- Course: PhD in Bioenergy
- PhD title: Integration of Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC) with Anaerobic Digestion (AD): Opportunities for Valorisation of Digestate
Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at the University of Leeds?
After completing my first degree in the midlands and embarking on a career in the south, I eventually felt the need to come back to my hometown of Leeds and enjoy what the north has to offer again! What initially gained my interest in undertaking a PhD at the University of Leeds were the centres for doctoral training (CDT) programmes in place, which offers a great deal of flexibility and the opportunity to learn new skills in exciting areas of research. I finally chose to apply for the CDT in Bioenergy as my first degree in Systems Engineering sparked an interest in renewable energy technologies. I accepted the programme knowing that the University of Leeds already had a great track record with facilities to a high standard and a comfortable working environment.
Tell us about your research.
My research focuses on bioenergy production from wet and waste organic material. Organic material, namely digestate from anaerobic digestion (AD) of waste and ‘green wastes’ from park and conversation sites is processed using thermochemical and biological conversion methods. These methods include hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) to convert the material into ‘bio-coal’, a carbonaceous solid in the presence of water at high temperatures and pressures, very much mimicking nature. This bio-coal has potential applications as a fuel, adsorbent or soil additive. A by-product, called process water, is also produced and is high in dissolved organics. This process water is biologically converted using mesophilic bacteria to produce a ‘bio-gas’ rich in methane. Hydrothermal carbonisation therefore provides a flexible approach to valorisation of digestate and different options for integration of HTC and AD are possible.
What is your favourite part of doing your research at Leeds?
My favourite part of conducting research at Leeds is being a part of its interdisciplinary nature. The university understands the importance of applying methods and analytical frameworks from other departments to examine a theme. In doing so, I have had the chance to not only work with people and in laboratories at my own school but also in departments at Civil Engineering and Chemistry. This has given me the chance to work in varied environments and broaden my understanding of the scientific community by getting to know what other researched are doing.
What activities do you take part in outside of your research studies?
Taking regular walks and mountain biking in and around spectacular sites in Yorkshire, such as the dales, is one of my favourite activities. I am also an avid music lover, most of which is driven by Leeds’s great live music scene. The ability to try out different activities from the range of clubs and societies on offer is also fun. I’m looking forward to joining the Bardon Grange Project, where you can grow and eat your own food on the campus!
What are your ambitions for the future?
In the future, I am hoping to continue work in the next generation of renewable energy technologies. Whether it may be in academia or at a company I would like to apply my skills in a role that supports research and innovation to better the human condition and environment.