Developing Sustainable Waste Management Strategies through Innovative Resource Recovery and Valorisation Technologies
Resources embedded in waste streams are often not properly recovered and are mostly ended up in landfills or only recovered as energy via energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities. Innovative resource recovery from waste strategies are urgently needed to maximise resource efficiency, divert waste from landfills and reduce reliance on EfW.
The current linear (“take-make-dispose”) economy has resulted in excessive use of resources, and current strategies which are mainly targeted at pollution prevention and waste treatment do not fundamentally improve resource efficiency. Furthermore, most of the existing waste treatment facilities are running on marginal profits and are relying on governmental subsidies to sustain their business. For example, the products generated from anaerobic digestion of food waste such as digestate and biogas have low market value.
This is not sustainable for the business in the waste sector in a long term. These facilities need to be upgraded to generate value-added products.
This research topic will be offered in two major areas:
1. Exploring innovative strategies for revamping anaerobic digestion by converting organic waste such as food waste into volatile fatty acids; upgrading methane into high value chemicals; and nutrient recovery from digestate.
2. Exploring innovative strategies for revamping municipal solid waste (MSW) treatment facilities for the valorisation of residual waste into chemicals/fuels in conjunction with nutrient recovery.
This research will look at the entire waste management system from a systems perspective including collection, sorting, transportation, reuse, recycling and disposal.
What would you expect from this project?
• Computational modelling: This project will require simulation modelling and optimisation techniques using software such as Aspen Plus, Matlab and GAMS, and will also involve software development using Python.
• Sustainability assessment: This research will involve rigorous sustainability assessment including techno-economic analysis and environmental life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA software such as SimaPro is required.
• Collaboration: This research may involve collaboration with industry partners and local authority and may also involve some degree of experimental work for validation purposes.
Applicants should have received a First or Upper Second Class honours degree in Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Chemistry or a similar discipline. Applicants should be highly motivated, able to work independently and in a team, and have good written and verbal communication skills.
Previous studies related to resource recovery and valorisation of MSW
- Ng, K.S., Phan, A.N., Iacovidou, E., Wan Ab Karim Ghani, W.A., 2021. Techno-economic assessment of a novel integrated system of mechanical-biological treatment and valorisation of residual municipal solid waste into hydrogen: A case study in the UK. J Clean Prod. 298: 126706. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.126706
- . Ng, K.S., Phan, A.N., 2021. Evaluating the techno-economic potential of an integrated material recovery and waste-to-hydrogen system. Resour Conserv Recycl. 167: 105392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105392
- Ng, K.S., Yang, A., Yakovleva, N., 2019. Sustainable waste management through synergistic utilisation of commercial and domestic organic waste for efficient resource recovery and valorisation in the UK. J Clean Prod. 227: 248-262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.136
How to apply
If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:
- Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
- Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
- Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.
This is a self funded topic
Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.
Meet the Supervisor(s)
Kok Siew Ng
- Dr Kok Siew Ng is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Chemical Engineering at Brunel University London. He joined Brunel in March 2022 after the completion of his 4-year independent fellowship at University of Oxford. He is also currently the Co-Investigator and Coordinator of the Oxford Agile
project (Sprint 2
) – a university-wide initiative focusing on tackling various environmental challenges using an interdisciplinary approach, funded through the £10 million NERC Changing the Environment programme. The sprint project aims to develop strategies for determining the best regional combination of nutrient recovery and utilisation options for both economic viability and environmental benefits.
Prior to joining Brunel, Kok Siew was a UKRI/NERC Industrial Innovation (Rutherford) Research Fellow and Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, from 2018 to 2022. During his time in Oxford, he was a Principal Investigator of the SYNERGORS
project 'A systems approach to synergistic utilisation of secondary organic streams' (£0.5 million), funded by NERC. The project aimed to explore novel approaches to addressing challenges in organic waste management and achieving circular economy. He completed his MEng Chemical Engineering with Chemistry (First Class Honours) in 2008, and later gained his PhD in 2011 from the Centre for Process Integration (CPI), The University of Manchester. After completing his PhD, he joined Process Integration Limited (PIL) as a consultant and later took up a position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), University of Surrey.
Kok Siew is a chemical engineer by training with extensive research and industrial consultancy experience in systems engineering, process integration, techno-economic analysis and environmental life cycle assessment (LCA). His research vision is to develop novel and sustainable solutions from a systems engineering perspective, to facilitate the transition of the chemical, energy and waste industries from a fossil-based, linear system to one that is fundamentally sustainable by using renewables as the mainstream resources and by fully embracing circular economy principles. He has contributed to more than 10 UK and international projects funded by NERC, Innovate UK, EU FP7, Royal Academy of Engineering and Newton Fund. His research is significant in terms of addressing global challenges in the 21st century, aligned with the UN SDG 7 and 12, the UK Industrial Strategy, and international ambitions to achieving circular economy and net-zero target.
Kok Siew has published more than 30 articles including journals, book chapters and magazine article, and have co-authored an advanced textbook “Biorefineries and Chemical Processes: Design, Integration and Sustainability Analysis
”. His work related to decarbonisation of energy systems has been recognised by the IChemE Junior Moulton Medal award
(best publication) in 2011. Furthermore, Kok Siew has been nominated for the University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor's Environmental Sustainability Staff Award
in 2022 for his contribution in actively promoting environmental sustainability through his research vision, which develops sustainable solutions from a systems engineering perspective. He is an Editorial Board Member of Resources, Conservation & Recycling Advances (RCR Advances)
journal and also a reviewer for French ANR and UKRI/EPSRC proposals.
Kok Siew is enthusiastic in establishing international collaboration with researchers from multidisciplinary background. He has been working closely with international academic and industrial organisations in the UK, Europe, China and South East Asia. He has organised and participated in a number of British Council/Newton Fund workshops in Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, Kazakhstan and China, and attended the Royal Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering for Development Symposium “From feeding people to nourishing people”. He has a long-term ambition in influencing resources and waste management practices in developing countries towards sustainable development. Kok Siew is the Founder and President of the Society of Circular, Regenerative and Sustainable Systems (CRES)
. The aims of CRES society (knowledge exchange) and SYNERGORS consortium (research) are to promote and strengthen cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration between the UK and international organisations in systems thinking and circular economy. His ambition in international development together with the objectives of SYNERGORS and CRES are well aligned with the UK Industrial Strategy in enhancing resource efficiency and mitigating pollution and waste materials, while achieving a sustainable industrial growth and a more resilient economy at global level.
Awards and Achievements -
- Nominated for the University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor's Environmental Sustainability Staff Award, 2022.
- Best Oral Presentation Award, Newton-Al-Farabi UK-Kazakhstan workshop “Low-carbon Future: Efficient Management of Resources and Energy”, 26-28 September 2016, Astana, Kazakhstan.
- IChemE Junior Moulton Medal for the best publication, 2011 - “Ng, K.S., Lopez, Y., Campbell, G.M., Sadhukhan, J., 2010. Heat integration and analysis of decarbonised IGCC sites. Chem Eng Res Des., 88 (2): 170-188.”
- PhD Scholarships (2008-2011): Overseas Research Scholarship (ORS), Manchester Alumni Funds, Process Integration Research Consortium (PIRC) Research Funds, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science Scholarship
- MEng Chemical Engineering with Chemistry Specialist Subject Course Prize (ranked 1st in the cohort), 2008, The University of Manchester.