Imaging Heterogeneous Catalysts Working Inside a Reactor

open until filled
Natural Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Physics
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Due to funding regulations, this studentship is only available to UK and EU nationals. Students must meet the eligibility criteria at: Overseas nationals are not eligible and should not apply.

(3-year fully-funded PhD studentship with Professor Lynn Gladden, Dr. Andy Sederman and Dr Mick Mantle to start 1 October 2020.)

Industrial heterogeneous catalytic processes generate ~£50 billion a year for the UK economy, as well as intellectual property for big and small UK companies and universities. However, the physicochemical processes that occur inside heterogeneous catalytic reactors and within the catalyst particle themselves are poorly understood and may well be operating at sub-optimal conditions. Hence an understanding of how catalysts work under realistic operating conditions has long been the goal of the catalyst chemist and reaction engineer. The insights obtained will enable heterogeneous catalytic processes to be optimised resulting in more efficient reactor design & operation, resulting in more a more sustainable process which yields greater product conversions and selectivity, with less waste and by-products than is currently.

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 pioneered the development of 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 the vapour-liquid equilibria at relevant operating conditions of temperature and pressure and in the presence of chemical reaction.

Applicants for the studentship should have a First Class (or a high 2:1) degree in a relevant discipline such as chemical engineering, engineering, chemistry or physics.

2:1) degree in a relevant discipline such as chemical engineering, engineering, chemistry or physics. The industrial partner is Shell Global Solutions International B.V.

Standard admissions criteria apply; please see:

To apply for the studentship:

Please ensure that you are eligible by visiting:

Submit a formal application for admission to study Chemical Engineering via the University's Graduate Admissions Office, noting Prof Lynn Gladden and Dr Mick Mantle as the prospective supervisors and quoting reference NQ22862 in the research proposal.

Please quote reference NQ22862 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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