Hybrid plasma-catalytic oxidation of organic solvents from nuclear industry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Electrical Engineering and Electronics


There is a significant amount of untreated radioactive waste containing organic species in storage both in the UK and around the world. The waste remains untreated due to there being no adequate systems in place that can treat the wide range of organic species incorporated.
The aim of this project is to develop a non-thermal plasma process for the treatment of these low and intermediate level waste organics. Non-thermal plasma provides an attractive alternative to the conventional route (thermal combustion) for the indiscriminate decomposition and oxidation of organic oils and solvents at low temperatures. The fast attainment of steady-state and high reaction rate in plasma processing allows for a rapid start-up and shutdown of the process compared to other thermal treatment technologies, which significantly reduces the overall energy cost and offers a promising and flexible route for industrial applications.
This PhD is also looking at the combination of plasma and solid-state catalysts, also known as hybrid plasma-catalysis, which has great potential to generate a synergistic effect, significantly enhancing the conversion of organic liquids, the selectivity of end-products, as well as the energy efficiency of the plasma process.
Experimental tests will be carried out to understand the effect of a wide range of processing parameters (e.g. input power, frequency, flow rate, dilution gas, etc) and catalysts on the oxidation of organic solvents (e.g. a model organic compound and/or a mixture of organic compounds) and generated gas and liquid by-products. Plasma chemical kinetic modelling will be developed in combination with advanced plasma diagnostics (e.g. time and space-resolved optical emission spectroscopy) to understand the roles of different reactive species in the plasma oxidation process and the possible reaction pathways and mechanisms involved in the hybrid plasma-catalytic process.
This project is highly interdisciplinary and will provide a unique chance to bring together expertise from plasma physics, plasma chemistry, catalysis, kinetic modelling and nuclear decommissioning to address a key challenge in nuclear industry. This work has been supported by the Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning (CINDe), which is led by the National Nuclear Laboratory, in partnership with Sellafield Ltd and a network of Universities that includes the University of Manchester, Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Cumbria.

Planned Impact

We envisage three distinct strands of outreach and impact from Next Generation Nuclear. We will enage with:

1. The User Community. One of our most significant impacts will be to create the next generation of nuclear research leaders. and we will achieve this by carefully matching student experience with user needs. Close integration of users into the Next Generation Nuclear CDT through the taught programme, Masterclasses, secondments, CDT School, and industrial cosupervision of PhD projects will provide numerous opportunities to achieve this. We will also continue Nuclear First's interactions with specific potential employers and employer groups, which have included Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Waste Research Forum and AWE Aldermaston, and look to broaden these contacts through the Next Generation Nuclear Steering Group.

All NGN academics are extensively engaged with the user community at a technical level. Collectively, we have provided advice, review and technical support across the nuclear arena in the UK (e.g. NDA, RWMD, most NDA Site Licence Companies, EDF, Rolls-Royce, AWE, regulators) as well as to key players overseas (e.g. NNSA, CEA, FZ Juelich). We will use the extensive contacts with users which NGN will foster to gain a better understanding of the challenges which the user community faces, and to engage the academic community more widely in helping address them.

2. Policy and Strategy Development. NGN academics provide input and expert advice across UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and also to the key actors in the nuclear industry. This includes activities such as assistance with formulating policy and strategy, and independent review. Becoming involved in such activities is often fairly haphazard and there is much untapped capability in the wider NGN academic community. We will take advantage of the diversity of the NGN academics and the networks between them to develop a 'community of practice' in this area, creating opportunities for younger academics and supporting them in becoming involved in policy and strategy in order to widen the pool and improve the quality and diversity of advice available.

3. The Wider Public. We will have an active programme of public engagement which we will coordinate with activities of other nuclear CDTs. This will build on the work done by Nuclear First which was 'Highly Commended' at the 2012 Energy Institute Awards. In engaging with the wider public, we will continue our general approach by using Next Generation Nuclear as a focus for a series of high quality, relatively large, high impact events, for example the Cheltenham Science Festival, Big Bang Science Fair, MOSI Meet the Nuclear Scientists. These activities will be coordinated with outreach activities from other large projects in which the Next Generation Nuclear consortium members are involved.


10 25 50