Future sustainable propulsion and power technologies must reduce carbon emissions to limit global climate change and should also seek to improve urban air quality, where high levels of toxic pollutants including nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) are highly detrimental to the local environment and human health. The use of low or zero carbon fuels, for example biofuels and hydrogen (H2), or ammonia (NH3), produced with renewable electricity, to displace the use of fossil fuels for internal combustion engines is a potential solution for transport applications which are otherwise difficult to decarbonise. However, the combustion of even zero carbon fuels can still result in the formation and emission of pollutants harmful to public health, for example NOx with the use of H2 and NH3.
Catalytic after-treatment systems can be a highly effective means of removing pollutants from exhaust gases prior to emission and release into the atmosphere and have enabled vehicle manufacturers to comply with necessarily increasingly stringent emissions legislation. However, these systems have been developed and optimised for engines utilising traditional fossil fuels, and there is a need to understand how the switch to combustion of renewable fuels, with ensuing changes to exhaust gas composition, will impact the efficacy of catalytic after-treatment devices. This PhD project will therefore experimentally investigate the catalyst response to the combustion of a range of renewable fuels, including H2 and NH3, measuring pollutant conversion efficiencies at various relevant operating conditions, for example during warm-up and simulated hybrid powertrain operation.
UCL Mechanical Energy has a long history of undertaking cutting edge research in renewable fuels and pollutant emissions, with the recently refurbished laboratories of the vibrant Engines and Fuels research group featuring specialist research engines for the combustion of prototype sustainable fuels and comprehensive emissions analysis equipment. During the course of the PhD project, the successful candidate will undertake experimental investigations with a state of the art GDI research engine, and will gain experience and skills in designing instrumentation systems and experiments, analysing and interpreting combustion and catalysts performance data, and further chemical characterisation of gaseous and particulate pollutants and intermediate species . The successful candidate will benefit from the input of an industrial supervisor at Johnson Matthey, and regular opportunities to discuss results and project direction with expert technologists in catalytic after-treatment. Furthermore, during the course of the project there will be opportunities to participate in unique cross-disciplinary collaborations in the fields of renewable fuels and air quality, publish work in leading peer-reviewed journals and present findings at high-profile UK and international conferences.
Applicants should have a background in a relevant engineering or life sciences discipline (Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Biochemical Engineering), and should have a strong interest in devising engineering solutions to the mitigation of environmental impacts from the transport sector.
Applicants will normally be required to hold a first or upper-second class UK Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject, or a recognised taught Master’s degree. Overseas qualifications of an equivalent standard from a recognised higher education institution are also accepted.
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Eligible applicants should contact Dr. Paul Hellier (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an informal discussion before applying. Please attach your current CV and a transcript of your degree level exam results (listing all subjects taken and their corresponding grades/marks) and a cover letter stating how the project meets your research interests.