Chemical Engineering MPhil and PhD

The Department of Chemical Engineering is a multidisciplinary centre focusing on research into future sustainable materials and technologies. The MPhil and PhD combine taught research training and applied research practice.

Candidates join the Department as a member of the Research Centre in which they initially have a broad research interest and that will have overseen their acceptance into the Department.

See full programme for more details.

Main areas of research

Chemical engineering research is one of the most crucial disciplines in the modern technological society. Such societies need to move towards sustainable development - the attainment of economic, environmental and social progress. Chemical engineering research supports development and production of new materials, fuels, drugs, consumer products, health care products, foods and beverages, electronic components, medical implants, and more. As the number and complexity of chemical, biochemical and biological materials used in consumer products and supporting technologies increases, chemical engineering research will play an increasingly vital role in the development of modern societies across the world. To achieve our goals of sustainable development, chemical engineers work ever more closely with other engineering and scientific disciplines, economists, sociologists and policy makers.

Within this, we carry out internationally recognized research aiming to address the challenges of today’s chemical, materials, pharmaceutical, biochemical, biomedical, water and waste treatment industries, in four key global challenge areas:

  • water
  • energy
  • food, health and wellbeing
  • sustainable processes.

Our research covers the whole spectrum of project types - from fundamental and blue skies research and innovation, through to industrial scale development and implementation – providing flexibility, breadth and depth to our research training, collaboration and consultancy for all of our stakeholders: from students and academics to industry and governmental agencies. The key difference and advantage of our research expertise and offerings compared to our competitors is that we have a key underpinning strength in Sustainable Chemical Engineering and Processes (supported by the Centre of Sustainable Chemical Technologies) which runs through all of our research.

Our Department is friendly and close-knit, and research groups work together to exchange ideas and implement innovation and development across the whole spectrum of chemical engineering. Research at the University of Bath has always been multidisciplinary and covers a broad range of expertise. We collaborate proactively with pharmacists, chemists, mathematicians, physicists, biochemists and biologists, managers, economists, mechanical engineers and educators on many projects. We collaborate nationally and internationally, with joint research programmes with scientists, businesses and educational establishments across the world. We have strong connections with industry also, which have included:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Airbus Group
  • BP
  • ExxonMobil
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Kraft Foods
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Nestle
  • Tetra Pak
  • Wessex Water
  • Unilever.

Our research activities are overseen by our Director of Research (Dr Darrell Alec Patterson) and grouped into four main areas:

Our staff are involved in several multidisciplinary Research Centres and clusters:

We also conduct research projects, train research students and support three EPSRC funded Centre’s of Doctoral Training (CDTs):

Advanced Materials and Porous Solids

Research Group Director: Professor B D Crittenden

Our main research areas and expertise include:

  • nanoporous materials: synthesis, characterisation and modelling
  • nanostructured materials for catalysts, catalyst supports, energy storage and separations
  • membrane separations: polymers, ceramics and hybrids; flat sheet and hollow fibre
  • materials for hydrogen storage and CO2 sequestration
  • nanotechnology
  • stimuli responsive materials for membrane separations and gas storage
  • materials and processes for gas separations
  • membrane reactors and bioreactors
  • environmental treatment technologies and waste minimisation
  • membranes for industrial separations
  • monolithic adsorbents and catalyst supports
  • materials for controlled drug delivery
  • in-situ and in-use characterisation of separations.

Biochemical and Biomedical Engineering

Research Group Director: Dr Mariaane Ellis

Our main research areas and expertise include:

  • tissue engineering
  • industrial biotechnology
  • reactors and processes for enzyme biotransformations
  • biofuel cells and sensors
  • biprocesses for next generation biofuels from renewable feedstocks
  • novel scaffolds for biomedical engineering
  • membrane bioreactors
  • biofouling and its prevention
  • controlled drug delivery using biopolymers
  • novel bioreactors and bioprocess intensification
  • smart biomaterials
  • molecular and surface interactions
  • biopolymer scaffolds for tissue regeneration
  • bio-responsive "smart" materials
  • biomolecules-surface interactions in membrane processes.

Catalysis and Reaction Engineering

Research Group Director: Dr Pawel Plucinski

Our main research areas and expertise include:

  • design, fabrication and characterisation of novel reactors and process intensification: microreactors, spinning disc reactors, compact structured reactors, membrane reactors
  • flow reactors and flow catalysis for continuous processes
  • development of novel catalysts, nanostructured catalysts and catalytic reactors
  • chemicals from renewable biofeedstocks
  • novel reforming technology
  • gas/solid catalysis
  • chemical oxidation of pollutants: photocatalysis, wet oxidation, ozonation
  • catalytic combustion
  • three phase catalytic reactors
  • diffusion in catalysts
  • monolith reactors
  • reactor modelling and computational fluid dynamics.

 Water and Wastewater Engineering

Interim Research Group Director: Dr Tom Arnot

Our main research areas and expertise include:

  • membrane reactors and bioreactors
  • water and wastewater treatment technologies
  • membranes for water and wastewater treatment
  • novel bioreactors for water and wastewater treatment
  • advanced oxidation treatments: photocatalysis, wet air oxidation etc
  • anaerobic digestion and biogas production for energy recovery.

This is a dynamic department, actively pursuing advanced research in many areas of chemical, biochemical and biomedical engineering, and also offering taught Masters courses. The Department is internationally recognised for its contributions to research, many of which are achieved in partnership with industry and prestigious research organisations. A new, purpose-built Chemical Engineering building was opened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in March 2002. External reviewers have concluded that the Chemical Engineering building and its facilities are amongst the best in the country. Staff are highly skilled with excellent international reputations. Multidisciplinary collaboration is currently active with eleven other departments/schools and with numerous organisations worldwide. Examples include the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professorship in Engineering Design for Sustainable Development (Chemical Engineering and five other University departments), the United Kingdom Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium led by Dr Tim Mays for the Department. Over the last three years the Department has rapidly expanded its research base and the number of postgraduate students. Research is funded by the Research Councils, the DTI, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Council, the European Union, government research agencies, charities and private industry.

Facilities and equipment

The Department has a full range of research facilities with pilot plants for all major areas of research. Our analytical facilities include gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), UV-VIS, FTIR and Raman, photon correlation spectroscopy (PCS), microcalorimetry, adsorption measurement systems, surface and pore structure analysis systems and particle sizing equipment. Within the University, there is access to atomic force, scanning and transmission electron microscopes. The Department is wellequipped with computing facilities, which include personal computers, workstations and access to the University network and the Internet. Researchers in the Department enjoy free access to scientific information databases and many scientific journals through the central University subscription and IT system.

International and industrial links

The Department participates in several University research centres, which include the Materials Research Centre, the International Centre for the Environment, the Centre for Extremophile Research, the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies. Interdisciplinary research is undertaken through collaboration with several other departments at Bath. In addition, there are active links with UK universities - Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, Leeds, Imperial College, Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge, Southampton, Edinburgh - and with European institutions including the CNRS laboratory at Toulouse and Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland together with the Universities of Alicante, Delft, Oveido, Porto, Paris, Aachen and Wroclaw.

Research Awards and Distinctions

Professor Barry Crittenden and Dr Semali Perera, together with Dr Steve Tennison (MAST Carbon), have won the Severn Trent Water Safety Award for their work on monolithic carbon for solvent recovery and recycle. Holly Shearer was awarded the 2006 University Ede and Ravenscroft Prize for outstanding postgraduate research.

Careers information

We are committed to ensuring that postgraduate students acquire a range of subject-specific and generic skills during their research training including personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and career management. Most of our graduates take up research, consultancy or process and product development and managerial appointments in the commercial sector, or in universities or research institutes. Some take up academic positions. There is currently a significant shortage of highly qualified researchers in Chemical Engineering, which ensures a buoyant jobs market.

Other resources

Postgraduate students are encouraged to become members of professional societies and to present the results of their research at national and international scientific meetings. The Department runs a vibrant weekly research seminar programme where students are given the opportunity to present their research.