PhD in Sustainable Process Engineering – A world Without Waste: Process Intensification for Efficient Low-Carbon Regeneration of Lead-Acid Batteries



Cranfield University – School of Water, Energy and Environment

Dr D Hanak , Dr A Nabavi Sunday, Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

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Sponsored by EPSRC through Doctoral Training Partnership Funding, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,000 (tax free) plus full fees for three years.

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in Chemical Engineering, Process Engineering, Energy Engineering or a related discipline.

About the Project

Do you want to make a difference and contribute towards transition to the circular economy and decarbonisation of the industrial sector? This fully funded PhD studentship in Sustainable Process Engineering (EPSRC) is an opportunity for you to develop skills in techno-economic feasibility assessment of energy systems using the state-of-the-art commercial software. You will not only develop novel concepts for clean energy and industrial production, but also will undergo an academic mentoring and development programme that will make you a well-rounded researcher.

Lead-acid batteries are referred to as being the world’s most successfully recycled commodity product. They are part of an industry which is estimated to grow beyond $85 billion USD by 2026, and are widely utilised in automotive, renewable energy storage, and a variety of other applications including backup power for emergency lights, hospitals and more. Their success is mainly attributed to the fact that lead metal is infinitely recyclable, and the economics of the recycling of lead are outstanding. However, despite the success of the lead-acid battery as a recyclable commodity product, the industry which recycles these batteries (i.e. the secondary lead smelters) are considered by many as being one of the world’s most polluting industries. This is because smelting is high energy intensive, carbon intensive, wasteful and often highly polluting.

The main reason for these damning environmental credentials is down to the fact that the active material, commonly known as ‘leady oxide’, which comprises a mixture of lead metal and lead oxide, is processed via incineration at high temperatures of at least 1,200 degrees C. High temperatures are necessary to process thermally the lead sulphate, PbSO4, which accumulates over the charging and discharging cycles leading to reduced capacity of the lead-acid batteries.