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Conversion of waste plastics to fuel and energy - LEVERHULME

Project Description

The remarkable properties of plastics make them the most commonly used modern materials since early twentieth century. Every year several hundreds of millions of tons of plastics are produced globally. After their useful life, millions of tons of waste plastic end up in urban waste, including large quantities floating in world oceans and causing all kind of environmental problems.

Conventional methods of waste plastic management include land filling and incineration. However, chemical recycling methods could be a much promising way forward. Hydrocracking of waste plastic into liquid fuels and other value-added chemical products could be an advantage. The quality and yield of the fuel obtained from plastics depend upon the feedstock, reaction conditions and, above all, the catalyst. Different previously-published studies reported the suitability of metallic-based catalysts supported on mesoporous silicas, zeolites, aluminas, silica-aluminas, etc. These studies often lack the suitability of the catalyst for a mixed plastic feed and catalyst recyclability. This project aims at engineering new bifunctional metal/solid acid catalysts that produce good-quality liquid fuels and are robust for the range of mixed feedstock at relatively mild conditions.

The student should have an appetite for learning reaction engineering and chemistry and for experimental and theoretical work. The project will involve the design of catalysts, their physicochemical characterization through various analytical methods (N2 physisorption to determine textural characterisation, TGA, FTIR, XRD, etc), and test under reaction conditions in laboratory-scale reactors. The main goals of this project will be, thus, to develop cost-effective heterogeneous catalysts with exceptional performance for the hydrocracking of plastics, understand the behaviour of the catalysts, study the reaction mechanisms and kinetics involved and, based on this knowledge, perform kinetic modelling and process simulations.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Engineering or applied or industrial chemistry and preferably have an appetite for laboratory work, reaction engineering, catalysis, reaction and kinetic modelling.


Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering
• State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Leverhulme CDT in Sustainable Production of Chemicals and Materials’ as the Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Further information on the Leverhulme Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Production of Chemical and Material can be found at:

Funding Notes

Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars will receive maintenance costs at Research Council rates and tuition fees at the rate for UK/EU students. In 2019/2020 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £15,141 per annum. International applicants who can pay the difference between the Home and International Fees would also be welcome to apply.


Munir, Dureem, Muhammad F. Irfan, and Muhammad R. Usman. "Hydrocracking of virgin and waste plastics: A detailed review." Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 90 (2018): 490-515.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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

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