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Low temperature steam reforming of methane for hydrogen production - LEVERHULME

Project Description

Hydrogen, a primary raw material of the chemical industry, presents significant potential as an energy carrier that can drive the implementation of highly efficient energy systems at a reduced environmental impact. Industrial hydrogen production though, typically taking place via natural gas steam reforming, is accompanied by significant carbon oxides emissions, mainly from the burner used to supply heat to the endothermic reaction. The need for intensification of the process has spurred the interest to search for alternative concepts. Methane steam reforming (MSR) at a low temperature range of 400-550◦C in combination with hydrogen selective membranes is one such promising approach. The milder operating conditions lead to lower operation and materials costs, while the favourable temperature eliminates the need for separate water gas shift reactors. Thermodynamic limitations, resulting in low methane conversions and hydrogen yields, can be surpassed by the use of selective membranes that remove hydrogen in situ. As a result, hydrogen is separated with high purity and at the same time the reforming reaction equilibrium is shifted to the product side.

The development of microkinetic models can greatly facilitate and accelerate catalyst design efforts via reaction mechanism elucidation and catalyst performance assessment. The current project will further build upon a previously developed, thermodynamically consistent, microkinetic model for this reaction [1]. The model considers a comprehensive set of surface pathways and has already been successfully applied to elucidate reactants activation and conversion surface pathways over Ni and Rh catalysts.

Further extensions planned to be addressed within the framework of the current project relate to explicitly accounting for support effects on steam activation, accounting for kinetic isotope effects observed during temperature programmed experiments where deuterated methane (CD4) was fed instead of CH4, and validating the model over simulated biogas steam reforming experiments. Ultimately, application of the model for the optimal design of a low temperature membrane steam reformer under realistic conditions is targeted.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering with knowledge of chemical reactor modelling, Chemical reaction kinetics and Programming in FORTRAN or similar.


Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering
• State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Leverhulme’ as the Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Funding Notes

Tuition Fee waiver only, provided at UK/EU rates. Successful applicant will need to provide funds for living expenses.

International students are welcome to apply, providing they can meet the difference between UK/EU and International tuition fees.


[1] P.N. Kechagiopoulos, S.D. Angeli, A.A. Lemonidou, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental 205 (2017) 238–253.

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