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PhD Studentship: Prospective Life Cycle Assessment for Sustainable Chemical Innovation: Developing Digital Techniques for Early-Stage Decision Support

University of Sheffield - Chemical and Biological Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,622
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th December 2023
Closes: 24th January 2024

Supervisor:

Prof Rachael Rothman, Dr Fanran Meng, University of Sheffield

Dr Florence Bohnes, Dr Katy Armstrong, Unilever

Are you passionate about shaping a sustainable future and making a real difference in the chemical industry? An exciting PhD opportunity awaits you at the intersection of cutting-edge technology and environmental sustainability assessment.

Accurately predicting the potential environmental impacts of low technology readiness level (TRL) chemical production routes once they are fully deployed is a significant challenge for the chemical industry. The goal of this PhD is to explore how prospective / ex-ante LCA, covering multiple impacts, can be applied in the context of early-stage innovation of sustainable chemicals. This is required to inform innovation decisions contributing to net zero and other environmental sustainability ambitions.

This PhD will focus on developing and applying innovative digital tools and techniques to achieve this goal, despite the limited primary data availability and the lack of maturity of sustainable chemical production routes. The LCA tools developed will include aspects of machine learning and data mining to enable gap-filling algorithms and probabilistic modelling of future scenarios. The focus will be on providing a time-efficient, reliable sustainability assessment of chemical ingredient production for fast-moving consumer goods, with a special emphasis on complex chemicals that could be sourced from biomass and/or captured CO2.

During the PhD, you will work closely with a team of LCA experts at Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre and the University of Sheffield. Together, you will develop a robust assessment framework that can guide vital business decision-making. Your work could have a considerable impact, contributing directly to the mission of achieving net zero and fulfilling ambitious environmental sustainability goals.

Required Qualifications:

  • A good honours degree (2:1 or above) (or equivalent) in a relevant field, for example, but not limited to, Chemical Engineering, Computer/Data Science, Environmental Engineering, etc.
  • Experience in systems thinking and modelling.
  • Proficiency in programming languages like MATLAB, Python, VBA, etc., to solve complex engineering challenges.
  • Passion for sustainability and some familiarity with environmental impact modelling approaches such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
  • Self-motivation, exceptional time management, resilience and perseverance.
  • Keen attention to detail and ability to apply this within a meaningful context.
  • An enduring curiosity and a love of learning.

The project will be part of the EPSRC-supported Centre for Doctoral Training in Resilient Decarbonised Fuel Energy Systems. The student who undertakes it will be one of a cohort of over 50 students in a broad range of disciplines across the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham and Cardiff.

  • Studentships cover tuition fees, a tax-free stipend and consumables for the duration of the 4-year programme.
  • The stipend rate for the academic year 2023/24 is £18,622. The stipend will rise with inflation each academic year. The exact rate for 2023/24 is subject to confirmation from EPSRC.
  • Students receive a stipend enhancement of £3,750 per year which amounts to a total of £22,372 (non-taxable) per year in 2023/24.
  • Additional support is available for disabled students through EPSRC’s Disabled Student Allowance.
  • Students receive £6,000 for consumables per year which is used for laboratory supplies, travel, and conference attendances.
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