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Value chain optimization for the industrial deployment of novel photochemical synthetic pathways (funded by BASF)

   Department of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Photochemistry is capable of disruptively changing value and supply chains by considering alternative, preferentially renewable and green feedstock. Taking these feedstocks rather than oil and natural gas will change the chemical industry as we know it and as it has developed since the onset of industrialization:

Commodity chemicals are produced on large scale in multiple steps often starting from steam cracking. In many cases supply chains are integrated on a single site (“Verbund”-site) for improved heat integration logistics, and safety in pipes. Therefore, changing the initial feedstock from natural gas to bio-based methanol for example will have major implications on the supply and value chains. While this change is widely accepted on our way to carbon neutrality, the technical and economical impact on the chemical industry needs to be considered to maintain commercial viability and competitiveness. Photochemistry is a prime example of technology that has the potential to utilize biogenic feedstock for chemical conversions.

In this project we plan to pave the way toward implementing photochemistry in the large scale chemical industry by investigating the technoeconomical aspects and the changes of value and supply chains. We will consider changing boundary conditions, including the shift to renewable feedstock and CO2-taxation. We will pick up examples investigated within BASF’s photochemistry cluster at Imperial, including the fabrication of di-acids with CO2 as a reagent to be used in the polyester and polyamide fabrication and the conversion of methanol to mono-ethyleneglycol (MEG). The project will be holistic along the R&D workflow and along the value and supply chains and aim at benchmarking and optimizing future processing options.

This project will require an interest in holistic challenges of chemical engineering. It will consider machine learning algorithms and theoretical assessments rather than experimental work.

Applications are invited for the above project, and the successful applicant will undertake the EPSRC CDT (rEaCt) programme, as part of Cohort 4 (Intake 2022).

Please note that the BASF studentship projects follow the same programme as the normal CDT studentships. The difference is that project funding comes from BASF and not EPSRC.

The project is one of a number of BASF funded projects in the area of photochemistry within the CDT, which, in turn, forms part of a wider suite of activities that BASF is supporting within the CDT, all of which follow the principles detailed below.

Objective:  BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, wishes to explore the application of flow chemistry in its R&D workflow for the synthesis of novel agrochemicals, and commodities. In this project, it will assemble a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to explore the value of synergies between a variety of cutting-edge technologies, to develop more effective and efficient chemical production processes.

Setup:  This project will bring together a group of highly motivated graduate students to work on two representative challenges from industrial process development, where photochemistry in combination with flow chemistry methodologies will be integrated holistically with in-line screening and analytics, and chemical process engineering complemented by machine learning and modelling. The members of this interdisciplinary project team will be exposed to a broad range of competencies and interact closely with each other in working on a disruptive change of the R&D workflow in a large chemical enterprise. 

Training:  Industrial R&D scientists based at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen, the largest chemical “Verbund” site in Europe, will be closely involved in the programme, combining a real-world industrial experience with cutting-edge academic research. Each of the students will be advised by an internationally renowned professor and a BASF scientist and will be part of a centre for doctoral training, bringing together fellow graduate students in closely related fields of research and building a deep understanding of the area of specialization. 

This project forms part of a wider suite of activities that BASF is supporting within the CDT. The successful candidate will be able to interact with, and leverage the benefits of, this wider activity. There will be opportunities for placement(s) (total of up to one year duration) within the BASF organisation during the studentship period.

Applicant Requirements

Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a first or upper-second class honours degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or a related field. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields is an essential requirement. Imperial College PhD entry requirements must be met.

Click here for more information on the application process for prospective students.

To apply, please email the  with the following documents in PDF format.

·      An up to date CV 

·      A copy of all transcripts

·      A cover letter (please indicate here if you have any additional information you'd like the panel to take into consideration)

·      Full contact details of two referees

·      List of up to three projects of interest from the projects currently available

For further information please contact the CDT Programme Manager, Jinata Subba ().

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