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Thermochemical conversion of wastes to energy and chemicals

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Faculty/Lead unit

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor William Doherty
Principal Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuels requires replacement of chemical building blocks currently sourced from the petrochemical industry. Nature produces over 150 billion tonnes of biomass per year by photosynthesis, with only 3-4% used by humans for food and non-food purposes. So, as biomass is abundant and a renewable resource of fixed carbon it can be used to produce chemical building blocks, fuels and chemicals.

Thermochemical conversion processes and low temperature hydrolysis are typically suited for the transformation of biomass, waste plastic and end-of-life tyres to fuels, resins and chemicals. They generally require short reaction times, from seconds to hours, but challenges exist to cost-effectively produce these products.

Research activities

This project area focuses on the development of chemical processes, evaluation and design of catalysts and reactors (including process and CFD modelling) for biomass conversion technologies.

Pilot scale thermochemical facilities are available for process engineering evaluation.


We expect to develop:

  • bio-oil hydro-treating catalytic processes
  • catalysed hydrothermal liquefaction technology to produce renewable fuels, chemicals and resins
  • pyrolysis technology to produce renewable fuels.

Skills and experience

These projects are designed for students with backgrounds in chemistry or chemical engineering.

The supervisory team have developed patents and have international network of research organisations as well as industry partners.

You will be part of a large team working on biomass utilisation.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.