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Mathematical simulation and optimisation of anaerobic digestion processes for the production of methane, hydrogen and chemicals - LEVERHULME

Project Description

Anaerobic digestion has a large potential for the production of renewable energy and renewable chemicals, however this potential is currently largely unexploited. Currently, anaerobic digestion is mainly used to produce methane, a renewable energy source, however there is growing interest in the use of anaerobic digestion to produce hydrogen and organic acids, which have a wider range of uses and higher commercial value than methane.

Whilst mathematical modelling of anaerobic digestion has been in use for several decades, little use of mathematical models has been done so far for process design and optimisation. This PhD project aims to fill this gap.

This project is aimed at mathematical simulation of anaerobic digestion processes in a range of different conditions: feed composition (readily biodegradable and more complex substrates) and concentration, residence time (hydraulic and solids residence time), operating mode (CSTR without recycle, with recycle, Sequencing Batch Reactor).

The main outcome of the project is the optimisation of operating conditions for anaerobic digesters, in order to give guidance to companies and operators on the best conditions to maximise the yield of the desired products in an economic way.
The project will make use of established kinetic models of anaerobic digestion, to be integrated within process mass balances. The resulting equations will be solved with appropriate software, e.g. Microsoft Excel and Matlab.

The project can be run, depending on the student preferences, as campus-based (University of Aberdeen) or as a distance learning project. In all cases frequent meetings with the supervisor will be organised (face to face or online). The project is available as full time or part time, according to the student preferences.

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 or related discipline with knowledge of chemical engineering and reaction engineering along with Microsoft Office Package (especially Excel)


Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 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.


Dionisi, D. Biological wastewater treatment processes. Mass and Heat balances. CRC press, 2017

Dionisi, D, Bolaji, I, Nabbanda, D & Silva, IMO 2018, 'Calculation of the potential production of methane and chemicals using anaerobic digestion', Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, vol. 12, no. 5, pp. 788-801

Bolaji, I & Dionisi, D 2017, 'Acidogenic fermentation of vegetable and salad waste for chemicals production: Effect of pH buffer and retention time', Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 5933-5943.

Dionisi, D & Silva, IMO 2016, 'Production of ethanol, organic acids and hydrogen: an opportunity for mixed culture biotechnology?', Reviews in Environmental Science and Biotechnology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 213-242.

Related Subjects

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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