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Research in Chemical Engineering impacts an enormous range of industries, from foodstuffs to plastics and from water treatment to energy production.  Chemical engineers improve or create new processes that allow these products to be manufacturered in more efficient and cleaner, more sustainable, ways.  Research in our department includes both experimental and modelling work to address these challenges.

The Chemical Engineering group at the University of Chester is passionate about state-of-the-art research cutting across traditional subject boundaries.  We have a track record of high-quality research cited by other researchers around the world.  There are eight academic members of staff and two PhD students conducting research that is published in high-impact journals and presented at international conferences.  Our laboratories host a number of industrial research projects and we have close links with additional companies on-site and nearby.  Close academic collaborations with researchers at universities around the country and abroad further enhance a stimulating and supportive research environment.

All students are taught by research-active staff who are keen to share their enthusiasm and specialist knowledge of Chemical Engineering with the next generation of talented engineers.  Students also benefit from opportunities to complete placements with our industrial partners and to use modern research equipment as part of their course.

Our research is grouped into a range of broad themes that allow us to help to address some of the challenges facing society and industry in the 21st century.

Sustainable Energy from Biomass and Wastes

Prof John Brammer

We study the conversion of purpose-grown or residual biomass and other biogenic wastes either directly into electrical power and heat, or into synthetic liquid and gaseous fuels. This involves the thermochemical pathways of combustion, gasification and pyrolysis as well as biological routes. Experimental work is carried out on laboratory-scale units, and computational analysis performed at a range of levels including detailed flow modelling within reactors (CFD), process simulation of individual reactors through to full plants, and techno-economic analysis of complete energy delivery systems. 

Systems Biology of Ageing and Health

Dr Mark Mc Auley

We study the biochemistry of ageing and health using computational modelling techniques. The process of ageing is investigated in healthy individuals, with a focus on lipid metabolism. We are also interested in cell signalling and gene expression, as well as epigenetics. Stochastic modelling is used alongside solution of differential equations and the development of specialist computational tools for biological modelling.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Prof John Brammer

We are experienced in the application of computational fluid dynamics methods to the analysis of any fluid flow environment, but in particular the performance of furnaces and burners, gasifiers and other energy system reactors. Codes used include ANSYS-FLUENT and ANSYS-CFX. Work in this area has included an investigation of the performance of an industrial radiant tube burner for a major manufacturer.

Multiphase Flow Characterisation and Metering

Dr Yousef Faraj

Our research focuses on both experimental and theoretical modelling work to enable understanding and prediction of  a wide range of  industrially relevant  2- and 3-phase flow situations such as gas-liquid, solid-liquid, liquid-liquid and gas-liquid-liquid, which are commonly encountered in the petroleum industry, the chemical industry, in wastewater treatment, nuclear plants, mining and hydraulic conveying. The fundamental issues addressed here include the dynamics of particles in the carrier phase, phase interaction, interface phenomena and the effects of process parameters on the nature of multiphase and multicomponent systems. Development of on-line measurement techniques and multiphase flow metering systems are another focus, which is vital for monitoring and optimisation of a range of industrial processes.

Smart Functional Materials

Dr Yousef Faraj

Our research interests focus on the design, synthesis, characterisation and application of smart materials and devices. We aim at rational integration of organic (polymeric) and inorganic materials to realise smart functional materials with unique properties for multifarious applications. The main emphasis is placed upon integration of stimuli-responsive materials, which are able to change their shape, chemical or physical properties in real time in response to external stimuli such as temperature, pH, electric or magnetic field and chemicals. We actively explore emerging technological applications of these smart functional materials in areas such as selective detection and sensing, capture and separation.

Computational Condensed Matter Physics

Dr Graham Spink

Our research is centred around understanding chemical reactions and the properties of materials using computational and mathematical methods.  Novel quantum Monte Carlo methods are developed and applied to problems in condensed matter physics and quantum chemistry.  With the aid of high-performance supercomputers, these methods allow, for example, the prediction of kinetic data or suitable catalysts for a given chemical process.  Experimental and modelling studies of chemical reactors are also carried out.

Inorganic Materials

Dr Andrew Fogg

Our research is focussed on the synthesis and characterisation of new inorganic and inorganic/organic composite materials. The primary goal of the research is to design new materials with interesting properties through the combination of experimental and theoretical techniques and is currently focussed on the synthesis of new inorganic and organic/inorganic hybrid phases with layered and framework structures, many of which can undergo anion exchange reactions. Such materials can have applications in areas including pollution trapping or solution purification, separation science, selective absorption or controlled release e.g. of pharmaceuticals and catalysis amongst many others.

Wealth out of waste

Dr Maria Sotenko

We research the possibility of generating wealth out of waste or low-value substrates by means of biotechnology (enzymes, bacteria, fungi) with a specific attention to life cycle and techno-economic assessments. This research implements the principle of tandem or cascade procurement of value-added products while utilising waste and/or remediating soil, air or water as a suitable way for sustainable process engineering and process intensification.  This work is multidisciplinary, ranging from composites manufacturing, bio-catalytic processes and life cycle analysis to phytoremediation, CO2 capture and biorefinery, and incorporates the following themes:

  • Wealth out of waste: turning waste feedstocks into a range of value-added products for applications in pharma, cosmetics and nutraceuticals sectors
  • Biorefinery processes development, antioxidant and antimicrobial chemical compounds from biomass feedstocks
  • Cleaning soil and waste waters from metals, phytoremediation-biorefinery tandem
  • Biogenic catalytic metallic nano-particles, novel applications of bio-catalysts
  • LCA and techno-economic analyses