Nitrous Oxide Management in a Novel Biological Process

Updated: 2 months ago
Location: Cranfield, ENGLAND

The PhD will join a WIRe CDT cohort aligned to the innovative Triple Carbon Reduction project funded through OFWAT, the water services regulation authority, and led by Anglian Water . Novel biological process technologies are being used to deliver a step change reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use in wastewater treatment, and provide a new renewable energy source through green hydrogen production. The research focusses on nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas 310 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, from novel wastewater treatment processes that protect the water environment. 

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The research will centre on reducing the production of nitrous oxide, the greenhouse gas 310 times more damaging than carbon dioxide on a weight for weight basis, during water  and wastewater processing. Suitable candidates for the PhD may have a background in biological sciences (including biochemistry and microbiology) chemistry, environmental sciences or chemical engineering. 

The aim of the research is to investigate the mechanisms of nitrous oxide formation in a novel membrane oxygenated biological process for wastewater treatment from a demonstration plant sited in Cambridge. The biological process receives oxygen from an electrolyser that is producing hydrogen from wastewater effluent: this is summarised in this 


. Microbially mediated pathways are critical in the production and attenuation of nitrous oxide depending on the environmental conditions in a system. Mass and energy balances will be conducted on the demonstration plant to establish nitrous oxide emissions and the effect of mitigation measures. 

Cranfield University is an exclusively postgraduate university focussed on technology and management. The Water Theme  is the largest dedicated academic centre focussed on water and wastewater science, engineering and management in the UK. Researchers come from backgrounds in biological chemical and physical sciences, environmental science and management, engineering disciplines as well as management and social sciences. The PhD will have access to the comprehensive laboratory resources and technician support in the Environmental Analytical Facility .

Results of the research will enable lower greenhouse gas emissions through production of hydrogen combined with efficient wastewater treatment to protect the environment and deliver net zero carbon emissions for society.

The project offers the unique opportunity to work on a cutting-edge wastewater treatment technology, a pure oxygen version of the Membrane Aerated Bioreactor (MABR), as part of a £3.5 million OFWAT (the water services regulator) Innovation Fund project. As well as staff and colleagues at Cranfield, you will be interacting with the wider project team led by Anglian Water with partnersOxymem, Element Energy Ltd, Jacobs, University of East Anglia, Brunel University, Severn Trent, Scottish Water, Northern Ireland Water and United Utilities. You will be expected to deliver at least one presentation at a major international conference such as the International Water Association (IWA) Biennial Congress. As a student within the WIRe CDT  you will also be an essential member of the 2022 cohort that includes students from Newcastle and Sheffield Universities.

At the end of the PhD, the successful candidate will have developed skills for roles in academia, government and industry. As well as being able to deliver research, you will have gained transferable skills in communication, data analytics, digital, project management and writing that will be invaluable for management and leadership careers in business, government and universities.

At a glance
  • Application deadline20 Sep 2022
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date17 Oct 2022
  • Duration of award4 years
  • EligibilityUK, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSWEE0194

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. This project would suit graduates in biological sciences (including biochemistry and microbiology), chemistry, environmental sciences and chemical engineering. 


Sponsored by Cranfield University through the EPSRC Water Infrastructure and Resilience Centre (WIRe) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £20,000 (tax free) plus fees for 4 years.

This studentship is open to both UK and international applications. However, we are only permitted to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants from outside the UK. Funded studentships will only be awarded to exceptional candidates due to the competitive nature of the funding.

Our Values
Our shared, stated values help to define who we are and underpin everything we do: Ambition; Impact; Respect; and Community. Find out more here. We aim to create and maintain a culture in which everyone can work and study together and realise their full potential. 

Diversity and Inclusion
As an inclusive and diverse doctoral centre, we welcome applications from all highly motivated individuals, regardless of background, identity or disability.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network.  This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:
Name:  Prof Tom Stephenson
Email: t.stephenson

If you are eligible to apply for the PhD, please complete the online PhD application form   stating the reference No. SWEE0194

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