Lee Roberts

Lee James Roberts

Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at the University of Leeds?

The University of Leeds has a reputation as one of the best Universities in the country for engineering, and the standard of the facilities in my department was a big factor. The campus looked fantastic, with so much going on. The Bioenergy CDT course itself was very appealing as well. There was a wide choice of project areas available, with plenty of opportunities to work closely with industry and other institutions, in addition to the integrated nature of the course and its structure.

Tell us about your research

My provisional thesis title is "Additives to Mitigate Slagging and Fouling in Biomass Combustion". Slagging and fouling is estimated to cost the global utility industry billions of pounds every year, and the project itself is partly funded by a group of large power stations and energy providers, who I work closely with. My research covers a lot of different fields and subjects, including chemistry, materials science and engineering. It involves a comprehensive study of biomass ash, including its composition, how it behaves under extreme conditions such as high temperatures and voltages, how strongly it bonds to materials in large scale boilers when melted and cooled, how this changes when additives are added into the fuel, and eventually I hope to produce a model that can accurately predict this behaviour and how it changes. I'm also collaborating with the University of Dortmund, where I'll be spending a month using their facilities, to see if coatings can be used to help reduce deposition or make it easier to remove, and whether it would be possible to use a combination of additives and coatings in real-world applications.

What is your favourite part of doing your research at Leeds?

The collaboration aspect of my research is something I enjoy a lot. I work as part of a larger research group within the university, as well as with industry and other international universities, so I've always got someone that I can get hold of if I need help or advice. It helps that the CDT that I'm a part of is very close knit, and we're often doing things together outside of our studies. There's a lot of collaboration between the different departments within the university as well, which means that you have such a wide range of facilities available to you, all of which are close by. 

What activities do you take part in outside of your research studies?

There are plenty of things to do both in and around Leeds, and if I'm not in the local with friends and colleagues, then I'm finding new places in the city center, or exploring Yorkshire. I try to keep fit through playing football, running, and going to the gym.I also play chess, guitar, and have recently started learning German.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I'm hoping to go into a line of work where I can make a tangible difference in combating climate change, whether that's in academia or within industry.

Do you have any advice to anyone considering coming to Leeds?

If you've found a course here at Leeds that you're genuinely interested in, then I'd recommend Leeds to anyone. It's a great, vibrant city, while the university has almost everything you could need on campus. This has been the first time I've lived outside of Liverpool, and I've enjoyed every moment of it!