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My PhD experience – Estelle le Saché, PhD in Chemical and Process Engineering

“I’m now finishing the first year of my PhD and I have already filed a patent application covering the intellectual property of the novel materials I’ve developed.”

My PhD project seduced me because of its multidisciplinary nature. The project involves chemistry, material science and chemical engineering – and the University of Surrey has advanced technological equipment in all three disciplines.

My project is aimed at tackling two environmental issues: depollution of the atmosphere and renewable energy production. The objective is to remove CO2 – the most abundant greenhouse gas – from industrial processes and convert it into fuels and fine chemicals for green energy. This area is being intensively pursued but it presents a problem. CO2 is a highly stable, almost chemically inert molecule which means that conversion is difficult under normal conditions. My research is therefore focused on developing novel, low-cost, advanced catalysts with enhanced stability and superior efficiency to facilitate CO2 conversion.

By the end of my PhD I would like to be able to make a difference. I hope to find an efficient, stable and resistant catalyst that can make carbon recycling an economically viable solution. I’m now finishing the first year of my PhD and I have already filed a patent application covering the intellectual property of the novel materials I’ve developed.

Another highlight of my PhD has been the opportunity to collaborate with external academic partners. I initially worked with academics at the University of Alicante (Spain), who performed critical tests on my samples, which provided me with useful information about their performance and stability. I then had the opportunity to spend three months at the University of Seville (Spain) where I was able to perform experiments using their highly advanced spectroscopy equipment. This enabled me to observe the surface reaction of the chemicals in detail and has been crucial to my research.

So far, studying for my PhD at Surrey has been incredible. My supervisors (Dr Tomas Ramirez Reina and Dr David Watson) as well as the technical staff within the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering are enthusiastic and always available.

When I finish my PhD I hope to work in the Research & Development department of a company. I love research and definitely want to pursue my career in my field of expertise. It’s amazing to see how much we can do, and also how much there is left to discover.

Discover our programmes in Chemical and Process Engineering, including our PhD in Chemical and Process Engineering.

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