Energy USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014
May 8, 2014
by Natalie Sims
Natalie Sims – Working towards developing sustainable biofuels
Chemistry Undergraduate, Natalie Sims, has good cause to celebrate. She has just won a Summer Vacation Bursary. These bursaries, part of the EPSRC vacation bursary programme, provide funding for exceptional students to gain first-hand experience of interdisciplinary research. They are awarded annually and allow outstanding students to gain valuable work experience.
Dwindling energy supplies have given a major impetus towards developing renewable energy technologies; and biomass feedstocks such as cellulose, have considerable potential for the generation of second generation biofuels and renewable plastics using heterogeneous catalysts. The cellulose, which typically might come from poplar, for example, can be transformed into biomass-derived FDCA, a chemical which can serve as a sustainable substitute for terephthalic acid in the synthesis of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. This biomass-derived FDCA can be generated by catalytic methods and has potential applications in the production of renewable plastics and biofuel intermediates. Natalie will gain a real insight into an interdisciplinary research career that adopts the principles of Chemistry for renewable energy applications. Building upon knowledge gained from her Chemistry degree, she will develop her own design tools for creating discrete active sites for enabling specific transformations involving biomass feedstocks, using a hierarchical porous structure. She will also have the opportunity to fully characterise her materials using a range of techniques including powder X-ray diffraction, BET, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, electron microscopy and 3D tomography.