PhD Studentship: Design Of Robust And Sustainable Biomass Value Chains That Are Synergistic With The Food-Energy-Water-Environment Nexus

University of Bath - Department of Chemical Engineering

Supervisor: Dr Sheila Samsatli

Biomass has the potential to provide access to a sustainable supply of resources such as energy, chemicals and materials. Since the production of biomass, i.e. plant matter such as forestry, agricultural crops and residues, requires a large amount of land and water, competes with food production and can affect the ecosystem (e.g. deforestation, leaching of fertilisers and pesticides into water bodies), there is a delicate balance between all of these elements.  Together, these are known as the environment-food-energy-water nexus and all of the benefits associated with the use of biomass to meet our requirements for energy and other products must be considered along with the potential damage to the nexus as a whole. Therefore, it is important not only to understand how best to exploit the great potential of biomass but also to understand the detailed interactions among all of the elements in the nexus.

In this project, you will explore the many different possibilities for producing energy and high-value products from biomass that also maintain the balance in the nexus.  To understand the potential for growing biomass, you will use detailed maps of existing land use and soil quality, water availability, quality and tolerance to contamination, and climate projections in terms of temperature and rainfall.  You will research different processing facilities that convert the biomass to energy or other chemicals and you will build a comprehensive database of such technologies, including a site suitability analysis.  Thus, you can build a detailed and rich representation of the influence, on the whole of the nexus, of the types of biomass grown, where they are grown, the types of technologies used (and therefore the products that will be made from biomass) and where they are located.  An optimisation model will then be developed to determine the combinations of crops grown and technologies used to convert biomass to energy and high-value products (thus forming a biomass value chain) that provide the greatest benefit with the lowest impact on the nexus. Using the model, you will identify the efficient and robust value chains that are synergistic with the nexus and have the potential for deployment over a wide range of scenarios with different combinations of key socio-economic and environmental performance indicators and constraints.

Home/EU award will provide full tuition fees, an annual Training Support Fee of £1,000, and a tax-free maintenance payment of £14,553 (2017-8 rate) for up to 3.5 years.

An Overseas award (3 years): Provides tuition fee, an annual Training Support Fee of £1,000, but no stipend.

The successful applicant will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with an undergraduate Masters first class degree and/or MSc distinction (or overseas equivalent).

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South West England