PhD cohort 4
In 2022, the Transition to Zero Pollution initiative formed a fourth cohort of 11 students from across College carrying out research related to TZP. As with our other cohorts, the students are all aligned with the NERC-funded Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP run by the Grantham Institute. Find out more about the students' projects below.
Katlo Batsile - Alloy design for impurity tolerance
Department: Department of Materials
Supervisor: Dr. Stella Pedrazzini
Funder: Botswana Government
Steel is the backbone of many economies, a material that is central to urbanisation and even facilitates the clean energy transition through its use in many of the greening technologies like electric vehicles and renewable power generation systems. Due to its extensive use in many industries, the demand of steel is on an upwards trajectory, a trend expected to continue and one which current methods of steelmaking, which are highly energy and carbon intensive, may not meet. This demand could be partly met by using recycled steel scrap, however, highly deleterious residual/impurity elements which accumulate within the steel with continuous recycling limit the use of recycled steel in high value applications. The focus of this project therefore, is to design steel alloys with high impurity tolerance by finding ways to control the behaviour of residual elements in the steels through alloying. This would not only allow upcycling of steel scrap, a resource whose full potential is currently unfulfilled, but is also one way of achieving a sustainable circular economy by designing out of waste and pollution.
Jada-Tiana Carnie - Understanding the physics and optimising Phase Change Material thermal energy storage systems for a sustainable future
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Supervisors: Dr Antonis Sergis, Professor Yannis Hardalupas, Professor Maria Charalambides
Funder: Mechanical Engineering Department (PhD Studentship)
To curtail greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 emissions, extensive electrification of key services such as transportation will be introduced. According to the Department for Climate Change, this will unavoidably mean that the UK will have to produce 50% more electrical energy to compensate for this subsequent surge in electricity demand. Therefore, mass introduction of renewable energy resources is necessary to not only fulfil the energy requirements of electrification, but to satisfy policies that seek to decarbonise the energy system. However, this can only be successful with the expansion of thermal energy storage schemes, that will assist in reducing waste heat from energy processes and mitigating the intermittent energy generation of renewables. Phase Change Materials (PCMs) are being considered as suitable candidates for multiscale thermal energy storage schemes, due to their ability to store and release large amounts of thermal energy with a negligible change in their specific volume during their phase change. However, this is hindered by their low thermal conductivity and complex physics effects such as hysteresis. The objective of this PhD, is to investigate the fundamental unknowns with regards to the physics of heat transfer in PCMs, conducting investigations into key thermal material characteristics that determine the quality of heat transfer to and from the PCMs.
Daniel Davids - Systems Modelling for Industrial Decarbonisation
Department: Department of Chemical Engineering
Supervisors: Professor Adam Hawkes and Dr Gbemi Oluleye
Funder: Department of Chemical Engineering / EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership
Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement requires unprecedented transition in the energy system, where fossil fuels represent 80% of final energy consumption. If sufficient near-term progress is not made in energy transition and decarbonisation, the cost of meeting ambitious climate targets grows significantly, and certain targets may become infeasible. Industry accounts for around 25% of global CO2 emissions and is one of the key battlegrounds in the worldwide decarbonisation quest.
The PhD research aims to derive a novel framework for industrial decarbonisation that can be applied to industry in general towards decarbonisation. It will provide a means to appraise the viability of principal industrial decarbonisation remedies from an integrated asset modelling (IAM) perspective. This will be done with the attendant risk and uncertainty in the application of technology towards the global drive to net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and exogenous factors.
Prashant Garg - Economics of climate belief formation and diffusion
Department: Department of Economics and Public Policy, Imperial College Business School
Name of supervisor: Ralf Martin and Laure de Preux
Funder: Department of Economics and Public Policy, Imperial College Business School
Political beliefs have potential consequences on our risk perceptions. I study the formation and diffusion of political beliefs related to climate change, such as denial or downplaying of consequences of climate change. I will attempt to create a causal relationship between publicly stated political beliefs of opinion leaders (e.g., politicians, activists, academics, and corporations) and those of the public. Previous research have focused on descriptive studies related to persuasion, diffusion and influence on Twitter or have studied causal relationships at an aggregate geographical level, focusing on different research questions. In my research, I collect individual level data from Twitter to construct measures of their exposures to opinion leaders, their sentiment towards climate change and the opinion leader, their engagement with the opinion leaders and their social and informational network. Since Twitter algorithms order timelines based on topical relevance and recency of tweets, users that share similar activity times on Twitter with a given opinion leader will be more exposed to their beliefs. I use the exogenous variation in users' sleep-wake cycles based on their past Twitter usage timings and match it with those of the opinion leader to create the shares for my Shift-Share research design. This methodology allows to me test whether a higher exposure to an opinion leader's Tweets will causally impact the beliefs of another user.
Abha Joglekar - Why should we plant trees?
Department: Centre for Environmental Policy
Supervisor: Dr. Morena Mills
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the LISS DTP
Ecosystem restoration is being implemented on a large scale to mitigate climate change impacts, but research shows that there are both costs and benefits associated with restoration processes. In particular, there is a limited understanding of the impacts of restoration on people and people's involvement in restoration. This research will focus on the latter and aims to understand why landholders adopt restoration practices on their private lands. The research will use a mixed methods approach combining surveys and semi-structured interviews. While the interviews will enable a qualitative understanding of the adoption process, the surveys are designed on the social sciences theory of Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 2003) which will link the characteristics of the adoption process as well as relative preferences among landholders. This research aims to document two case studies – one each in India and Brazil which will enable an understanding of what works in different socio-ecological contexts. This is especially important in the broader context where India and Brazil are both significant contributors to global restoration goals but have very different experiences of ecosystem restoration to date.
Alexander Mitchener - Nanoscale analysis of London pollution particles and their interaction with airway epithelial cells
Department: Department of Materials
Supervisors: Prof. Alexandra Porter (Materials), Prof. Fan Chung (NHLI), Prof. Mark Sephton (Earth Science and Engineering) and Prof DK Arvind (Edinburgh Sch. of Informatics)
Funders: EPSRC, Imperial College London, Dyson
This project seeks to identify the regional variation in nanoscale composition of London’s particulate air pollution and to relate the toxicity of each component or mixture to the onset or exacerbation of clinical symptoms observed in healthy and asthmatic volunteers. This will be achieved by on-site capture and monitoring of the particulate matter (PM) before complete physiochemical analysis of the metallic and organic constituents. Nasal epithelial cells from volunteers will then be exposed to the characterised sample in vitro using an air-liquid interface (ALI) model of the airways to relate toxic endpoints to the compartmentalisation of particulates within the cells. We will investigate the comparative efficiency of green barriers (leaves and bark) at sequestering atmospheric pollution against our filters and examine the relationship between outdoor and indoor air-quality.
John Donald Morley - Transforming mine waste into a raw material for sustainable battery production
Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Supervisors: Dr Pablo Brito-Parada, Dr Chandramohan George, Dr Kathryn Hadler
Funder: EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
This project will investigate the potential for the transformation of pyrite (iron disulphide) from mine waste (tailings) into raw materials for batteries. The research conducted will be the crucial link between the mineral processing of pyrite from tailings and subsequent battery performance. The research will build on a proof-of-concept study in which a functioning battery was produced from tailings pyrite. Although the concept has been demonstrated, an efficient processing route for pyrite in tailings for optimised battery performance has not yet been presented. Many unanswered questions remain regarding the characteristics of pyrite from tailings and their effect on battery performance after processing. The project will study pyrite-bearing waste from multiple sites (e.g., Spain/Portugal) and at different ages (fresh tailings and older tailings ponds). The aim is to establish the variability of the pyrite from a given location, the processes required for cleaning the pyrite to an acceptable purity, and the limits of that purity with respect to battery performance to identify suitable locations for future implementation. The research will consider the environmental impact of recovering pyrite from tailings at an industrial scale, through modelling and simulation.