Control and operation of advanced modular chemical looping process

   Department of Chemical Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The deployment of next-generation chemical processes requires the implementation of new equipment and materials that will enhance the performance in terms of economics and environmental performance.

The link between process operation and optimisation will be particularly challenging for dynamic processes operated with modular units with frequent start-up and shutdown and with frequent changes in the operating conditions.

Process control and operation have reached a high level of integration with existing chemical and energy processes following the innovation in machine learning techniques, automation and IT. These turn into higher operational windows, flexible design, fast control and new protocols to run next generation chemical processes where the impact of a solid and reliable control system could save up to 10% of the operating costs. In this context, the department of chemical engineering at the University of Manchester is currently implementing the most advanced state-of-the-art control system based on the PCSNeo from Siemens which integrates in the same ecosystem operation and maintenance tool (e.g. SIMATIC PCS neo) with process and plant design and simulation (gPROMS).

Chemical looping reforming in packed bed reactors is among the most promising technologies in the area of syngas and hydrogen production. The University of Manchester is currently building a pilot-scale process to operate the gas-solid reaction close to industrial operations. The plant will be fully integrated with sensors, data recording, inline instrumentation that could provide an incredible amount of data to fully demonstrate the feasibility of the technology towards commercial application.

The main objective of this PhD project is to develop a smart platform towards the digitalisation of chemical looping reforming to optimise the performance of the process.

The project will benefit from first-class facilities and equipment which are available at the University of Manchester. The selected candidate will work closely with a research team of research staff with expertise in the area of chemical and process engineering and a pool of skilled technicians that will support research activities. This project is part of the recently awarded £ 5.1 millions project from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero in which the University of Manchester is leading a research consortium involving Johnson Matthey. TotalEnergies, Helical Energy, Kent and Element Energy.

*Applicants are invited for a PhD Studentship under the supervision of Dr Vincenzo Spallina.

Research training

This thesis falls within the fields of Process Integration, System control and operation. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to continue his/her career development by acquiring further soft skills, including problem-solving and the ability to communicate results (presentation and technical writing).

The environment

The Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Manchester (ranked 15th in the QS World University Ranking 2023) is a world leader in industrially relevant research and teaching in Chemical Engineering and related subjects. We undertake leading-edge, multidisciplinary and creative research on a wide range of topics and we provide a world of possibilities for students pursuing skills and understanding.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemical, Process and Mechanical Engineering, Electric engineering, computer science

Candidates with a good background in process control and optimisation, modelling and with a background in computer-aided process system engineering, and experience in process simulation (e.g. Aspen, Gproms) are particularly welcome.

Before you apply 

You MUST contact the lead supervisor for this project - Dr Vincenzo Spallina () - before you apply. 

How to apply 

To be considered for this project you’ll need to complete a formal application through our online application portal

When applying, you’ll need to specify the full name of this project, the name of your supervisor, details of your previous study, and names and contact details of two referees

Your application will not be processed without all of the required documents submitted at the time of application, and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered.  

If you have any questions about making an application, please contact our admissions team by emailing

Equality, diversity and inclusion 

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 

Computer Science (8) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

Duration of the funding 3.5 years. Available for: UK student only (fees and living cost).
Overseas applicants (including EU nationals) with a strong background and experience will also be considered providing that they will be able to secure a scholarship or they will enroll as self-funded. They are encourage to contact the academic lead before submitting an application.

Register your interest for this project

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