship forms part of wider research in our School in the field of plasma-catalysis and will greatly benefit from and contribute to these efforts. The excellent research facilities and world-class expertise will provide a very attractive opportunity for a highly motivated PhD student looking to progress a career in the exciting field of chemical reaction engineering at the interface of plasma science.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering or related discipline along with:

• Knowledge in reaction kinetics analysis and/or kinetic and reactor modelling.
• Experience in the operation of experimental apparatus and/or in the preparation and characterization of catalysts.
• Experience in programming using e.g. FORTRAN or MATLAB.
• Familiarity with methane conversion processes.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form
When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr P Kechagiopoulos ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Chemical Engineering. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT.


[1] H.L. Chen, H.M. Lee, et al., Appl. Catal. B Environ. 85 (2008) 1–9.
[2] C.E. Stere, W. Adress, et al., ACS Catal. 4 (2014) 666–673.
[3] H.L. Chen, H.M. Lee, et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 43 (2009) 2216–2227.
[4] J.C. Whitehead, J. Phys. D. Appl. Phys. 49 (2016) 243001.
[5] T. Nozaki et al., Catal. Today 211 (2013) 29–38.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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