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Understanding Catalyst Evolution through In Situ XPS

Project Description

The Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process is a catalytic reaction which takes syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) and converts it into long-chain hydrocarbons which can be used as fuel or precursors for the chemical industry. It’s a highly attractive process for the oil and petrochemical industry because it produces a product which can be processed with pre-existing refining infrastructure but the syngas feedstock can be obtained from a variety of sources including environmentally sustainable ones such as biomass and municipal solid waste.
Fundamental understanding of the surface chemistry of the catalyst is essential for further development. For this, in-situ measurements of the catalyst whilst it is in operation are crucial. X-Ray Photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) is one of the most powerful probes of surface chemistry available, but has historically can only be used to look at catalysts after reaction (as it needs to be performed in high vacuum). Recent developments now allow XPS measurements to be taken in the presence of gases (known as Near-Ambient Pressure XPS), so heterogeneous catalysts can be studied during operation [1].
This is an industrially-sponsored PhD, working together with BP who have a long-standing interest in FT catalysis [2].
In this PhD you will make use of the University of Manchester’s cutting-edge NAP-XPS instrument to study BP’s FT catalysts in-situ at all stages of their lifecycle and gain new and unprecedented insight into how catalyst composition effects activity, selectivity and stability. This information will then inform the design of better, more selective and stable catalysts.
In addition you will explore other complementary spectroscopic characterisation of these materials, for example by in-situ infrared spectroscopy.

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Physics or a related discipline. A Masters degree is desirable. Prior experience of XPS is desirable, but not essential.

Contact for further Information:
Alex Walton

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year funded PhD studentship which will cover fees and stipend (£14,777 in 2018-19).

Eligibility is restricted to UK/EU applicants with 3 years residency in the UK.

The expected start date will be September 2019.


1. ChemCatChem 2018, 10, (19), 4238


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