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Efficient utilization of biochar for water remediation and soil amendment - towards a circular economy

Department of Chemical and Process Engineering

Glasgow United Kingdom Applied Chemistry Bioengineering Biotechnology Chemical Engineering Energy Technologies Environmental Chemistry Environmental Engineering Environmental Sciences Materials Science

About the Project

Agricultural and woody wastes represent promising feedstocks for the production of energy, chemicals and fuels. Within the three major products of biomass thermochemical conversion (syngas, bio-oil, and biochar), biochar is a solid product that holds the potential to be utilised for both energy and material purposes. The worldwide biochar market has grown at an annual rate of 13% since 2015, and is forecasted to reach USD3.2 billion by 2025. However, the application of biochar is currently underdeveloped, despite significant research into its manufacture. Key to the widespread use of biochars is the demonstration of their applications to key processes, particularly those that are positively impacted by their environmental benefits, such as water remediation and soil improvement. It is known that biochars can be used in remediating water bodies for the capture of excess nutrients, which can lead to eutrophication. They can also be applied as soil amendments; this has the potential not only to improve soil health through enhanced organic matter content, but also to increase crop yields if the nutrients absorbed from the water body can be re-released in plant-available forms. However, widespread adoption of biochar in such applications is currently restricted by a lack of scientific testing and large scale trials. Driven by the pressing national need for a growing and sustainable bioeconomy, this project is a testbed study to realise the full potential of biochar in addressing a variety of agricultural and environmental issues through a detailed experimental plan to understand the factors affecting biochars production and in assessing its utilisation in a range of environmentally impacting applications.

The candidate will join a team consisting of academics from Strathclyde’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering and Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, with collaborators from the University of the Highlands and Islands, in working with the industrial partner of this project, Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC (STS-CIC), who are a social enterprise created and designed to address food poverty, climate change and a reduction in landfill use. This partner has developed large-scale manufacture of biochars from native wood stocks, which will help inform the project, with regular input and meetings during the studentship. The candidate will develop skills in experimental manufacture, materials analysis, as well as system and data modelling, allowing them to build their career in the area of sustainable energy, material characterisation, and system design. Joining an international team of environmental engineers and scientists, the candidate will become an expert in the manufacture and characterisation of biomass derived materials and skilled in environmental chemical analysis. By working on this project, the candidate will also receive world-class training as an independent professional researcher through participation in Strathclyde’s extensive Researcher Development Programme.

Information about the host department can be found by visiting:

Funding Notes

The project is fully funded from BBSRC through the IBioIC CTP studentship scheme.
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Applicants should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in a relevant engineering/science discipline, and be highly motivated to undertake multidisciplinary research. Applicants must be have settled status in the UK. Applications are invited from candidates who have a background in Chemical Engineering/Chemistry/Bioenergy, or an equivalent qualification.
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