EPSRC sponsored EngD project: Manufacture of porous catalysts

Johnson Matthey (Billingham)

Profs Simmons and Blackburn (Chem Eng)

Tax free bursary of £20,500 p.a plus fees paid

Johnson Matthey is a global speciality chemicals company and a leader in sustainable technologies. Catalysis underpins the majority of Johnson Matthey’s products. Heterogeneous catalysts are formulated products:  they are complex assemblies that have to combine the correct (active site) chemistry with a pore structure that facilitates transport to and from the active site while, at the same time, having the correct physical (mechanical) properties that allow the product to remain intact during application. During the development of many heterogeneous catalysts a compromise has to be reached between the porosity of the catalyst and its physical/mechanical properties.

This project is aimed at the structures and techniques that generate optimised catalysts: optimised in terms of the combination of textural and physical properties. To this end the project will focus on:

  • Techniques for preparing catalyst particles. In recent years there have been advances in preparation routes for porous particles, such as ceramic foams.  These will be developed for catalytic applications including preparation of the final physical form.
  • Techniques for characterising catalyst textural (pore structure and transport) and physical properties. A range of techniques will be employed to examine porosity and transport across length scales for example x-ray tomography (XRT) to reveal the spatial distribution of voids, gas adsorption and mercury porosimetry to analyse pore structures and, for example, PFG NMR to measure diffusion. There is further scope to improve physical characterisation, for example by combining crush force measurements with strain (LVDT) and/or high speed photography.
  • Modelling optimised pore structures for diffusion limited reactions.  Location of the active species and access to these catalytic sites are critical to good performance.

Consequently the project requires the preparation and characterisation of catalytic materials and the comparison against, modelled, optimum structures. Collaborations with expert characterisation and diffusion modelling teams within JM and through, established, academic interactions will be a key feature of the project.

To be eligible for EPSRC funding candidates must have at least a 2(1) in an Engineering or Scientific discipline or a 2(2) plus MSc. Please email your c.v. to r.w.greenwood@bham.ac.uk. For more details on the Engineering Doctorate scheme please visit http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/chemical-engineering/postgraduate/eng-d/index.aspx

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