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PhD Studentship in Material Substitution, Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy

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  • Full or part time
    Prof I M Reaney
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted

Project Description

Advancement in technology and product innovation for smarter and smaller products have led to increased supply chain complexity in ensuring security of materials supply especially, precious, critical and rare earth materials embedded. With volatility of materials price and control of their availability, these have driven many industries to explore and mine virgin materials from source. This practice is unsustainable given the impact of this process on the environment and climate change. Responding to this challenge, circular economy has been actively promoted as a new paradigm to address resources scarcity by reuse, recycling and recovery in which second live of materials (or repurposing) are provided to feed into the economy. On the other hand, critical research has also focussed on materials substitution to reduce reliance on these materials. However, ensuring the shift from a linear economy to a resource efficient, substitution mindset and circular economy paradigm has not been well understood theoretically.

The circular economy approach is seen as a potential solution to the planet’s emerging resource crunch. Reserves of critical materials such as rare earth elements and other important minerals are diminishing, with a corresponding rise in the costs of exploration and material extraction. The current linear economy, which adopts ’take-make-dispose’ approach results in massive waste. This level of waste together with potential supply risks are contributing to volatile commodity prices. In this research project, we will focus on the top-ten materials identified in Cucchiella, A’Adamo, Koh and Rosa (2015), namely gold, copper, palladium, plastics, silver, aluminium, tin, barium, platinum and cobalt. Some of these issues could be stabilised through the decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption.

To this end, this PhD research project will focus on developing new methods for quantifying the material flows and environmental trade-offs associated with these materials substitution and recycling within the resource efficient and circular economy framework. This will entail prediction of the environmental impact of recycling/substitution versus mining for the production of critical materials. It is intended that the current research work will contribute towards solidifying the economic and technical foundations for material substitution and recycling options in addressing materials supply chain sustainability.

Students with a First or Second High Upper Class Degree in Material Science and Engineering/ Chemistry / Chemical Engineering, Environmental Science, Engineering Economic, or a closely related subject are invited to apply. Candidates should have a strong quantitative background including in life cycle assessment, input-output analysis and a deep understanding of recyclability of materials vis-a-vis circular economy. Experience with LCA modelling tools is preferred. Knowledge of separation techniques, process modelling and material substitution is desirable. Demonstrated ability of independent academic research and contribution to scientific publications will constitute an added advantage.

Funding Notes

Under this funding scheme, UK citizens are eligible, as are EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for the 3 years preceding the date of application. The studentship will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend in line with the EPSRC minimum which this year is £14,057p.a.

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?
Materials Science and Engineering

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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