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Chemical engineering science encompasses the fundamental work that underpins chemical engineering such as its application to chemistry, life sciences, material sciences and computing science. It focuses on the understanding of physical and chemical descriptions that underlie the behaviour of processes and plants. Research areas include: kinetics and mechanism; new materials and predictive modelling based upon mechanistic understanding; and work on catalytic kinetics, photocatalysis, photon-induced reaction and the elucidation of reaction mechanism. Work in this area also covers the production, property measurement and performance assessment of ceramics, polymers, metals and composites, in particular the development of new materials for advanced engineering applications (including microelectronics, optics and power transmission).
Current research includes: developing novel surface engineering processes and materials (such as fullerene-like coating materials); energy-based methods for performance modelling; and nanomaterials and nanocharacterisation techniques. The measurement and modelling of the mechanical response of materials at high-spatial resolution, particularly in microelectronic and optical devices, is a major specialism of the School and is supported by a combination of unique equipment and interdisciplinary expertise.
Measurement and analysis addresses a number of areas including: enhanced process understanding and process performance monitoring methodologies for batch, continuous and batch/continuous systems; the development of modelling algorithms that incorporate process dynamics, multiple operating modes and non-linear behaviour; novel approaches for the fusion of data from different sources including process and spectroscopic data for the development of robust models; the development of signal processing tools for the extraction of signals from data that has a very low signal-to-noise ratio, and subsequently the selection of the most appropriate ‘variables’ for the development of robust calibration models; and the development of techniques for the transfer of models between process lines or different operational sites.
Products and processes research includes: membrane processes and novel reactor systems; separation processes; particle technology; bioprocess intensification and tissue engineering; intensified catalysts; materials for intensified processes; catalytic plate reactors; micro-bio/chemical reactors; spinning disc reactors; intensified bioreactors; compact heat exchangers; oscillatory flow reactors; rotating packed beds; and process miniaturisation and reactive distillation. A major area related to process intensification research is concerned with accelerating the development time of a process across the entire R&D lifecycle. This highly interdisciplinary research combines high-throughput robotic systems with advanced software development. We are developing GRID technologies to support highly dynamic networks of organisations necessary to take processes from chemists’ ideas into production. Research collaboration between the School and two of the country’s top chemistry departments is combining high-throughput experimentation and reaction calorimetry with advanced modelling and statistical data analysis techniques, to develop a system that can automatically elucidate chemical reaction mechanisms.
Natural resources focuses on the sustainable development and use of key resources, in particular water and energy, with significant research into generation of energy from novel sources, low carbon and renewable technologies and the clean-up of effluent and wastewater. The major areas of research are: fuel cells and energy systems; gasification; cold plasma gasification; bio-fuel cells; bio-diesel production; gas and water treatment; nano-structured polymer composites for pollution control; sustainable and environmental electrochemical systems; and photochemical processes and electrochemical synthesis.