3-year PhD studentship: “Techno-economic feasibility and life-cycle assessments of chemical recycling of plastic waste”

Updated: about 23 hours ago
Location: Nottingham, SCOTLAND
Deadline: 31 Aug 2022

Reference
ENG1564
Closing Date
Wednesday, 31st August 2022
Department
Engineering

3-year PhD studentship: “Techno-economic feasibility and life-cycle assessments of chemical recycling of plastic waste”

Applications are invited for a fully funded 3-year PhD project in the area of chemical recycling of plastic waste in the Low Carbon Energy and Resources Technologies (LCERT) research group at the University of Nottingham. Our research group is world renowned for its high impact research on biomass/waste thermochemical conversion, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and carbon dioxide utilisation. 

Background

Globally, only 14-18% of plastic is recycled, while the rest is incinerated or landfilled, and some ultimately leaks into the environment, including waterways and the ocean. Rising concerns over plastics’ contribution to environmental pollution and climate change are driving governments and business leaders to rethink the plastics value chain, including strengthening recycling. Chemical recycling is widely seen as a promising technology for converting plastic waste, destined for landfill, into a product with similar properties to crude oil. This plastic waste derived oil can be used to produce chemicals, fuels and new plastics reducing reliance on fossil fuel sources and contributing to the establishment of a Circular Economy. However, the economic potential and environmental impact of chemical recycling is not yet fully understood. This creates considerable uncertainty for public and private investment and hinders efforts to influence future policy for plastic waste derived products. 

Outline of PhD

This project aims to support the development of a robust and transparent decision-support framework for economic and environmental sustainability assessments of chemical recycling of plastic waste. This will be aimed at non-specialist users to make it more accessible to the general public, policy makers, businesses and investors facilitating technology development and commercialisation. The primary focus of this PhD will be to evaluate the techno-economic feasibility and environmental impacts of different process scenarios for chemical recycling of plastic waste. Several technologies will be evaluated, including pyrolysis and supercritical water liquefaction. Towards this aim, the project will include:

  • Evaluation of available chemical recycling technologies to target products (e.g. fuels, plastics) within the UK.
  • Development of new process and cost models to determine the most cost-effective options and set design targets to achieve economic feasibility.
  • Process optimisations focusing on heat integration, maximising profit and minimising greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Life-cycle analyses (LCA) of the developed scenarios to assess their environmental impacts.

Techno-economic assessment (TEA) and life-cycle analysis (LCA) are valuable tools for assessing the economic viability and environmental impacts of new technologies, respectively. These are widely used in industry (e.g. consultancy, energy companies) to optimise existing processes and explore new technology options.  PhD Engineering graduates with TEA and LCA experience are highly sought by both industry and academia; thus, they have a wider range of employment options upon graduation.

Eligibility

We are seeking for an exceptionally talented and motivated student to join our research team. The following eligibility criteria apply:

  • The applicant should be a UK or Irish national. EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme are also eligible.
  • A first-class or an upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, or a related discipline.
  • Experience with or willingness to learn process simulation and LCA software, such as Aspen Plus, Aspen HYSYS, MATLAB and GaBi.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, which will be essential for collaboration with other research group members, disseminating the results via journal publications and attendance at international conferences.

Funding 

Funding is available upon confirmation by the Faculty of Engineering at University of Nottingham. This will cover tuition fees along with a starting tax-free stipend of approximately £16,000 with an annual incremental increase. There will also be some support available for conference attendance. The anticipated start date is 1st October 2022.

Closing date: applications should be received as soon as possible and no later than 31 August 2022 for standard admissions. 

How to apply

Applications with a CV, cover letter and academic transcripts should be sent to Dr Ioanna Dimitriou (ioanna.dimitriou@nottingham.ac.uk). The cover letter should include the rational for applying for the position, a summary of previous research experience and an overview of their suitability for the position. Informal inquiries prior to application are also welcome. Suitable applicants will be interviewed, and if successful, invited to make a formal application.


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