Bp recently announced ambitious plans to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner, and help the world get to net zero. A key part of this is developing newer, more sustainable sources of energy, including producing quality fuels from waste streams and biofuels. Catalysis is a key technology for reaching this goal. This PhD will contribute to developing a fundamental understanding of critical catalytic mechanisms and processes to support the design of new catalysts, and the repurposing of current catalysts in new low carbon processes. Specifically, the project will employ state of the art in-situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) characterisation to visualise structural and chemical changes in metal nanocatalysts, and correlate this to bulk characterisation data and differences in catalytic performance.
Initially the project will focus on catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis [1,2], which can generate fuels from municipal waste with 80% lower environmental impact compared to traditional approaches. Sustainable feedstocks generally have lower purity, so it is important to understand how robust the metal nanoparticle catalysts are to differing environmental conditions. TEM is one of the few tools able to directly study nanoparticle catalysts structure and chemistry with atomic resolution and single atom sensitivity. This project will apply advanced TEM imaging and analysis capabilities to help tailor the chemistry of Fischer-Tropsch catalysis making them more robust, sustainable and efficient. You will learn to use Manchester’s world leading TEM capabilities to image the structure and elemental distribution of nanoparticle catalysts during exposure to reactive gas environments and across a range of elevated temperatures. You will study the effect of humidity and gas atmosphere on catalyst size and selectivity to determine the potential of different sustainable source feeds. You will acquire a broad range of characterisation and analytical experimental skills.
This project is supported by bp and hopes to support them to generate cleaner fuels to lower global emissions. You will receive quarterly mentoring from bp and be able to spend time in an industrial research environment if this is of interest. Nonetheless, the project aims are fundamental, so we expect to publish high impact outputs in world leading journals after industrial review. There will be opportunities to undertake experiments at national and international facilities, and to present your work at international conferences.
Applicants should have a minimum of a 2.1 degree in Chemistry, Physics, Engineering or related discipline.