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UK/EU Studentship: Imaging Heterogeneous Catalysts Working Inside a Reactor

Project Description

Due to funding regulations, this studentship is only available to UK and EU nationals. Students must meet the eligibility criteria at:

3-year fully-funded PhD studentship with Professor Lynn Gladden, Dr. Andy Sederman and Dr Mick Mantle to start 1 October 2019. The industrial partner is Shell Global Solutions International B.V.

Understanding how catalysts work under realistic operating conditions has long been the goal of the catalyst chemist and reaction engineer. If this becomes possible, it is expected the insights obtained will enable heterogeneous catalytic conversions to be performed with much greater conversions and selectivity to the desired product than is currently possible.

Over the past 5 years the group has designed and commissioned fixed-bed reactors that operate at industrial conditions inside a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) system. During this period we have also developed a number of magnetic resonance imaging techniques and spatially-resolved chemical mapping and transport measurements to learn how catalysts behave when they are working inside a reactor. For example, we have developed magnetic resonance techniques which allow us to spatially resolve chemical composition, molecular diffusion and molecule-surface interactions inside the reactor. This information is beginning to provide new insights into what is happening inside the pore space of a catalyst during reaction. Hence, these measurements can tell us how to improve the catalyst and the reactor operating conditions. We are particularly interested in reactions in which both gas and liquids exist, and hence there is the additional interest in exploring liquid-vapour phase equilibria within the pores of the catalyst. Our ongoing experiments focus on Fischer-Tropsch catalysis. This project will continue working on Fischer-Tropsch but also apply these methods to new catalytic processes.

The aims of this project will be to:
(i) To use magnetic resonance imaging methods to understand how real catalysts operate under reaction conditions.
(ii) To develop spatially-resolved, multi-dimensional spectroscopy techniques for the purpose of characterising product distributions in the gas and vapour phase within the reactor.
(iii) To explore the use of novel data sampling techniques (such as compressed sensing) to improve the time resolution of the MRI data.
(iv) To explore how the operating conditions of the catalyst and reactor influence the catalyst performance.

Applicants for the studentship should have:

1.) A First Class (or a high 2:1) in all previous degrees (Bachelor’s and if applicable, Master’s or other postgraduate degrees) in a relevant discipline such as chemical engineering, engineering, chemistry or physics.
2.) If your degree(s) was taken outside the UK, please visit to determine if your marks will qualify before you apply.
3.) The successful candidate will be expected to formally apply for admission to the University of Cambridge. Please see the University’s admissions requirements at:

To apply for the studentship, please send the following to by noon on Friday 8 March 2019:

1.) Include the Vacancy Reference number NQ18166 in the subject line of your email.
2.) A copy of your CV
3.) Copies of your transcripts from all previous degrees (Bachelor’s and if applicable, Master’s or other postgraduate degrees) that show the marks/grades obtained in each course.

Funding Notes

Due to funding regulations, this studentship is only available to nationals of the United Kingdom and European Union.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Cambridge in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 177.20

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

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