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The chemical industry urgently needs to cut its CO2 emissions. Electrification will reduce emissions from processes by powering them with renewable electricity in place of fossil fuels. Circular processes will reuse valuable resources (e.g. plastics), and in doing so will cut end-of-life emissions and reduce resource depletion rates. We research novel plasma technologies to facilitate both electrification and circular processes for the chemical industry. In future, industry expects to have an environmentally sustainable source of methane, which can be most effectively valorised via upgrading to ethylene; a crucial feedstock in the production of plastics. However, methane-to-ethylene conversion is notoriously difficult, as it a strongly endothermic reaction with highly complex chemistry. Thermal plasma technology is a promising approach for methane to ethylene conversion as it allows the possibility for high efficiency, excellent reactant conversion, and refined product selectivity.
In this project, we use microwave generated plasma to induce ultra-fast heating and quenching of methane and its reaction products, at rates around 106 – 108 °C/s. With such ultra-fast heating and quenching, we can induce thermal decomposition of methane and freeze the reaction products before further chemistry has time to occur. There is a short window of opportunity where highly selective conversion of methane to ethylene should be possible. In this project we will evaluate this window of opportunity – this requires temporally and spatially resolved in-situ measurements, a task which is ideally suited to laser diagnostics. We will assess the chemistry occurring within the plasma, from which we will determine – is it possible to selectively produce ethylene by ultra-fast thermal plasma processing of methane?
The successful candidate is expected to perform laboratory experiments to evaluate processes occurring in methane plasma discharges. Experiments will be performed in our new laboratory, located at Chemelot, 20 km North of Maastricht. You will work independently to collect, analyse, and evaluate experimental data. You will join a small team working on similar (i.e. plasma and spectroscopy) experiments. We expect that you will regularly discuss, share, and present your work with fellow team members, colleagues, and wider audiences at international conferences. We expect you will write a number of high-quality scientific articles, ultimately culminating in your PhD thesis.
Fixed-term contract: 1 (+3 years).
Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 20,000 students and 4,700 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
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Faculty of Science and Engineering
The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is home to several outstanding departments and institutions covering education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the liberal arts and sciences.
We are part of the newly created Circular Engineering Department in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Maastricht University. Our research group is uniquely situated in the heart of the Dutch chemical industry at the Brightlands Chemelot campus, 20 km north of Maastricht. Our strong links with industry give excellent opportunity to build collaborations and partnerships, giving good prospects for a future career in industry. Our group has a strong expertise in plasma science, with each of our respective members having an established international reputation for high quality scientific output in the fields of plasma chemistry, plasma modelling, spectroscopy, and laser diagnostics. We have excellent international connections with esteemed laboratories, and we therefore expect the applicant will have the opportunity to work abroad during their PhD.
Maastricht University (UM)
Urmonderbaan 22, 6167 RD, Geleen
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