School of Engineering and Materials Science Research Studentships

Synthesis of carbon based catalysts for the sustainable upgrade of agro-waste pyrolysis products into biofuels for rural areas

Supervisors: Roberto VOLPE

Application Deadline: 31-01-2019

Pyrolysis provides a facile alternative for the upgrading of agro-waste to energy vectors. One of the most promising aspects of pyrolysis, is that small scale, inexpensive systems can be designed to produce biofuels from widely available waste in rural areas. Pyrolysis is a technology as old as human kind. Charcoal making, in fact, dates back some 38 millennia ago. Thus, rudimentary rigs can still be found in rural areas in developing countries. Biofuels produced in those rigs are often of low quality, however, consistent quality of products is difficult to achieve even in more sophisticated set-ups. In fact, due to the intrinsic diverse nature of biomass, the control of thermochemical decomposition during pyrolysis is challenging. As a result, bio-oils must undergo catalytic upgrade to reach standard fuel characteristics. Moreover, significant quantities of solid carbonaceous by-products (bio-chars) result from pyrolysis. This project aims at finding new routes to bio-oil upgrade using nano-catalysts prepared from bio-chars.

During the project, chars will be used as bio-templates on which selected inorganic nanoparticles are deposited for catalyst preparation during both ‘off-situ’ (after pyrolysis is completed) and ‘in-situ’ (during pyrolysis) routes. The metal deposition will be done by Chemical Vapour Deposition, dip-coating and printing techniques. Produced Catalysts will then be tested for bio-oils upgrade via catalytic esterification and decarboxylation. Lab scale pyrolysis will be carried out in a novel vertical rig installed at the School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London.

EPSRC Research Studentship Details

  • To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) applicants must have: 
  • settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and
  • been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to October 2019. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK nationals).
  • (See: for more details)
  • Full Time programme only.
  • Applicant required to start in September/ October 2019.
  • The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (Currently set as £16,777 in 2018/19).
  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language then you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).

Supervisor Contact Details:
For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Dr. Roberto Volpe
Tel: 020 7882 7748

Application Method:
To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Mechanical Engineering programme (Full Time) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Research degrees in Engineering:

Further Guidance:

Please be sure to include a reference to ‘2019 GCRF EPSRC DTP RV’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.