A Multifunctional Flow Platform For Enhanced Biobutanol Production

Engineering Graduate School Office

Name of School Contact:

Dr Richard Bourne

Contact details

R.A.Bourne@leeds.ac.uk; T: 0113 343 6547

Number Available


Project Description

This project aims to develop and understand a catalytic flow chemistry platform for performing the Guerbet reaction. This reaction is of considerable interest to upgrade bioethanol into butanol (BuOH). Whilst EtOH can be used as a fuel additive to gasoline for use in normal petrol cars it has many problems, including its water solubility, corrosivity and poor energy content. BuOH, is a superior fuel, it has a higher energy content, better miscibility with petrol, lower water absorption and is compatible with current pipeline infrastructure. Crucially, current engines need little or no modification to combust neat BuOH enabling rapid uptake of this biorenewable resource.

However, the Guerbet reaction suffers from several major drawbacks. Ethanol is particularly difficult to dehydrogenate. Recent current state-of-the-art publications show low yielding reactions with particularly poor turnover numbers. The aldol reaction on the other hand is extremely difficult to control typically resulting in mixtures of oligomeric and polymeric products. Our goal is to utilise both macro (gradient based packing of the two types of catalyst by adjusting molecular composition of supported catalyst, Catalyst Design to develop novel multifunctional catalysts to perform the solventless conversion of EtOH to n-BuOH in an economical continuous process.

Project start date

The successful candidate will be expected to start between 01/09/2016 and 01/04/2017

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Duration of funding

3.5 years

Residency Requirements due to Funding restrictions

Funding covers the cost of fees at £4,121 and provides a maintenance of £14,296 for the 2016/17 academic year. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. EU applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.

Minimum academic requirements


The minimum academic requirement is 2.1 MEng or BSc (honours) undergraduate degree


MSc with distinction in a relevant engineering or science degree, such as (but not limited to)

English language

If English is

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