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Generation of Nitrous oxide (N2O, ‘laughing gas’) in a Flow Reactor (fully funded by BASF)


   Department of Chemistry

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

About the Project

Nitrous oxide (N2O, ‘laughing gas’) is a widely used selective oxidant of hydrocarbons in a liquid phase (e.g. Cyclohexene to Cyclohexanone). Although the generation of nitrous oxide by thermal decomposition of ammonium nitrate is a well-known process, due to safety concerns the reaction is currently carried out under ambient pressure and the nitrous oxide must be compressed and cooled before storage can take place, prior to use. The goal of this project is to discover and develop the generation of N2O in a liquid phase, based upon the thermal decomposition of ammonium nitrate in an inherently safe flow reactor system.  The decomposition of ammonium nitrate will be at first carried out under high pressure (e.g. 100 bar), which can be performed safely using a flow-reactor to control the hazards of thermal runaway, thus enabling ‘on-demand’ generation of N2O for immediate use.  Further steps will include the design and optimisation of the decomposition reaction as well as demonstration of the cost-effectiveness of the approach and its direct use in exemplar oxidation steps.

Project context and opportunities: The project is a Chemical Engineering project with substantial chemistry components. It is very well suited to candidates seeking to work across disciplines at the Chemical Engineering – Chemistry interface. The successful candidate will be able to interact with, and leverage the benefits of, this wider activity. There will be opportunities for placement(s) (total of up to one year duration) within the BASF organisation during the studentship period.

Applications are invited for the above project, and the successful applicant will undertake the EPSRC CDT (rEaCt) programme, as part of Cohort 4 (Intake 2022).

Please note that the BASF studentship projects follow the same programme as the normal CDT studentships. The difference is that project funding comes from BASF and not EPSRC.

This project forms part of a wider suite of activities that BASF is supporting within the CDT, all of which follow the principles detailed below.

Objective:  BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, wishes to explore the application of flow chemistry in its R&D workflow for the synthesis of novel agrochemicals, and commodities. In this project, it will assemble a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to explore the value of synergies between a variety of cutting-edge technologies, to develop more effective and efficient chemical production processes.

Setup:  This project will bring together a group of highly motivated graduate students to work on two representative challenges from industrial process development, where photochemistry in combination with flow chemistry methodologies will be integrated holistically with in-line screening and analytics, and chemical process engineering complemented by machine learning and modelling. The members of this interdisciplinary project team will be exposed to a broad range of competencies and interact closely with each other in working on a disruptive change of the R&D workflow in a large chemical enterprise. 

Training:  Industrial R&D scientists based at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen, the largest chemical “Verbund” site in Europe, will be closely involved in the programme, combining a real-world industrial experience with cutting-edge academic research. Each of the students will be advised by an internationally renowned professor and a BASF scientist and will be part of a centre for doctoral training, bringing together fellow graduate students in closely related fields of research and building a deep understanding of the area of specialization. 

This project forms part of a wider suite of activities that BASF is supporting within the CDT. The successful candidate will be able to interact with, and leverage the benefits of, this wider activity. There will be opportunities for placement(s) (total of up to one year duration) within the BASF organisation during the studentship period.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCS5ZM9wHQk

Applicant Requirements

Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a first or upper-second class honours degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or a related field. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields is an essential requirement. Imperial College PhD entry requirements must be met.

Click here for more information on the application process for prospective students.

To apply, please email the  with the following documents in PDF format.

·      An up to date CV 

·      A copy of all transcripts

·      A cover letter (please indicate here if you have any additional information you'd like the panel to take into consideration)

·      Full contact details of two referees

·      List of up to three projects of interest from the projects currently available

For further information please contact the CDT Programme Manager, Jinata Subba ().


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