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High-purity hydrogen production through a hybrid plasma-catalytic process

Project Description

The water gas shift (WGS) is a key reaction in the production of high purity hydrogen both for the use of the latter in refineries and as fuel in fuel cell applications. A good WGS catalyst needs to possess high activity, selectivity and stability under a wide range of reaction conditions. However, existing catalysts do not meet these requirements, particularly due to the thermodynamics of the reaction that favour CO conversion at low temperature. Operating the reaction as close to room temperature as possible is desirable, however current catalysts active in this range tend to deactivate rapidly. In contrast, more robust catalysts, typically used in industry, are generally active only above 250 oC. Non-thermal plasmas have been recently utilised to enable catalysts to operate at low temperatures for various reactions by facilitating the activation of gas phase molecules.

This project aims to assess the feasibility of non-thermal plasmas to promote the water gas shift reaction. Main focus will be on the development of a rigorous model for the hybrid non-thermal plasma-catalytic process that will allow the efficient design and optimization of such a system.

Specifically, a plasma-chemical kinetics model will be developed to simulate the plasma-catalytic WGS reaction and obtain a deep insight into the underlying plasma chemistry and plasma-surface interactions involved in this system. The kinetic mechanism of the plasma-catalytic system is highly complex with both properties of the plasma and catalyst being modified by the presence of the other. A range of homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions will be considered in the model, while the interaction between the gas-phase and catalytic networks will be described through appropriate heterogeneous reactor models.

The successful candidate should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in chemical engineering or related discipline.

Essential knowledge of: Chemical Engineering

Desirable knowledge of: Chemical reactor modelling. Chemical reaction kinetics, Programming in FORTRAN or similar.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Informal inquiries can be made to Dr P Kechagiopoulos () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ().

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. It is for self-funded students only.


X. Tu, J.C. Whitehead, Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 125 (2012) 439-448.
R. Snoeckx, R. Aerts, X. Tu, A. Bogaerts, J. Phys. Chem. C 117 (2013) 4957-4970.

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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