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Bio-based route to acrylic acid by innovative material and reactor design

Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science

Manchester United Kingdom Bioengineering Chemical Engineering Energy Technologies Mechanical Engineering Materials Science Petroleum Engineering

About the Project

The conversion of major building block chemicals from fossil fuel-based feedstock into bio-based and environment friendly route is one of the major challenges for delivering a long term and sustainable chemical industry.

The 1st and 2nd generation fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) are the most common bio-diesel in which raw glycerol represents the main by-products at 50-70% purity (10 kg every 100 kg of biodiesel). Currently, glycerol is mostly used to make fertilizer and biogas, however, in recent years, efforts have been put into upgrading it to to hydrogen, liquid fuels, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and also other value-added chemicals such acrylic acid.

We aim to establish a new process route to produce high added-value chemicals from bio-waste material generated from the biodiesel industry such as glycerol by implementation of a new generation catalyst and reactor design. To do so, the proof-of-principle of a new intensified membrane reactor combining robust experimental and phenomenological modelling approaches targeting to elevate both fundamental and applied knowledge on membrane reactor. The glycerol-to-acrylic acid reactions will be tested with and without membrane in case of fluidised and packed bed configurations in the optimal temperature range according to the material and catalyst performance. the model will be used to design the industrial scale reactor.

The performance of the optimised design will be then used to study the integration of the process using process simulator (Aspen Plus process flowsheets) including the study of the crude glycerol purification unit according to the requirement of the reactor, the process synthesis and product separation from the raw glycerol to acrylic acid with the right specifications. The techno-economic optimisation of the process will be carried out by the end of the project.

Applicants will develop the project under the supervision of Dr. Vincenzo Spallina in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science of the University of Manchester. The PhDs are expected to contribute to the EPSRC project SPACING by taking part to the project meetings, present the results to national and international conferences and publish research papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemical, Process and Mechanical Engineering, or any other related degree.

Candidates with a good background in catalysis, separation technology, bio-based process design, as well as good understanding of the reactor engineering concepts are desirable.

These projects are ONLY for self-funded students. Candidates with a strong CV are encouraged and will be supported to submit an application for scholarship.
See opportunities here (View Website)

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