PhD projects in Astrochemistry and Catalysis at Heriot-Watt University

Two PhD positions are available at Heriot-Watt University:

1. Atmospheric Remediation Catalysis in Healthcare Applications (ARCHA)

This PhD opportunity will be in the Catalysis Research Group in the Institute of Chemical Sciences of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. This project aims to develop an ambient catalytic system that can split nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted within a clinical setting into environmentally inert products. This innovative system will also be designed to integrate with commitments to neutralise halothane and its replacements. Three types of catalytic systems will be investigated: thermal, photo- and microwave-assisted systems. These three systems will be compared in terms of catalytic activities, efficiencies, and lifetimes in bench-scale experiments with varying operational conditions (flow rate, temperature, humidity level, N2O concentration, and energy consumption. An on-the-bench apparatus will be developed to demonstrate the efficacy of the system. An initial cost analysis (bill of materials, cost of goods) for each catalyst in preparation will also be carried out for the development of a fully integrated prototype demonstrator to be carried out in a future project. The project will also explore the catalytic remediation of halothane derivatives, which are also widely used globally for general anaesthesia and are also potent greenhouse gases. 

2. Catalysis in the Laboratory Astrochemistry of Nanocarbon Formation in Space (CAstroCat)

This PhD opportunity will be in the Laboratory Astrochemistry Research Group in the Institute of Chemical Sciences of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. This project, aligned with the recently funded EPSRC project Astrocatalysis: In Operando Studies of Catalysis and Photocatalysis of Space-abundant Transition Metals (EP/W023024/1), will provide students with the opportunity to explore the cutting edge of laboratory astrochemistry and modern catalytic science. In this project, we will explore the role of single atoms of iron and small iron clusters (Fex; x = 2 – 3) generated by de-carbonylation of the corresponding carbonyl clusters using heat, light and electrons in promoting aromatisation of carbonaceous species under conditions that parallel those in interstellar environments moving towards star and planet formation. In collaboration with Professor Albert Rimola from the Universitat AutĆ²noma de Barcelona, a project partner in the AstroCat Project, and through short exchange visits, we will explore computationally aspects of this chemistry. The project also aligns with goals of the COST Action 21126 – Carbon molecular nanostructures in space (NanoSpace). 

Anyone interested should contact Prof. Martin R. S. McCoustra in the first instance at

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