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PhD position in TransFIRe: Dematerialisation of cement and concrete

Location: University of Leeds

Deadline: 22nd May 2022

Contact: Dr Purnell, Dr Drewniok

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Achieving a sustainable circular economy will require that we “dematerialise” many systems of provision. We must drastically reduce the amount of physical material that we currently use to provide goods and services. Extraction, processing and disposal of physical resources such as metals, concrete, plastics, chemicals, ceramics and paper – the “foundation materials” – accounts for almost half of our anthropogenic carbon emissions, and an even greater proportion of many other impacts on our environment such as water use, waste generation and pollution. While minor reductions in carbon emissions and pollution can be achieved by making these materials “greener” through energy efficiency or better processing, to achieve the deep cuts required to approach net-zero, we must radically reduce the flow of resources through or industrial system. This requires a combination of: demand reduction; material efficiency; increasing levels of reuse, refurbishment and repair at the product and component level; and ultimately sustainable recycling systems. For the cement and concrete sector, this could be achieved through a combination of e.g. more efficient concrete mixes that use less cement, a preference for refurbishment of structures over demolition and new build, design of new structures and components (beams, columns, slabs etc.) for reuse, and better design of buildings and structural elements to minimise material use.

In this PhD project, we would like to explore what combination of these technical interventions with appropriate policy instruments and environmental legislation would provide the greatest “bang for buck” with regard to both private and public investment.

Of particular interest are the data strategies required, for example:

• Physical assessment of materials in buildings: how do we inventory and assess existing buildings to determine what components and materials might be reused?

• Data on new components: how do we ensure that the physical property data (e.g. strength, bending capacity) associated with a new reinforced concrete component can be stored, tracked and updated over decades?

• Finances for reuse of structures: how do we provide financial products that allow investors to fund refurbishment rather than new-build?

• Decision-making value tools: how do we make decisions between reuse, refurb and new-build based on economic, environmental and social factors?

This is not an exhaustive list and other aspects of interest to a candidate can be discussed.

Funding Note

A highly competitive EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of £16,062 per year for 3.5 years. An additional Top-Up of £3,000 per year for 3.5 years is available to previous University of Leeds graduates. This opportunity is open to UK applicants only. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.

Published: April 21st, 2022
Posted in PhD opportunities

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