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Do green solvents mean cleaner air?

Project Description

Environmental sustainability is an issue at the forefront of modern research efforts. Recent estimates suggest solvents account for the majority of waste produced by the chemical industry. These emissions contribute to poor air quality, a cause of 28000 deaths annually in the UK. Scientists in York have developed a range of new ‘green’ solvents to replace the traditional chemicals sourced from the petroleum industry. Well-designed ‘green’ solvents such as TMO are synthesised from sustainable feedstock and are less hazardous and harmful to health than their traditional equivalents, e.g. aromatics such as toluene
Traditional aromatic solvents are notoriously bad for air quality; their oxidation in air rapidly leading yielding large quantities of harmful formaldehyde, particulates and ozone By contrast, little is known of the air quality impacts of new green solvents. The principle objectives of this project are therefore to determine the atmospheric oxidation rate and degradation chemistry of new green solvents, and hence assess their potential impact on air quality.
the following kinetic tools will be used to determine atmospheric oxidation rates and degradation mechanisms:
1. Laser generation and detection (Fig. 2) of free-radicals for direct, time-resolved kinetics of radical + solvent reactions.
2. Atmospheric simulation chambers for product studies of solvent degradation via short scientific visits to European partner labs
3. Computer simulations using Gaussian for bond-strength analysis and the Master Chemical Mechanism for detailed atmospheric mechanism construction and impact assessment.
In Green Chemistry, the following methodologies will be applied:
4. Application of Green Chemistry Principles in organic synthesis;
5. Reaction optimisation (catalyst screening, production of heterogeneous catalysts, reaction conditions).
6. Application of high pressure, flow or microwave reactors and of bulk synthesis (> 1 kg) utilising most promising system.
This project complements existing York efforts to develop detailed atmospheric oxidation mechanisms, understand indoor & outdoor air quality, and devise sustainable manufacturing strategies. You will aim to solve the big question – are new green solvents are inherently good for air quality? You will present these results to international conferences and in high-quality journals.

All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.

You will join the large and dynamic teams at the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories and Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. Supervision by experts in laser kinetics, atmospheric oxidation, and green chemistry will ensure appropriate support and guidance. Bespoke training provided by the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science will help you to develop transferable skills in data processing and programming. Project-specific training will be provided in: laser safety; use of class IV lasers; analytical tools (MCM, R-studio, modelling software); organic synthesis and high-pressure chemistry. You will work in the Alternative Solvents Technology Platform, specifically with S4 (sustainable solvent selection service) and the ReSolve project, taking new solvents developed in this project and determining their fate in the environment, Here you will be able to link key functionalities in a solvent with their ability to degrade in the atmosphere, which in turn can be used to help inform the development of future solvents. You will be involved S4 meetings, attendance at solvent related events and exposure to the range of companies working in ReSolve and S4 specifically, in addition to a wider range working the Bio-Economy and with links to the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence in general.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

Fully funded for 3 years by either the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council or a Chemistry Teaching Studentship and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-19), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables. You do not need to apply separately for the EPSRC funding. However you need to submit a separate Teaching Studentship application: View Website
Teaching studentships are available to any student who is eligible to pay tuition fees at the home rate. ESPRC Studentships are available to any student who meets the EPSRC eligibility criteria: View Website


• Applicants should submit an application for a PhD in Chemistry by 9 January 2019
• Supervisors may contact their preferred candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors may nominate up to two candidates to the assessment panel
• The assessment panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York on 13 or 15 February 2019
• The Awards Panel will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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