- Course: Chemical engineering PhD
- PhD title: Pyrolysis-Non-thermal-plasma reforming of waste plastics for hydrogen production
- Nationality: Nigerian
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/idris-aminu-a470b8139
Idris Aminu is studying for a PhD with the Sustainable Systems and Processes community in chemical engineering, and is part of the sustainable low carbon futures group. He is supervised by Professor Paul Williams, who focuses on waste treatment and disposal. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund in Nigeria funds Indris’ research
Tackling plastic waste – an environmental challenge
Idris hopes to make a valuable contribution to research tackling the global problem of plastic waste and its impact on the environment.
“Plastics have become indispensable to modern life, yet they are a growing environmental problem,” Idris said.
He continued: “The majority of the large number of plastic materials produced reach their end of life within a short time, and this results in large amount of wastes produced that subsequently burden the environment.
Plastics have become indispensable to modern life, yet they are a growing environmental problem… We want to achieve a sustainable, clean method of hydrogen production from waste plastics.
“We need a sustainable solution to this waste plastic problem and that is what I am working on. On one hand, the aim is to bring a solution to the waste plastic problem; and on the other, we want to achieve a sustainable, clean method of hydrogen production from waste plastics.”
Carrying out funded research at Leeds
Idris explained what carrying out his research into the production of hydrogen gas involves and the different stages on his experiments. He said:
“The Petroleum Technology Development Fund in Nigeria wholly funds my research. And this research involves a two-stage reaction system.
“Pyrolysis of the waste plastics takes place in the first stage (pyrolysis reactor), and the reforming of the pyrolysis products takes place in the second stage (plasma reactor) with or without a catalyst. Process parameters and different metal catalysts are studied with the aim of optimising the production of hydrogen gas.”
He continued: “The experimental procedure involves pre-heating the second stage reactor, which is a dielectric barrier discharge plasma reactor, to 250oC. The sample boat containing the waste plastic is hung inside the pyrolysis reactor which is heated to 500oC under nitrogen atmosphere and held at this temperature for 10 minutes. The plasma is generated in the second stage when the pyrolysis temperature reached around 200oC.
“Pyrolysis products from the first stage pass to the second stage where they react through plasma steam reforming. Gases are collected in a gas bag after passing through a condenser system and then analysed offline in a gas chromatography analyser. Liquid is collected in the condenser while any char is left behind in the sample boat.”
A supportive community of scientists and engineers
The community of researchers are Leeds makes it an enjoyable environment to study for a PhD, Idris explained. He said:
“All the members of this group have their desks in the same open office, so it is a kind of a research hub where we exchange information and ideas.
“The monthly group meetings are also an avenue where presentations are given by the members of the group on their individual research and corrections and recommendations are given. Problems encountered are also discussed to find solutions.”
... it [the research community] is a kind of a research hub where we exchange information and ideas.
Idris also explained that having a good working relationship and shared interests with his supervisor and colleagues has been invaluable.
“I simply cannot wish for better supervisors. They are very supportive and encouraging, always giving their time when I need them. My relationship with them is excellent,” Idris said.
“My main supervisor taught me when I was doing my MSc and turned out to be my best lecturer,” he continued.
“His research interests coincide with mine and he gave me more inspiration. My second supervisor studied under my main supervisor and has also being doing research in the same area.”
I simply cannot wish for better supervisors. They are very supportive and encouraging, always giving their time when I need them.
After graduating from a Masters degree at Leeds, Idris decided to pursue a PhD at the University. He explained some of his reasons for choosing Leeds.
“The chemical engineering department in the University of Leeds is one of the top in the UK,” Idris said.
He continued: “I did my MSc here and my best lecturer is my current PhD supervisor. I picked interest in his works which coincide with my own interests in the area of ‘waste to energy’.”
The chemical engineering department in the University of Leeds is one of the top in the UK.
He added: “I love teaching and research, so the plan is to be in the academia; I want to make an impact in bringing solutions to environmental problems doing more research in the area of waste to energy.”