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The EPSRC Atoms to Products (A2P) CDT in Sustainable Chemistry is a four-year programme that will provide advanced training and education to students, to prepare for rewarding careers in academia, industry and related sectors. A major component of the training framework is the Integrated Industrial Challenge, which takes during Year 1 of the programme. Here, students will work as teams in one of four contemporary research themes (which are likely to change each year), supervised by several academic staff and industry scientists. The Integrated Industrial Challenge is designed to foster team working and collaboration on a cutting-edge, industry-relevant scientific problem within a multidisciplinary environment.

Year 1 activities will include:

  • Taught courses in core and specialist subjects
  • Interactions with industry scientists (possibly during short visits to companies)
  • Significant laboratory-based or computational research on a group project
  • Transferrable skills training
  • Assessments
  • Research and planning to support the development of individual PhD projects for Years 2-4

In Years 2-4, students will work on individual PhD projects, the topics of which may (but necessarily) arise naturally from the Year 1 activities. The expectation is that PhD projects will be multidisciplinary, with students continuing to benefit from supervision from two (or more) academics and an industrial scientist. Transferrable and specialist skills will continue in Years 2 and 4.

By the end of our CDT programme, students will not only be experts in a particular chemistry-related field, but will also have a deep understanding of a sustainability concepts. This training will be invaluable in a future scientific career.

The first year assessment involves the following stages:

  • Literature Review
  • Project Proposal
  • Proposal Presentation
  • Mini Research Project
  • Project Report
  • Project Viva

Research Themes

AI Designed Catalysis
AI Designed Catalysis

Catalytic formation of C-H, C-C and C-Heteratom bonds is the invisible engine that drives formation of the molecules our society needs.  Classical catalyst optimisation requires thousands of uni-varient optimisations typically moderated by humans. Self-learning algorithms offer opportunities to identify unique patterns in such complex data allowing faster process optimisation.

Late Stage Functionalisation
Late Stage Functionalisation

Late stage functionalisation of complex molecules is increasingly important for producing compound libraries to search for optimal function, and can be faster and more efficient compared with more conventional synthetic approaches where diversification occurs at an early stage. This theme will develop new, state-of-the-art methods for late stage functionalisation.

Towards Circular Processing
Towards Circular Processing

There is a pressing need for society to increase the level of recycling of materials and chemical-based products. The development of industrial processes that embrace circular processing is critical to sustainable development and cleaner manufacturing. This theme will develop novel, highly efficient reactor technologies to deliver products in energy and atom efficient processes with the aim of  'keeping the molecules in play'

Spectroscopy for Process Intensification and Optimisation
Spectroscopy for Process Intensification and Optimisation

We are seeking to recruit highly motivated students who are eager to work in a multi-disciplinary team involving mathematicians, chemists, physicists, and engineers to develop fully automated multi-step flow photochemical and electrochemical manufacturing processes.  This goal is important because chemical manufacturing is moving towards smaller scale production of a larger number of compounds, leaving less time for process development while still being under pressure to reduce costs and increase production flexibility and efficiency. With the growing interest in sustainability, effective reaction monitoring and rapid process optimisation are crucial for future manufacturing.

This Theme focusses on combining Process Analytical Technology and self-optimisation AI to accelerate efficient chemical manufacturing on the kilogram scale in continuous photo-, electro-, and thermal chemistry processes.  It will blend fundamental science with real world applications to deliver things that are genuinely new. 

The students whom we recruit will gain broad experience in many different areas including:

  • Flow chemistry
  • Process modelling
  • Photo-/electro-chemistry
  • A large variety of spectroscopy including UV/visible, Infrared, Raman and ultrafast time-resolved techniques
  • Interaction with both academia and industry

Theme Lead:  Prof Mike George

Batteries for a Sustainable Future
Batteries for a Sustainable Future

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized modern life but they are reaching their performance limits. This Research Theme will work towards the development of the next-generation of sustainable battery technologies. The new batteries will have higher energy densities than those of lithium-ion and are necessary for the widespread electrification of transportation.

  • Outline of Theme-specific training activities:
  • Formal training in state-of-the-art battery science
  • Sustainable chemistry
  • Electrochemistry
  • 3D printing
  • Gas separation science

Projects are available in the development of sustainable electrolytes and additives, catalysis, gas scrubbers and cell architecture. Our multidisciplinary team includes experts in chemistry, chemical engineering, manufacturing and physics, and we will collaborate with a range of industrial and academic collaborators. Nottingham is a leading partner in the Faraday Institution, the UK’s national battery research initiative. Projects will align with Faraday Institution goals and students will have the opportunity to collaborate within the network.
Theme Lead:  Dr Lee Johnson 


“Dial-A-Catalyst” is focussed on the development of the new generation of nanocatalysts that combine the best features of homogenous (high activity and selectivity) and heterogeneous catalyst (high stability and recyclability) and their application in some of the most important reactions for the chemical industry (e.g. CO2 utilisation and ammonia synthesis). The unique catalytic properties of the novel nanocatalysis will be evaluated by: (i)- in situ and in operando methods, to understand the interaction between metals and small molecules (e.g. CO2, N2, H2), ii- in catalytic reactions using batch and flow reactors at the laboratory level and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Siemens semi-industrial nanocatalyst test facility. In this project, we (PhD students and academic mentors) will make a step change in the design and fabrication of nanocatalysts solving a number of challenges of the chemical industry.

Outline of Theme-specific training activities:

  • A large range of synthetic and characterisation methods using cutting edge instrumentation at UoN and Diamond Light Source.
  • Undertake quantum chemical and molecular dynamics computations
  • Industrial training at Siemens/Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Green Ammonia Pilot Plant facility

Available research areas

  • Nanocatalysts: design and synthesis
  • Spectroscopy: studying interactions of metal clusters with small molecules
  • Modelling/computation of materials and catalytic reactions
  • Catalytic processes: e.g. CO2 utilization, ammonia synthesis

Theme Leads: Dr Jesum Alves Fernandes and Prof Tim Wright 

Chemical and Biological Recycling of Plastics
Chemical and Biological Recycling of Plastics

Many plastic waste streams are not suitable for mechanical recycling, and chemical and biological recycling technologies need significant development to become part of the mainstream solution to the plastics crisis.  This theme will work to provide understanding of how different plastics waste streams can be processed, and what sort of new products can be formed (e.g. monomers, platform chemicals, functional porous materials).  This is a complex and multidisciplinary challenge with the potential to generate cutting-edge fundamental research while working with industrial partners to find solutions to the global challenge of plastic waste. 

Candidates from a wide range of backgrounds including chemistry, chemical engineering, computational modelling and biochemistry are invited to apply.

Outline of Theme-specific training activities:

  • Polymer chemistry
  • Processing technologies including microwave, enzymatic and supercritical fluids
  • Valorising products via recovery of oligomers, monomers and functionalised materials
  • Enzyme discovery, production and characterisation
  • Advanced spectroscopic techniques
  • Plastics in the circular economy and life cycle analysis

Available research areas include:

  • Enzymatic polymer degradation and enzymatic valorisation of the resulting stream
  • Novel recycling routes enabled by the unique properties of supercritical fluids
  • Developing microwave technologies for polymer recycling
  • Characterisation and exploitation of landfill plastics

Theme Lead:  Dr Eleanor Binner


Carbon Neutral Laboratories building hosts BBC East Midlands Today Climate Change Special

Carbon Neutral Laboratories building hosts BBC East Midlands Today Climate Change Special

30 Jan 2020

University of Nottingham showcases its sustainable chemistry research on BBC news special.


Wonder 2019 - celebrating the Year of the Periodic Table

Wonder 2019 - celebrating the Year of the Periodic Table

26 Jun 2019

Our students enjoy discussing sustainable chemistry and engineering with members of the general public in Nottingham.