MRRC PhD Towards Sustainable Catalysis and Sustainable Aviation Fuels at University of Cambridge

Two fully funded 3.5 year Ph.D studentships are available to UK nationals and outstanding international students, with Professors Lynn Gladden, Mick Mantle and Andy Sederman, to start 1 October 2024.

The projects will be based around the development of advanced magnetic resonance techniques to optimise heterogenous catalysts and the operation of the reactor in which the catalysis occurs. Two projects are being funded, one focussing more on the development of magnetic resonance methods to study the fundamentals of molecular transport and reaction processes in catalysts, while the other project focusses more on understanding the Fischer-Tropsch catalytic process and associated reactions for the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels and other sustainable chemicals which will play an important role in delivering the energy transition to net zero. 

Over the past 5 years the group has designed and commissioned fixed-bed reactors that operate at industrial conditions inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. During this period, we have developed a number of advanced magnetic resonance imaging protocols that yield spatially-resolved chemical mapping and transport measurements to learn how catalysts behave when they are working inside a reactor at realistic industrial operating conditions. The two projects are inter-related but one is designed more on development of new magnetic resonance methods, while the other focusses on applying new and existing magnetic resonance methods to immediate research challenges in heterogeneous catalysis. In particular, the two projects will include:

New magnetic resonance methods to study the fundamentals of catalysis Central to the design of producing new catalytic processes is to understand how reactants are converted to products with the pore space of catalyst pellets. To do this we need to develop magnetic resonance imaging methods that spatially resolve chemical species present with the catalyst pellet while the conversion is occurring. This, in turn, will be controlled by the way the reactant and product molecules move (diffuse) with the pellet and the influence of non-isothermal behaviour occurring during the reaction processes. The project aims will be to develop advanced magnetic resonance imaging tools that: (i) map chemical composition and molecular transport at 100 micron resolution in all 3 spatial dimensions? (ii) spatially map variations in temperature within a catalyst pellet as reaction proceeds Operando studies of Fischer-Tropsch catalysis The group has developed a number of magnetic resonance methods to study the evolution of product distribution within a working reactor environment. We now want to extend these studies to explore how catalyst behaviour changes as the structure and chemistry of the catalyst is changed. The aim is to explore how the formulation and physical structure of the catalyst, alongside the reactor operating conditions can control the products of the reaction. By imaging what is actually happening inside the catalyst and reactor we aim to develop a more science-based approach to the design of catalyst pellets and reactor operation. 

Applicants for the studentships should have a First Class (or a high 2:1) or equivalent degree in a relevant discipline such as chemical engineering, engineering, chemistry or physics. To be considered for this studentship, applicants must submit a formal application for admission along with all required supporting documents (please seeĀ https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/egcepdcng?gl=1*iv0l7c*gaMTI0NTUyNzYwNS4xNjY3Mzg1MzA0gaP8Q1QT5W4K*MTY2NzM4NTMwNC4xLjEuMTY2NzM4NTU0NS4wLjAuMA). Applicants must note Prof Lynn Gladden as the prospective supervisor and that you wish to be considered for studentship NQ41174 in the application. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3.5 years in the first instance.

Please quote reference NQ41174 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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