Carbon dioxide has the potential to be utilised as a carbon source for the production of chemicals, providing new routes to oxygenates and providing an economic offset to the costs of carbon sequestration. However, the use of gaseous H2 to carry out CO2 reduction (hydrogenation) is undesirable due the large energy, and hence CO2, costs associated with hydrogen production. This project will therefore investigate the use of sustainable biomass resources as the reductant in CO2 conversion.
Previous work in our lab has demonstrated that CO2 can be converted to higher oxygenates through direct reaction with water under sub-critical conditions using solid catalysts. Biomass and biochars are known to act as reductants in e.g. steel production. A range of biomass sources will therefore be screened for optimal CO2 conversion. Previous sources of biomass investigated in our lab for other processes include brewers’ spent grain, pine needles, rice husk, sewage sludge etc.
The nature of the heterogeneous catalyst, if used, has a significant impact on the reaction products; for instance, on carbon-chain length or chemical functionality. Therefore, a range of solid catalysts will be investigated and their design tailored for the production of the desired product. A key focus will be the use of earth-abundant metals.
Students will fully engage in the Faculty Doctoral Development Programme. In addition, subject-specific training in industrial-standard analytic techniques will be provided.
Graduates in his field are highly employable. Catalysis underpins the UK and global manufacturing sectors with over 90% of products employing a catalyst at some stage in their manufacture. Opportunities therefore exist to progress into companies at all levels, from large multi-nationals to SMEs; or into academia.
The student will be an integrated part of large research group benefitting from many shared resources.
Process conditions, including co-solvents, also play a key role in these reactions and can influence the ability of water to solubilise biomass-derived chemicals and to act directly as a hydrogen donor. These will therefore be investigated in order to developed an optimised process in which an identified biomass source acts to facilitate the reduction of carbon dioxide, thus forming valuable platform and commodity chemicals without relying in fossil sources.
This project is suitable for a graduate in chemical engineering, chemistry or a closely related subject holding a 2.1 (or equivalent) degree. Applicants should meet the universities requirements for English language proficiency.