KU Leuven is routinely ranked near the top of innovative universities in the world, and was recently rated as the most innovative in Europe by Reuters (https://nieuws.kuleuven.be/en/content/2019/four-years-in-a-row-ku-leuven-once-again-tops-reuters-ranking-of-europes-most-innovative-universities). As a member of this vibrant university, you will have the opportunity to not only engage in cutting-edge research, but also to hone skills that can be leveraged for future employment in industry, academia, or your own entrepreneurial pursuits. One of the great challenges for the future is to realize an environmentally friendly and affordable energy supply. Partly as a result of the higher share of renewable energy, the supply side is characterized by distributed and intermittent electrical and thermal power generation. Flexibility on the supply and demand side, including energy storage and energy conversion between different energy carriers plays a role here. In this context, the Applied Mechanics and Energy Conversion division (TME) has the ambition to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable energy supply in a wide academic collaboration. The TME division has the goal, based on its core experience around experimental techniques, modeling, integration and optimization of energy systems, to play a pioneering role in both research and education. It aims for a multiscale integration of micro-components to macro-energy systems and also does this in collaboration with academic partners, research institutions and industry.
As intermittent, renewable energy capacity continues to expand in the electrical grid, there will be increasing periods of time where energy supply exceeds demand. One method to store this excess energy is in the form of a “chemical battery”. As an example, excess renewable electricity is used to generate “green” hydrogen by means of electrolysis, which is a form of Power-to-Gas (P2G), and this hydrogen is then injected into the existing transport infrastructure of the natural gas (NG) network. This has the immediate advantage of decarbonizing the gas supply by displacing methane with zero-carbon hydrogen, and further CO2 abatement is possible with energy conversion devices designed to exploit this hydrogen-enriched fuel source.
Introducing hydrogen into the gas supply would have several impacts on conventional NG combustors, including increasing flame speed, raising flame temperature and promoting the formation of nitrous oxides (NOx). The latter, undesirable effect can be entirely avoided through the use of advanced, end-use technologies such as oxy-fuel combustors. These combustors use pure oxygen instead of air as the oxidizing agent in the combustion process, producing a CO2-rich exhaust that is more amenable to carbon capture and sequestration than that of conventional combustors. As there is no nitrogen present in the oxidizer stream, oxy-fuel combustors produce no NOx emissions. Despite their positive qualities, these combustors tend to suffer from issues with stability because they must employ significant dilution of the oxy-fuel mixture for robust operation. This is particularly problematic for state-of-the-art oxy-NG combustors, as NG has a relatively low flame speed compared to other hydrocarbon fuels. However, an oxy-fuel combustor connected to a hydrogen-enriched NG supply is expected to experience sufficient combustion stability due to the enhanced flame propagation from hydrogen, and therefore such combustors would be ideal for a gas network infused with renewable hydrogen. Moreover, the electrolysis used to generate the renewable hydrogen can also provide oxygen for the oxy-fuel combustors. It is also straightforward to separate the CO2 in the exhaust and recirculate most of it back to the oxy-fuel combustor to act as the required diluent. This allows oxy-NG combustors with hydrogen-enrichment and CO2 dilution to robustly generate power and heat with ultra-low carbon emissions. At this point, the range of volumetric hydrogen content that is feasible for oxy-fuel combustion with hydrogen-enhanced NG and CO2 dilution is not well established, and it is not known what amount of hydrogen could be supported by a gas network that features P2G capability.
The PhD student will experimentally investigate hydrogen-enriched, oxy-NG combustion using existing swirl flow combustors at the KU Leuven TME laboratory facilities. Additionally, the student will engage in numerical modeling of a gas network that features P2G capability to assess the range of applicable NG/H2 mixtures that could be available for a network of flexible, CO2-dilute oxy-fuel combustors.
The candidate must hold a Masters of Science degree in Mechanical or Industrial Engineering or an equivalent degree that gives access to KU Leuven Doctoral School PhD program.
- Candidate must have a good command of both spoken and written English (a certificate for a TOEFL/IELTS test is recommended)
- Background in combustion of alternative fuels (some background in combustion kinetics is preferred)
- Experience with combustion experiments and related, numerical modeling
- Experience in scientific computing in Matlab, Python, R, etc.
- The candidate should be able to operate independently and think creatively when faced with challenging problems
- The candidate must be willing to comply with the KU Leuven regulation on doctoral degrees (https://admin.kuleuven.be/rd/doctoraatsreglement/en/phdregulation-set)
- Full-time PhD position with a competitive salary and additional benefits such as health insurance, access to university sports facilities, etc.
- The opportunity to work and live in one of the most innovative universities and cities in Europe. Leuven is located 20 min from Brussels, in the centre of Europe.
- International working environment and possibility to present your work on international conferences
- A full-time employment for four years
- To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will participate in the Arenberg Doctoral School doctoral training program
Candidates can apply by submitting their CV, motivation letter and copies of transcripts via the online application tool.For more information please contact Prof. dr. Josh Lacey, tel.: +32 16 32 17 27, mail: email@example.com.You can apply for this job no later than July 05, 2021 via the online application toolKU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.