Designing catalytic pyrolysis of biomass for green hydrogen production


   Department of Chemical Engineering

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  Dr Marta Falkowska, Prof C Hardacre  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

We welcome applications for this fully funded PhD studentship project from highly motivated candidates interested in advancing technology towards Net Zero goals through development of green hydrogen production routes.

Increasing global energy demand and the need to slow down the rapidly progressing climate change, prompts researchers to look for alternative sources of energy. One of the carbon-neutral energy technologies is producing energy from biomass, such as wood, energy crops, and agricultural residues. It can be achieved through pyrolysis – a thermochemical decomposition of the organic matter into bio-oil, bio-char and pyrolysis gas, at elevated temperatures (400-500°C) and oxygen-free atmosphere. Separation of these products from post-reaction mixture is easy, and each of them has a specific use. This project will focus on: (i) developing technology to maximise yield of gaseous products of biomass pyrolysis, and (ii) optimisation of the secondary processes to obtain high conversions to hydrogen. This will be enabled through building a comprehensive understanding of the catalytic biomass pyrolysis mechanism, as well as molecular interactions between catalysts and biomass constituents under reaction conditions.

This multidisciplinary project will involve: (i) reaction engineering experiments, (ii) synthesis and characterisation of the catalyst materials, (iii) total neutron scattering experiments at the world-leading neutron facility ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in Oxfordshire, and (iv) modelling and simulation of the scattering data for structure determination. The successful candidate will receive trainings on a collection of state of the art microscopy, diffraction and spectroscopy techniques, as well as on data analysis software. The PhD student will be encouraged to attend summer schools on e.g. Neutron Scattering and Catalysis, and to regularly present their results at national and international meetings.

This project will be undertaken under the supervision of Dr Marta Falkowska and Prof Chris Hardacre within Catalysis and Porous Materials Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Manchester. This work will be conducted in a strong collaboration with an overseas partner – Prof Johan Jacquemin at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (Morocco). Findings from this fundamental project will be immediately applied in pilot scale experiments utilising real biomass feedstock at partner’s laboratories.

Entry Requirements

The applicants should have, or be expecting to achieve, a first or upper second-class Honours degree or equivalent in the subjects: Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering or related subject with an interest in catalysis and/or advanced characterization methods.

Before you apply 

You MUST contact the lead supervisor for this project - Dr Marta Falkowska - [Email Address Removed] - 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 [Email Address Removed]

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).

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited for a fully funded 4-year studentship covering stipend and fees. The PhD student can start from July 2023 (the start date is flexible) and applications will be considered until the position is filled. This is a project fully funded by The University of Manchester. Home student fees will be covered (UK students, EU students with settled or pre-settled status can apply but their application eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis).