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Cleaner Fuels via Atomic Imaging and Elemental Engineering

Department of Materials

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Dr S Haigh , Prof Christopher Hardacre Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis is a method to produce high performance fuels with a decreased environmental impact. For example, Fischer-Tropsch fuels can be generated from municipal waste and have 80% lower environmental impact compared to traditional fuel approaches. However, there is potential to increase the versatility and uptake of this technology. Key to Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is the metal nanoparticle catalyst that enables the chemical reactions. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is one of the few tools able to directly study nanoparticle catalysts structure and chemistry with atomic resolution and single atom sensitivity (Fig 1). The aim of this project is to apply advanced TEM imaging and analysis capabilities to tailor the chemistry of Fischer-Tropsch catalysis making them more robust, sustainable and efficient. We have the opportunity to work with BP to ensure these materials are applicable for real world applications and hence generate cleaner fuels to lower global emissions.

You will learn to use Manchester’s world leading TEM capabilities to image the structure and elemental distribution of nanoparticle catalysts during exposure to reactive gas environments and across a range of elevated temperatures, as experienced during Fischer Tropsch synthesis. It is already well understood that the size and morphology of nanoparticles is critical for their effective catalytic operation.[1,2] Catalytic testing has also shown that the addition of elemental promotors, can change the nanoparticle size distribution as well as the selectivity shift towards cleaner products. In this project you will study the effect of different elemental additions and sustainable source feeds as well as other factors like humidity and gas atmosphere on catalyst size and selectivity.

You will acquire a broad range of characterisation and analytical experimental skills. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with industry and to spend time in an industrial environment to use the catalytic testing capabilities of BP if this is of interest. However it is expected that all the results will be publishable and will lead to high impact publications in world leading journals. The specific approach and materials can be adapted depending on the interests of the student. There will be opportunities to undertake experiments at national and international facilities, and to present your work at international conferences.

Funding Notes

Funding support is available for suitably qualified UK and EU applicants. International applicants should contact the main supervisor to discuss potential funding opportunities.

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