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Renewable energy from waste: Plasma-assisted pre-treatment of municipal solid waste for enhanced biogas generation

   School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

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  Dr Tanja Radu, Dr H Bandulasena  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Depletion of fossil resources, and the adverse environmental impacts associated with them, are significant drivers for reducing our reliance on oil-based fuels and developing bio-derived fuels.

The organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) is a rich resource, which can be converted to much-needed energy and chemicals. Biogas generation via anaerobic digestion of MSW will play a key role in aligning the energy sector to a net-zero strategy by 2050.

Even though large amounts of waste are generated globally, only a small fraction of this waste’s energy is recovered. This energy recovery can be significantly enhanced by developing economically viable pre-treatment technologies. The supervisory team has developed a novel microbubble-plasma reactor for pre-treatment of such waste materials and demonstrated that approximately 20-fold improvement in energy consumption is possible over widely used steam explosion pre-treatment. This pre-treatment method will help unlock the biogas generation potential of MSW and other difficult to biodegrade, lignin-rich waste material.

Therefore, the main aim of this PhD project is to study the effect of highly reactive species produced by plasma on a wide variety of waste substrates containing different levels of lignin and strategise ways to improve biogas yields in anaerobic digestion. This project will be mainly experimental (industry involved), but there is scope for numerical simulations.

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant discipline. A relevant master’s degree and/or employment experience would be an advantage.


All applications should be made online and must include a research proposal. Under programme name, please select 'Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering'. Please quote reference number: ABCE22/TR.

Funding Notes

The three-year studentship provides a tax-free stipend of £15,609 a year (2021/22 rates – stipend will rise in line with the level set by the Research Council) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK rate. International students may apply for these positions; funding will cover tuition fees at the international rate in full, but the student will be responsible for their own living costs (estimated at £15,000 per year).
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