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High value biocoke for low emission steel production

   Chemical Engineering

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  Dr Karen Steel  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Approximately 7% of global CO2 is derived from steel production due to the use of coal to make coke as the reductant for converting iron oxide to iron metal. Given the capital investment, blast furnaces using coke will continue to be used in the decades ahead. In order for us to reach net-zero CO2 by 2050 we need to find a way to produce high strength coke materials from biomass sources. This ambitious project seeks to find a way to produce a coal analogue from biomass sources, which is seen as a solution having high potential, allowing the world to continue making steel while drastically curbing CO2 emissions. 

Research Environment

The team at the University of Queensland (UQ) working on this project comprises scientists and engineers with backgrounds in Chemical Engineering, Geology and Mechanical Engineering. Together we have strong experience in how to make strong coke from coal and how to make high strength composite materials, and will use our knowledge of the pyrolysis and carbonisation processes occurring at the micro scale to see how biomass can be effectively converted to high strength coke. We use a variety of tools to help us characterise the chemical and physical mechanisms, including high temperature rheometry, thermogravimetric analysis, X-ray micro-CT analysis, 13C NMR, and compressive strength testing. We have strong collaborations with researchers at the University of Newcastle in NSW who have complementary capabilities, including larger scale testwork facilities.  

The University of Queensland is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions and ranked in the World’s top 50.  Our vision is to provide knowledge leadership for a better world. The main activities will take place in the School of Chemical Engineering which is housed in a new building, the Andrew N. Liveris building, that has been specifically designed for the future needs of Chemical Engineering Research. 

In addition to conducting research at UQ, students have the opportunity to engage with our industry partners to communicate their findings and we encourage all students to undertake a placement in industry and present their research findings at national and international conferences. Our view is for our graduates to take leadership positions within industry implementing solutions that will contribute to the global effort to achieve net-zero CO2 by 2050.

Application details

We invite interested students to joins us as PhD students working on specific aspects of the overall project. An undergraduate background in organic chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering or related discipline is required. A strong interest in working on high temperature bioconversion processes is desirable. Post-graduate research (Masters level) experience in the area of high temperature coal or biomass conversion processes is desirable.

The scholarship is valued at AUD 31,192 pa tax free, indexed annually, for 3.5 years.

Interested students please send an email outlining the reasons for applying, and an up-to-date CV to A/Prof Karen Steel ([Email Address Removed]). Please put “BIOCOKE PhD” in the subject box. Any questions regarding the project can also be directed to A/Prof Karen Steel.

Funding Notes

Funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program
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