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Biomass Combustion Ash in the Removal of Micro-pollutants from Water

The UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% compared to the 1990 emission levels by the year 2050. Negative emission technologies such as biomass combustion with carbon capture is vital to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets. However, similar to burning coal, this process is accompanied with an undesired by-product: fly ash. This by-product has found limited range of secondary applications e.g. cement/concrete manufacture, land reclamation, solid stabilisation, grouting and etc. Nevertheless, a significant portion of this residue is currently being directly landfilled with no further useful application; nearly 30% of fly ash is directly landfilled in the UK. The fly ash originating from the combustion of biomass fuels demonstrates different characteristics from that of coal. The elevated alkaline content in fly ash from biomass combustion, most notably sodium and potassium, tends to make these ashes undesirable for use in applications identified as beneficial use applications for conventional coal combustion fly ash. However, due to their inherently different properties, they have a great potential to be used as adsorbent. In this research, you would be investigating a range of characterisation (e.g. SEM/EDX, FTIR, BET, TGA) and surface modification (e.g. impregnation with amines and/or ionic liquids, acidic/basic surface modification) techniques to optimise raw biomass combustion fly ash for the adsorption of a range of (in)organic micro-pollutants from aqueous media. Based on the experimental results, you would then be simulating the actual adsorption/desorption process using appropriate simulation software such as Aspen Suite and/or gPROMS to investigate the impacts of operating conditions on the process efficiency in terms of removal efficiency, capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenditures (OPEX) of the adsorption/desorption plant. This would result in an understanding of the industrial viability of such a process.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

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)


Salman Masoudi Soltani - I am a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor in the US system) in Chemical Engineering. In May 2017, I joined Brunel University London as a founding member of the new Chemical Engineering Department, on the team in charge of the design and development of the Programme. I did my BSc (2005), MSc (2008) and PhD (2014; University of Nottingham) in Chemical Engineering. I am a Chartered Engineer (CEng/MIChemE) with both industrial and academic research backgrounds in chemical and process engineering. I am also a Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA), UK, and the Postgraduate Research Director with the Department of Chemical Engineering.  My research area is mainly centred on Separation Processes & Reaction Engineering (with a focus on adsorption processes & Process Design & Modelling). I have led a number of major research projects on and around carbon capture and hydrogen production, funded via Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC), and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), along with a number of industrial consultancy projects, the details of which have been included under the "Research" tab of this profile. Before joining Brunel University London, I worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Department of Chemical Engineering (Clean Fossil & Bioenergy Research Group) at Imperial College London, UK (07/2015 – 05/2017), contributing to several EPSRC as well as EU- and OECD-consultancy projects (Opening New Fuels for UK Generation; Gas-FACTS; CO2QUEST) in the realms of biomass combustion and the modelling and optimisation of CO2 capture & utilisation processes - in Professor Paul Fennell's research group and in collaboration with Professor Niall Mac Dowell and Professor Nilay Shah. In March 2017, I received the prestigious endorsement as the Exceptional Talent in Chemical Engineering by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK. Prior to this, I worked as a Postdoctoral Knowledge Transfer Partnership Research Associate with Dr Shenyi Wu (Fluids and Thermal Engineering Research Group) at the University of Nottingham, UK (08/2013 – 07/2015), during which, I was fully based at A-Gas International ltd. production site in Bristol (UK), where I worked as a Project/Process Engineer on a major joint engineering research and process design project, involving the research, front end engineering design (FEED), detailed design, and development of a bespoke industrial-scale gas separation process. I was awarded The University of Nottingham Scholarship to study for a PhD in Chemical Engineering. I conducted my research with the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus where I studied the effects of pyrolysis conditions on the structure of porous carbonaceous adsorbents synthesised from recycled waste, and the effect of subsequent surface modification on heavy metal removal from aqueous media.