Chemical and Process Engineering Research PhD

Why choose this course?

With the oldest continuing chemical engineering programme in England, we are a highly respected and award-winning department with a wealth of experience and expertise in the subject. 

Our interdisciplinary research work involves activities with cross-cutting themes, investigating materials and devices with the Advanced Technology Institute while addressing challenges in information technology. The recently established Centre for Advance Process Intensification offers a research platform for sustainable manufacturing, leading to the development of new and improved concepts of processing methods and equipment for chemical and energy conversion systems. 

Research in the Department is highly multi-disciplinary and we enjoy excellent collaborations with Materials, Chemistry, the Ion Beam Centre, the Surrey Space Centre, the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, and the 5G Innovation Centre, as well as access to their facilities. We are internationally recognised for our water research, for which the University was the recipient of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. We have also taken the first step towards ‘industrial sixth sense’ with a £1m project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which aims to develop technology enabling companies to ‘see into the future’ in order to prevent industrial disasters. 

Much of our research is computationally based and we have the latest software and hardware. Our modern laboratories include high headroom areas for pilot plant, and specialist laboratories exist for microbial systems, water and particle technology. 

The University’s strengths in chemical engineering include membrane filtration and ultrasound processing. Key members in the Department have extensive expertise in these areas and strong industry links with projects looking into implementation of water processing technology. 

You will benefit from comprehensive training and transferable skills development offered through the Faculty Graduate School, which serves to support your future career and create a friendly social environment for the Faculty’s large cohort of postgraduate research students. You will have opportunities to present and exchange your research with others within the Department, as well as socialise and network with others, at various events and forums.

What you will study

If you join us, you will have opportunities to investigate topics ranging from fuel cell systems, biorefining and reverse osmosis to positron emission particle tracking. 

As a PhD student you will go through a confirmation process in which you will need to produce a report to demonstrate your understanding of the research field and your project results. Your ability to carry out critical literature review, scientific writing skills and ability to carry out research and produce meaningful results will be evaluated by your supervisor and two examiners. Once you have passed the confirmation stage, your PhD research project can begin. 

At the end of the second year, you will be expected to submit a scientific manuscript draft containing your most important results, as well as a solid plan for writing up your PhD thesis. This will be evaluated by your supervisor and examiners, and necessary support will be provided. 

You will be encouraged to complete your PhD within 36 months, and you should submit your PhD thesis within 48 months. Your PhD thesis will be evaluated by two examiners (one external to the University). There will be also a formal meeting for you to defend your thesis with the two examiners questioning. The two examiners will then make recommendation based on their evaluation. 

The Department of Chemical and Process Engineering offers a dynamic and friendly environment for research. You will be provided with the necessary support to carry out your research projects and have access to expertise and facilities across the University, and externally when necessary. 

Depending on the nature of your project, you will work in labs, offices and in external institutions. If your project is experimental in nature, you will likely spend a lot of time in labs carrying out the research. If your project is computational in nature, you will likely work mainly within offices with computers. You will also have opportunities to work externally if your project involves such collaborations. 

The PhD programme is organised to support your progress as a PhD student. There will be a review with your supervisors every six months to discuss past progress, research directions, difficulties encountered and support needed. 

Your supervisor will offer their expertise in the research field, support in establishing necessary equipment and research conditions, guidance in the project overall research direction and results interpretation, and support in scientific writings.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 48 months July
PhD Full-time 48 months October
PhD Full-time 48 months January
PhD Full-time 48 months April
PhD Part-time 96 months January
PhD Part-time 96 months April
PhD Part-time 96 months July
PhD Part-time 96 months October
Stag Hill

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Our students

  • Adam Cole, PhD Chemical and Process Engineering

    "My work looks at the damage done to DNA by radiation and how that DNA repairs itself."

    Read more

  • Katie Costello, PhD Chemical and Process Engineering

    “I have access to a large range of ultrasonic equipment, and also fantastic bio-labs where I conduct my bacterial research.”

    Read more

  • Stella Totti, PhD Chemical and Process Engineering

    “I’ve expanded my knowledge in different scientific fields, become familiar with advanced laboratory techniques and cutting-edge equipment handling, and collaborated with many experts.”

    Read more


  • Find out how our Doctoral College can support your research career

    Read more

  • Stay up to date with our latest research news

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  • Explore how our research is making a difference to the world

    Read more

Research themes

There are five main research themes:

  • Energy and materials
  • Formulations and products
  • Health and food
  • Digital and process innovation
  • Water processing technology

Within these themes our research looks at:

  • Development and modelling of novel nanomaterials for solid oxide fuel cells, electrolysers, batteries, and super-capacitors
  • New generation of solar cells and membranes technology, custom-made catalysts for environmental and photocatalytic applications
  • Biorefining, design and optimisation of the bioenergy supply chain
  • Particulate materials manufacturing for pharmaceutical, food and minerals industry
  • Multiphase flow, process modelling and optimisation using coupled DEM-CFD and FEM
  • Particle mechanical property characterisation, powder flow and compaction, granulation and mechanistic modelling
  • In vitro and in silico models for biological systems at molecular, cellular and organ levels
  • Computation oncology and modelling radiotherapy
  • Oral processes of food and pharmaceutical products
  • Product structure and properties interplay with bio-substrate response
  • Industrial symbiosis, optimisation and decision making
  • Whole systems hierarchical modelling based on massive spatial-temporal data and time points
  • Innovative waste water processing and recycling , including forward osmosis
  • Use of ultrasonics to promote chemical and physical processing
  • Membrane filtration and synthesis

Research facilities

  • Bench and pilot plant filtration systems
  • Ultrasound processing equipment
  • Water testing facilities
  • Specialist laboratories for microbial systems, water and particle technology

The developed technology will be demonstrated in an existing modular-built pilot miniplant in Surrey, which contains three sections: feed preparation, reaction and downstreaming (purification/separation) processes, with a throughput of 50 litres/min and a reactor vessel operating volume of 300d/m3. It includes a heat exchanger network, pressure relief system, alarm management, fully automated with over 60 sensors and a DCS system.

Bench and pilot plant filtration systems

Ultrasound processing equipment

Water testing facilities

Specialist laboratories for microbial systems, water and particle technology. 

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time January £4,195 £20,000
Full-time April £4,195 £20,000
Full-time July £4,195 £20,000
Full-time October £4,260 £20,800
Part-time January £2,100 £10,000
Part-time April £2,100 £10,000
Part-time July £2,100 £10,000
Part-time October £2,130 £10,400

For fees payable in 2018/19, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

January applications for 2018 entry now closed

All applications made for a January start date are for 2019 entry exclusively.

Contact us

Admissions enquiries

+44 (0)1483 682 222

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