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Obnovit | RAW

KU Leuven, Belgium

List of available PhD theses

Ecodesign and design for environment

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

The aim of the dissertation will be the development of tools to integrate environmental aspects into the processes of development and design of new products. The choice of materials, the functionality of the products and a number of parameters predetermined in the product design define the future environmental aspects of the product. The content of the work will be the integration of the life cycle assessment method into the way of work of the designer.

 Life Cycle Assessment of bio-energy and biochemicals production

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

Bio-based products are promising materials and fuels whose production and use will grow in the coming years. Although I can reduce these environmental burdens from traditional fossil materials and fuels, bio-based products can represent other forms of environmental burdens. The aim of this thesis is to create a conceptual tool for environmental impact assessment of bio-based products taking into account their entire life cycle.

Mathematical modelling of membrane separation processes

Department: Department of Inorganic Technology, Faculty of Chemical Technology
Theses supervisor: doc. Dr. Ing. Vlastimil Fíla

Annotation

Membrane separation processes represent the perspective and energy-saving alternative with respect to the present separation processes. Mathematical modeling introduces a tool helping not only understanding and evaluation of experimental data but also the tool suitable for the design of new and optimization of existing industrial technologies and transfer the laboratory results to industrial practice. In the frame of this work the own static and dynamic models of selected advanced membrane technologies or their parts or apparatuses will be developed using the common programming language. The potential future application of developed models in universal simulation programs is expected. By means of using these models in universal simulation programs and computer experiments, the behavior of these technologies will be studied. The verification of developed models by experimental data will be implemented. The aim of the work is the improvement of economic and ecological parameters of technology. The universal simulation programs from Aspen Technology will be used preferentially.

Mathematical models of composite materials prepared by dispersing solid particles of a filler in a liquid polymer matrix

Department: Department of Organic Technology, Faculty of Chemical Technology
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Pavel Čapek, CSc.

Annotation

The work is aimed at the mathematical modelling of composite materials, the preparation of which includes the creation of a suspension of solid particles in a liquid mixture of a solvent and a polymer precursor, volume contraction of the suspension caused by evaporating the solvent and by forming a solid polymer matrix. The initial suspension is modelled using the random sequential addition of particles of various shapes. Then, the motion of particles of the filler in the shrinking suspension is simulated. Each model microstructure and the corresponding microstructure of the real composite material sample are characterised using statistical measures and these measures are subsequently compared with each other for the quality of the model to be evaluated. The real microstructures are deduced from digital images of their polished sections that are observed using a scanning electron microscope.

Mixed matrix mambranes for gas separation

Department: Department of Inorganic Technology, Faculty of Chemical Technology
Theses supervisor: doc. Dr. Ing. Vlastimil Fíla

Annotation

Gas membrane separation represents the perspective and energy-saving alternative with respect to the present separation processes (PSA, TSA, amine extraction, etc.). Most of the membranes industrially applied is based on the polymeric materials having low permeability and/or selectivity. In the frame of this work the mixed matrix membranes combining the perspective properties of both, microporous and polymeric membranes, will be prepared and characterized. The microporous material e.g. ZIF-8, silicalite-1, ETS, FAU, TS-1, AFX, MOF or their post-synthesis modified variants will be used as filler, and combined with polymeric matrix based on industrially available polymers or the ones synthesized in the laboratory. The aim of this study is the preparation and characterization of membranes for different industrial applications. The target application will be defined upon agreement based on the actual research carried out in laboratories (e.g. processing of exhaust gases from power plants and other industrial processes, separation of CO2 from biogas, separation of H2 from streams containing CO2 and/or hydrocarbons, separation of hydrocarbons, etc.). In the frame of this work, the problematics of polymer-filler interactions and the development of new materials aiming to increase thermal and chemical stability, selectivity and permeability of prepared membranes will be studied.

New effective separation membranes for water and wastewater treatment based on hybrid carbon-based materials

Department: Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Karel Friess, Ph.D.

Annotation

Current membrane separation processes allow efficient purification and physical disinfection of water from undesirable components on the basis of a size-sieving mechanism without the need for chemical agents. The pore sizes and their distribution on the membrane surface is an important factor for the effective removal of contaminants and microorganisms. The thesis will study the possibilities of using newly prepared membrane materials based on carbon materials (carbon nanotubes, graphene derivatives, etc.) with targeted surface modifications (eg doping with antimicrobial agents, etc.) in order to effectively remove collected contaminants from water. In addition to the preparation, characterization and testing of materials, the work will also include modelling of the separation process. The result of this work will be, besides the preparation of an effective separation material and describing the model, an extension of knowledge in the given membrane field.

Polymer-based membranes for highly selective removal of CO2 from biogas

Department: Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Zdeněk Slouka, Ph.D.

Annotation

Membrane-based gas separation technology has contributed significantly to the development of energy-efficient systems for natural gas purification. Also CO2 removal from biogas, with CO2 contents exceeding 40% has more recently known rapid growth and development. Major challenge of polymer membranes for gas separation is related to their susceptibility to plasticization at high CO2 partial pressures. CO2 excessively swells the polymer and eases the permeation of CH4, thus reducing the selectivity. Membrane crosslinking is one of the best ways to prevent the plasticization. Mixed matrix membranes (MMMs), consisting of fillers homogeneously dispersed in a polymeric matrix aim at combining the processibility of polymers and the superior separation properties of the porous fillers. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are such materials which have attracted considerable attention due to their tailorable functionality, well-defined pore size, pore tunability and breathing effects. MMMs for biogas upgrading will be prepared with increased permeabilities by choosing proper MOF/polymer combinations and modifying the thermal treatment, employing core-shell MOF materials with high bulk porosity and a selective shell layer.

Preparation of porous materials using phase inversion approach

Department: Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: prof. Dr. Ing. Juraj Kosek

Annotation

The aim of this PhD project is a study of preparation of porous (bio)polymeric materials with well-defined microstructure of pores suitable for various applications, such as membrane separations or scaffolds in tissue engineering. Principal method used for the fabrication of porous materials explored in this project is the phase inversion, which consists of several steps: (i) formation of homogeneous solvent-polymer mixture, (ii) externally induced change in system Gibbs free energy of mixing leading to phase separation, (iii) removal of the solvent from the “frozen” porous polymer matrix. The alteration in Gibbs free energy of mixing can be done in various ways, for instance by addition of immiscible species (nonsolvent) to the system (nonsolvent induced phase separation, NIPS), or by rapid decrease of thermal energy (thermally induced phase separation, TIPS). This work will focus on testing both NIPS and TIPS, as well as their combination (N-TIPS). As a primary experimental project, it involves screening for suitable polymer-solvent(-nonsolvent) combinations (considering also potential biocompatibility of the prepared tissue scaffold), thermodynamic characterization of the system (including its theoretical description), construction of the apparatus for material fabrication, preparation of the porous material and characterization of its morphology and technical properties (e.g. separation performance, dynamics of biodegradation, mechanical properties). There are two ultimate goals of this project: (i) experimental mapping between the phase separation physical conditions and final morphology of the prepared material, and (ii) process scale-up proposition, and optimisation of the material production method, including solvent removal. The project will therefore contribute to the understanding of hetero-phase material morphogenesis during phase separation process, and will offer new classes of materials suitable for real life applications. The student will work with both traditional polymers and with newly emerging biodegradable materials, and will get opportunity to use state-of-the-art methods of morphological characterization, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), 3D computed micro-tomography (mCT), confocal Raman microscopy and others. The project will be carried out in close cooperation with Czech company MemBrain, Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), and Process Engineering for Sustainable Systems Section of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven). Contact: Prof. Juraj Kosek, PhD UCT Prague, Technicka 5, 166 28 Praha 6, Czech Republic E-mail:Juraj.Kosek@vscht.cz Phone: +420 220 44 3296

Pretreatment of sludge by thermal hydrolysis – impact on dewaterability and structure of digested sludge

Department: Department of Water Technology and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

Thermal hydrolysis is established method of sludge pretreatment improving biodegradability of sludge and biogas yield during anaerobic sludge digestion. The sludge structure change after hydrolysis and its impact on sludge dewaterability is very important from practical point of view. The sludge structure and dewaterability will be studied at different types and conditions of thermal processes. Finally, the optimal method of thermal hydrolysis will be proposed in relation to different aspects of digested sludge quality.

Removal of emerging pollutants to allow wastewater reuse

Department: Department of Water Technology and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Environmental Technology
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Jan Bartáček, Ph.D.

Annotation

Emerging pollutants such as farmaceuticals, personal care products or hormones became an important factor jeopardizing the reuse of treated wastewater originating from various sources, i.e. effluents from urban wastewater treatment plants, treated grey water etc. As water recovery technologies are often based on membrane bioreactors (MBR), it would be beneficial to upgrade these MBRs to remove persistent organic pollutants besides other pollution. In this project, we aim to develop technology for micropollutants removal in small scale, so that it mey be applied e.g. for decentralized recycling of grey water.

Removal of heavy metal ions from water using graphene oxide precursors

Department: Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Karel Friess, Ph.D.

Annotation

The presence of heavy metal ions in water is a serious problem for human health and the environment. The ability to efficiently and easily remove unwanted cations from water by adsorption without the need for the use of non-organic agents poses a global challenge to scientists in the art. There will be studied the possibility of using newly prepared adsorption materials based on carbon materials (doped and modified graphene derivatives). Besides preparation, characterization and testing of material properties and adsorbent efficiency for effective removal of contaminants from water, the work will also include development of methodology for post-process separation of adsorbent from purified water. The result of the work will be in addition to the preparation of effective adsorption material and the extension of knowledge in the given material and process field.

Solvent and pH stable membranes with ultra-sharp molecular weight cut-off values

Department: Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Zdeněk Slouka, Ph.D.

Annotation

Membrane-based separations currently offer the best strategy to decrease energy requirements and environmental footprint through newly developed solvent resistant nanofiltration (SRNF) or solvent-tolerant nanofiltration (STNF). So-called solvent activation of polymeric membranes involves treatment of an existing membrane by contacting it with solvents or solvent mixtures, which is hypothesized to restructure the membrane polymer through solvatation, increase polymer chain flexibility and organization into suitable structures. This will be verified by systematically treating membranes with different solvents and testing them for the separation of synthetic liquid streams. A high-throughput set-up will be used. Fundamental physico-chemical characterisations of the membranes before and after the treatments will provide insight in the changes at molecular level. The characterization techniques include gas and liquid uptake experiments (diffusivity), PALS (positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy, to determine free volume element distributions), ERD (elastic recoil scattering, providing elemental analysis in membrane depth profiles), solid state NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), TGA (thermogravimetric analysis) and DSC (differential scanning calorimetry).

Solvent and pH stable membranes with ultra-sharp molecular weight cut-off values for nanofiltration and pervaporation

Department: Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Karel Friess, Ph.D.

Annotation

Current membrane separation processes allow efficient purification of polar or non-polar solvents from undesirable components on the basis of a size-sieving (pressure-driven methods) or chemical affinity (solution-diffusion mechanism). The thesis will focus on testing of robust, pH stable membrane materials with targeted separation properties for specific membrane operations. In addition to the preparation, characterization, and testing of materials, the work will also include modelling of the separation process. The result of this work will be, besides the preparation of an effective separation material and describing the model, an extension of knowledge in the given membrane field.

Sustainability of different nutritional habits from LCA perspective

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

Food produsction is currently identified as key environmental burden. Agriculture, food production, food packaging and distribution together with food waste management have serious environmental impacts. Population growth and need for food in urban systems results in increasing broadscale environmental stress. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate different nutritional habits of selected key world regions and compae their environmental impacts from life cycle perspective. Output of the thesis is to define key factors influencing environmental impacts of food chain and propose environmentally friendlier nutrition habits.

Sustainability of food production

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

Food production is one of the major sectors that has significant environmental impacts. From the point of view of the whole life cycle as well as from the point of view of material and energy flows, it is appropriate to find out which types of eating habits in different regions of the world represent a greater environmental burden. The availability of phosphorus is also important for the food product. The aim of the thesis will be to comprehensively assess the environmental impacts of the entire chain of food production, food packaging, distribution and waste management. The theme will be to compare the differences in food supply between urban and rural environments.

Sustainability of food production

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

Food production is one of the major sectors that has significant environmental impacts. From the point of view of the whole life cycle as well as from the point of view of material and energy flows, it is appropriate to find out which types of eating habits in different regions of the world represent a greater environmental burden. The availability of phosphorus is also important for the food product. The aim of the thesis will be to comprehensively assess the environmental impacts of the entire chain of food production, food packaging, distribution and waste management. The theme will be to compare the differences in food supply between urban and rural environments.

System for remote monitoring of grey water reuse

Department: Department of Water Technology and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Environmental Technology
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Jan Bartáček, Ph.D.

Annotation

One of the main obstacles to the use of treated gray water (i.e. water from bathrooms or washing machines) is the missing method for automatic detection of contamination in the treated waste water. As a result, it is not possible to use recycled water where there is a higher risk of end users exposure to the water contaminated with pathogens (e.g. washing machines, cleaning floors etc.).
In this project, we will develop an early warning system that will automatically detect disturbances in gray water treatment technology and especially the penetration of pathogenic organisms into the recovered water.

Tailoring of nanostructure in mixed matrix membranes for selective removal of CO2 from biogas

Department: Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemical Engineering
Theses supervisor: doc. Ing. Karel Friess, Ph.D.

Annotation

Membrane separation processes belong to modern technologically important separation methods, which are less demanding (economically and ecologically) in comparison with classical separation methods. For the gas separation applications, mainly polymer membranes are used. Their performance (permeability or separation effect) can be additionally adjusted by the targeted embedding of liquid or solid additives into the polymer matrix. The dissertation thesis will focus on the preparation, characterization, and testing of the so-called mixed matrix membranes for the separation of gases based on glassy polymers and functional nano-additives with a purposefully prepared structure. In addition, modeling of the separation process will be part of the work. The result of this work will be prepared and tested membrane material for the effective removal of CO2 from biogas and extension of knowledge in the given membrane field.

 Water footprint and life cycle Assessment in water management

Department: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Environmental Technology

Annotation

The aim of the dissertation thesis will be the development of a conceptual tool for evaluating the water footprint of technologies and urban areas. Water footprint is an environmental parameter evaluating the products, technologies or human settlements and units against water stress. Water stress is a localized problem that needs to be appropriately localized in the methodology of life cycle assessment.


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