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Innovative engineering and scientific design of methane oxidising biofilters to control greenhouse gas emissions

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R P Beaven
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Biofilter technology has the potential to significantly reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from historic landfills. The PhD student, working closely with industrial and local authority partners, will make a major impact by developing the technology to allow sustainable long-term solutions to be applied to historic landfills. This is major problem worldwide, with over 20,000 historic landfills in the UK alone.

In 2015, waste management contributed 4% of UK GHG emissions, with 91% of this being methane, predominantly from landfill. Methane is produced in landfill during anaerobic degradation of organic waste. During the early stages of waste degradation high flows of landfill gas with high methane concentrations generally enables collection and utilization of the gas in on-site electricity generators. As landfills age, gas flows and quality reduces. When electricity generation is no longer viable methane is burnt using a gas flare, but again this solution becomes inefficient as gas flows decrease. If landfill gas is not flared or used to generate electricity, methane can migrate out of the landfill and contribute to global warming.

This project will investigate the use of methane biofilters as an alternative to gas flares in order to prevent emission of GHGs to the atmosphere and reduce the energy costs associated with flaring. The use of biofilters involves gas being passed through porous media such as compost. Under the right conditions, methane is oxidised by methanotrophic bacteria to carbon dioxide. Bacterial activity is affected by various conditions (e.g. moisture, temperature, nutrients, oxygen, and methane concentrations), so biofilters need to be carefully designed to maximise removal of methane. The student will investigate the suitability of different configurations, media, loading rates and residence times to model and optimise methane oxidation biofilters, and design a low tech automated system to monitor and regulate conditions in pilot scale biofilters. The project provides the opportunity to work on a real problem at UK landfills, but the findings will have global impact.

The successful candidate will have excellent opportunities to develop contacts with a wide range of representatives from Industry, consultants and academia and this will provide a solid basis for future employment opportunities.

We are looking for an enthusiastic, self-motivated individual who is prepared to work some time off-campus in an industrial setting. You will have a 2:1 undergraduate qualification in topics such as civil and/or environmental engineering/ science, physics, or applied microbiology, or the equivalent thereof.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Richard Beaven, Infrastructure research group, Email: [Email Address Removed] , Tel: +44 (0) 1621 869133 or Dr Anne Stringfellow, Infrastructure research group, Email [Email Address Removed], Tel: +44 (0) 2380 593988.

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