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Investigation of oxygen separation membrane materials and their suitability in high temperature oxidative hydrocarbons conversion processes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Kechagiopoulos
    Prof J Anderson
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Membrane reactors are primary units for process intensification that, by combining reaction with separation, can substantially enhance product selectivity and reactor performance. In the current project it is proposed to investigate membrane reactors specifically for high temperature oxidative conversion processes of hydrocarbons. Application of such units can overcome the very expensive oxygen separation step from air, ensuring at the same time controlled oxygen dosing along the reactor axis. The latter fact, besides bringing selectivity benefits, can also prevent hotspot generation and potential reaction runaway.

Main focus of the current work will be on the investigation of promising membrane materials and the accurate description of the oxygen transport mechanism via elaborate modelling. For example, mixed ionic-electronic conducting (MIEC) oxides can form dense ceramic membranes of perovskite or fluorite structure that possess both mechanical and chemical stability and high oxygen permeability. Subjecting the sides of the membrane to different oxygen partial pressures leads to transport of oxygen ions from the high to the low oxygen partial pressure side at the simultaneous counter-current transport of electrons. Surface-exchange reactions on the membrane interfaces and/or bulk diffusion of charged species and electrons/electron holes in the bulk phase of the membrane can become rate-limiting to oxygen permeability depending on the membrane thickness.

Efforts will primarily be invested on the understanding and the proper description of the transport mechanisms through the membrane. In collaboration with the Department of Chemistry permeability measurements and various bulk-phase and surface characterisation methods can be applied to support and validate the theoretical work. Follow-up activities will focus on the implementation of the membrane model in appropriate reactor models describing oxidative hydrocarbons conversion processes. A variety of potential applications can be considered, such as oxidative coupling of methane to ethane/ethylene, partial oxidation of methane to syngas, oxidative dehydrogenation of ethane/propane to ethylene/propylene, etc.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering with knowledge of Membrane reactors, Chemical reaction kinetics, Oxidative hydrocarbon conversion processes, Programming in MATLAB or similar

Funding Notes

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


J. Sunarso et al., Journal of Membrane Science, 320, (2008) 13–41.
Y.S. Lin, et al., AIChE J., 40 (1994), 786–798.
Yang, W. et al., Topics in Catalysis, 35, (2005) 155–167.

Application Process:

Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr P Kechagiopoulos, ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]

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