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PhD Studentship in Rapid Ionic-liquid Screening for Enhanced Recycling Screening (RISERS)

Project Description

We are inviting applications of motivated candidates for a PhD studentship in the exciting global challenge of ‘Advanced plastic recycling’. The studentship includes fees and a bursary for suitable UK national/residents for the duration of 3 years. The studentship is available for a start from 1 October 2019.
Persistent pollution of the environment with plastic is a major challenge. At the same time, plastic is also a valuable resource, and the best outcome after the initial use is recycling into a new product, rather than being landfilled, incinerated or it persisting in the environment. One reason for the low effectiveness of plastic recycling and limited value of post-consumer plastic is the limited effectiveness of mechanical recycling (sorting followed by remoulding), due to general degradation of the polymer structure and strength and contamination with components such as metals, dyes, and labels. This can be avoided by applying a new route called ‘chemical recycling’, where the polymer is deconstructed into its building blocks, which can then be recovered in purified form and used to produce virgin grade material. This is suitable fo polyesters such as PET and PLA.

Ionic liquids are a new class of solvents that have interesting and unique properties such as non-volatility, in-built catalytic functionality and a broad range of solvation characteristics that can be tuned to suit an application. The potential combinations of cations and anions making up ionic liquids (salts that are liquid at room temperature) are endless. This means that for any given problem there are a vast number of parameters that can be varied when utilizing these liquids as solvents. Here, we propose to use Imperials unique ROAR facility ( to allow automated screening of the potential of hundreds of ionic liquids and ionic liquid blends to the recycling of waste plastics. We want to determine which ILs can be used to dissolve and/or depolymerise waste plastics, and how to subsequently recover the monomer building blocks.

You will join two dynamic interdisciplinary research teams focusing on sustainable materials analysis and process development; applicants should have excellent understanding of physical science and / or chemical engineering, with a deep interest in sustainable chemistry, solvent selection, polymer characterisation and process development, combined with outstanding teamwork and communication skills and a passion to make a true positive difference to the global environment. Some experience with examining reaction mechanisms and molecular structure is preferable. Candidates should have (or be expecting to have) a Master’s degree (1st class or upper second class) in chemistry, chemical engineering or a relevant discipline.

This PhD studentship will be funded through the EPSRC funded CDT supported by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council ( ). It is open to UK home students or non-UK students who have settled status in UK or were ordinarily residing in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus the standard London-weighted maintenance stipend of £16,777 per year. In order to apply, please follow the instruction on the website.

For questions about the project, contact Agi Brandt-Talbot at .

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover tuition fees plus the standard London-weighted maintenance stipend of £16,777 per year.

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