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Strategies for the production of furans from biobased substrates

Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science

Manchester United Kingdom Chemical Engineering Computational Chemistry Data Analysis Energy Technologies Environmental Engineering Materials Science Physical Chemistry

About the Project

The biorefinery concept has been gaining momentum in the last years as many countries have adopted policies and national strategies to steer towards a biobased economy. Biorefineries represent a novel alternative approach to obtain products that traditionally originate from fossil-based resources. They involve the use of biobased feedstock from whose conversion chemicals, (bio)fuels and other valuable materials can be generated.

Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant resource, from which chemical transformations can take place leading to different furans. These are highly appraised chemicals for the production of biofuels, solvents or polymers among others. The overall chemical reaction to obtain furans pose challenges as undesired reactions of polymerization and rehydration of these products may occur. This can be partly overcome following a biphasic strategy whereby the products are simultaneously separated by extraction from the reaction medium by means of a second liquid phase (

The aim of this PhD project is to optimize the operation conditions leading to an increase of the selectivity to the desired products and an overall higher efficiency of the process. This will involve not only evaluating reaction parameters, different substrates and the application of appropriate catalysts, but also a proper solvent selection for both the reaction and extraction.

This thesis falls within the fields of Chemical Reaction Engineering, Green Chemistry and Process Intensification. The successful candidate will perform and receive training in separations, phase equilibria and solubility studies, chemical reaction kinetics (including modelling), analytical techniques (HPLC, GC, FTIR, etc.) and catalyst preparation. In addition, the candidate will also have the opportunity to continue his/her career development by acquiring further soft skills, including problem solving and ability to communicate results (presentation and technical writing).

The Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (CEAS) is a world leader in industrially relevant research and teaching in Chemical Engineering and related subjects. We undertake leading-edge, multidisciplinary and creative research on a wide range of topics and we provide a world of possibilities for students pursuing skills and understanding.

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry or other related field. They should have a genuine interest in the field of Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, excellent communication skills and good computational skills,

For further information and to make an expression of interest, please contact Dr. Jesús Esteban Serrano: . If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact our admissions team at .

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year PhD expected to start in September 2021. Funding is offered by the Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (CEAS) in support of the PhD to cover both Home tuition fees and provide a tax-free stipend to cover living costs (£15,609 in 2021/22).


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