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Chemical design of a sustainable reactor for reducing oxygen and potentially carbon dioxide with industrial and climate applications

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, February 23, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has launched a joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: Monash University

Supervisor at Monash: Prof Louise Bennett (lead); Dr Sophie Selby-Pham
Supervisor at Bath: Dr Simon Freakley


It is well known that both ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds have the ability to produce hydrogen peroxide in the presence (or absence) of redox-active metals such as iron or copper. The dependencies of efficiency of reduction of oxygen is complex and dependent on the relative concentrations of electron donors, oxygen and reactive substrates. The phenolics can be either small molecules (eg, essential oils), larger compounds (eg, the secondary metabolite polyphenolic and hydrocarbon classes of plants) or very large polyphenolics (eg, lignins), although the latter system has not been well studied. Likewise, the dependence and nature of the metal on reduction efficiency is not well understood, but likely provides catalytic electron donation typical of oxidisable metals. These binary or ternary systems require further research to understand and optimize their heterogeneous catalytic properties.

We are currently investigating the efficiencies of lignin/ascorbic acid/metal systems using waste substrates from food and wood processing for production of hydrogen peroxide and potential applications such as natural food preservatives or pesticides. In the context of sustainable and circular technologies, it is also possible that the system of lignin/ascorbic acid/metal could potentially be used to reduce CO2 and be integrated into a solid scaffold for capture of unsaturated carboxy compounds. The aim is for recovery of the new material for uses in circular manufacturing processes and products, to be determined, ultimately to replace those derived from coal and oil substrates (however, the applications of the new materials is not the focus of this project). The research project will investigate and optimize the redox activity of the lignin/ascorbic acid/metal systems to produce hydrogen peroxide, and extend the model systems to natural food and wood-derived substrates. Finally, the research will also explore the feasibility of reduction of CO2 by heterogeneous catalysis involving addition of enzymes, with a view to producing higher order carbohydrates from atmospheric CO2.
The supervisory arrangement is for Prof Bennett and Dr Selby-Pham to take leadership of research studies focused on production of hydrogen peroxide from model (binary) systems based on organic substrates (ie, food, wood).
Dr Freakley will take leadership of studies with model (ternary) systems by addition of metals to the systems developed at Monash. The generation of H2O2 by the heterogeneous catalyst systems (+/- metals) will also be tested in heterogeneous biocatalytic systems involving enzymes, as developed by Dr Freakley.

Application process

You MUST express interest for three projects in order of preference – you can see all projects here: . Please submit your application at the Home institution of your preferred project (‘Home’ institution details can be found in the project summary). However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

The deadline to submit applications is 23rd February 2020

Monash University
Expressions of interest (EoI) can be lodged through The EoI should provide the following information:
CV including details of citizenship, your Official Academic Transcripts, key to grades/grading scale of your transcripts, evidence of English language proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL, for full requirements see:, and two referees and contact details (optional). You must provide a link to these documents in Section 8 using Google Drive (Instructions in Section 8).

University of Bath

Please submit your application through the following link:
Please make sure to mention in the “finance” section of your application that you are applying for funding through the joint Bath/Monash PhD programme for your specified projects.
In the “research interests” section of your application, please name the three projects you are interested in and rank them in order of preference. Please also include the names of the Bath lead supervisors.

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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