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Biogas upgrading by means of cyclic adsorption processes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Fernandez-Martin
    Dr D Dionisi
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Global warming is one of the most worldwide current challenges facing humanity, a direct consequence of the increasing CO2 emissions generated from the combustion of fossil fuels. To confront the current energy production footprint, research on transformative and more efficient technologies to produce energy from renewables, and cleaner energy from fossil fuels (Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage, CCUS) is unquestionably needed. Biogas produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste is a clean and renewable source of energy, considered as one of the most environmentally friendly technologies for replacing fossil fuels [1-3].

Prior to biogas utilisation, there are two treatment steps: cleaning (compulsory, to remove traces of corrosive compounds such as hydrogen sulphide and siloxanes), and upgrading (optional, to remove CO2) [4]. The latter is gaining attention because CO2 elimination increases the biogas heating value (energy content), thus making the final biomethane ready for use as vehicle fuel, or to be injected into the natural gas grid for a decentralised use [5, 6].

The current biogas upgrading techniques are chemical or physical scrubbing, pressure swing adsorption (PSA), and membrane separation. The main consideration for selecting the specific technique is the amount of energy required. Yet current techniques are highly energy demanding (3-6% of the biogas energy), making the upgrading a process with high potential for improvement [7].

Adsorption using low-cost solid sorbents is a very promising and cost-effective gas separation technology to upgrade biogas that offers potential energy savings compared to the more extended chemical and physical scrubbing processes. Carbon molecular sieves, activated carbons, and zeolites are the adsorbents most widely employed for biogas upgrading [8-10].

Proposed research:
Accordingly, this project will study alternative biogas upgrading strategies based on the separation by adsorption, targeting at increasing the efficiency of the overall separation process, and hence reduce the energy required per m3 of biogas upgraded, as well as the purity and recovery of the biomethane produced.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering or any related discipline, such as BSc in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science along with knowledge of:

Materials science, materials characterisation: textural characterisation: BET, micropore volume, total pore volume, average pore diameter, …; understanding the experimental characterisation techniques, such as gas chromatograph, FTIR, TGA, porosimeter…), organic chemistry, physical chemistry, reactor dynamics, thermodynamics and heat transfer, gas separation processes, adsorption principles, kinetics of adsorption and desorption, etc.
Microsoft Office package (specially Excel). The knowledge of any other software such as Matlab, Aspen Hysys (Adsorption) will be valuable.


• 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 C Fernandez-Martin ([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])

Additional research costs (ARC) of £1,000 - £1,300 per annum will be required for consumables.

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] Jeihanipour, A., Aslanzadeh, S., Rajendran, K., Balasubramanian, G., Taherzadeh, M. J. Renew Energ. 2013, 52, 128–135.
[2] Weiland, P. Appl Microbiol Biot. 2010, 85, 849–860.
[3] Chandra, R., Tekeuchi, H., Hasegawa, T., Kumar, R. Energy. 2012, 43, 273–282.
[4] Awe, O.W., Zhao, Y., Nzihou, A. et al. Waste Biomass Valor. 2017, 8 (2), 267-283.
[5] Bekkering, J., Hengeveld, E.J., van Gemert WJT, Broekhuis, AA. Appl Energ. 2015, 140, 409-417.
[6] Petersson, A., Wellinger, A. IEA Bioenergy. 2009.
[7] Raab, K., Lamprecht, M., Brechtel, K. and Scheffknecht, G. Eng. Life Sci. 2012, 12 (3), 327–335.
[8] Pino, L., Italiano, C., Vita, A., Fabiano, C., Recupero, V. J of Environ Sci. 2016, 48, 138-150.
[9] Paolini,V., Petracchini, F., Guerriero, E., Bencini, A., Drigo, S. Environ Technol. 2016, 37 (11), 1418-1427.
[10] Santos, M.P.S; Grande, C. A; Rodrigues, A.E. Ind Eng Chem Res. 2011, 50, 974-995.

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