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Assessing impact of plasma technology on gaseous nitrogen species and its potential to influence digestate quality as fertilisers in agriculture

   School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE)

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  Dr R Sakrabani  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is an excellent opportunity for a full time PhD project which will last for 36 months. The project offers a unique opportunity for a student to work closely with Cranfield University and N2 Applied in a project that involves using plasma technology to treat air and convert it into reactive N species to create an acidic environment which minimises losses of ammonia. The student will receive a stipend of £18k, tax free and full UK fees covered by this funding. In addition to this there is also funding to cover laboratory analysis, field work and participation in workshops and conferences.    

Ammonia (NH3) losses from use of animal slurry and digestate in agriculture is a cause of environmental concern and a loss of valuable resource. If the NH3 loss can be minimised, it can tackle these challenges and the nitrogen from NH3 can be utilised as a valuable source of renewable fertiliser for crops. With escalating price of natural gas, which is directly influencing fertiliser prices, alternative solutions are urgently needed. This project is timely to tackle this challenge as it entails using plasma technology to treat air and convert it into reactive N species such as nitric oxide (NO) and create an acidic environment which minimises losses of NH3.

This project aim will be on evaluating the detailed chemistry of plasma interactions with the animal slurry or digestate liquor and its impact on N species when applied to soils as a fertiliser.

Cranfield University is a solely postgraduate university within the UK which is research intensive and engages closely with innovative research involving industry. The Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute within the School of Water, Energy and Environment hosts one of the largest groups of soil scientist actively involved in research using some of the most cutting-edge technologies and engaging closely with national Agricultural Innovation Centres such as the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI) and Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP). CCm Technologies in a growing UK SME that specialises in carbon capture technology with a pilot plant in Swindon engaging in production of fertilisers.

N2 Applied Ltd (N2), based in York, UK, will act as industry supervisor for this project. N2 currently have three operational plasma units at sites in the UK using different substrates for treatment. Accurate characterisation of the N compounds present in the plasma treated substrate is crucial to the development of the N2 technology and business case. The N added through the plasma process has direct value to the farmer as a fertiliser source.

This project will provide an opportunity to gather new insights using plasma technology to treat digestate and its potential impact on nitrogen dynamics when applied to soils. This will be important to increase valorisation of digestate as a valuable form of renewable fertiliser in agriculture.

There will be an opportunity to present your work in national and international conferences and submit to a suitable journal for peer-reviewed publication. You will be able to engage closely with an industry partner such as N2 Applied to learn about plasma technology at their site in the UK and Oslo, Norway. You will also gain trainings in current analytical chemistry facilities and be part of a vibrant research group in the UK. You will also have excellent opportunities to engage with industry to have the practical experience to complement the research component of this project.    

You will gain experience of engaging with an industrial sponsor and work in an industry scale pilot plant in addition to laboratory-based studies at Cranfield University. There will be also be opportunities to attend trainings to learn to use specialist analytical chemistry equipments needed to measure nitrogen species. You will also be exposed to trainings related to soil science and learn to integrate it with other aspects of this research.

Entry requirements

First or Second Class Upper UK Honours Degree or equivalent in subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, Soil Science, Environmental Science or Geography. Applicants with experience in analytical chemistry, physics will be suitable and those with some experience of using it in the context of soil science will be an added advantage. It will be desirable for candidates to have an MSc in the above subjects.

Start date: 26/09/2022


*This is only open to UK national and those residence in this country who can claim similar entitlement.

How to apply  

For further information: Dr Ruben Sakrabani

[Email Address Removed]

T: (0) 1234 750111 Ext: 2710

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form stating the reference number SWEE0187

Funding Notes

Sponsored by EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax free) plus fees* for three years.
*This is only open to UK national and those residence in this country who can claim similar entitlement.
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