13 Jun 2014
I am currently in the third year of a case award PhD project with Johnson Matthey and the University of Leeds, Richardson bursary winner Sandra Chauruka writes. My research interests are mainly in powder technology with specific interest in the effects of different size reduction mechanisms on the morphology and properties of different aluminium oxide powders.
The research work I am currently undertaking is mainly aimed at understanding the effects of milling on gamma-alumina, an oxide commonly used as a support in catalysis. Understanding the milling process can allow more control over the milled product properties and hence influence end use of the oxide. In the work which I presented at the conference, I employ different mills for size reduction and apply different characterisation methods to assess the properties of the milled product.
The results give insight into the changes in properties such as surface area, pore volume and pore size distribution; properties relevant for desired high surface area in catalysis. The funding for my research work is jointly sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Johnson Matthey. My main supervisor is Dr Ali Hassanpour and I am co-supervised by Prof Kevin Roberts and Prof Rik Brydson.
Attending the World Congress on Particle Technology, which took place in Beijing China, from 19 - 22 May 2014, was a strategic step in developing my research skills and sharing my knowledge with the international particle technology family. The work I am currently undertaking is of relevance to the research goals of my institute and is providing a significant amount of knowledge into milling as an engineering process. I was selected for an oral presentation at this conference and I managed to articulate my findings to academic scientists and industrial representatives from different areas within the engineering community.
From attending the conference, I managed to appreciate the timely relevance of my research work into understanding the size reduction mechanisms of ball milling processes and mechanochemistry as these processes are gaining influence in reducing process steps for production of catalysts and hence reducing production costs. The feedback I received on the work I presented was also very useful as it provided me with many ideas for future work as well as thoughts for improvement on current work.
With the rapidly growing popularity of mechanochemistry as an engineering process, attending this conference gave me insight on the current work in the area. The experience was further enhanced by a chance to meet the different scientists working in this area face-to-face and sharing knowledge and observations from different experiments carried out.
Apart from work specifically related to my presentation, I also found oral presentations on simulation methods of particular importance as they shed light into how I could gain more information from simulating my experimental work. One example of these presentations was 'measurement and prediction of compression and shear behaviour of wet iron ore fines', a presentation given by John Morrissey from the University of Edinburgh. The presentation gave me an understanding of how the Discrete Element Model could allow me to estimate milling energies for my experiments.
Meeting with several researchers with similar interests was immensely beneficial both for my project development and for my profile as a young researcher. I managed to network and establish relationships with scientists in particle technology. By meeting and discussing with other researchers, I identified areas where my knowledge was useful and areas where I could gain more knowledge from other peers. I also managed to meet and discuss with scientists whose publications I had come across and this allowed me to gain further understanding in their work.
As a young researcher at the grass-roots of developing my academic career, I feel the conference provided me with a chance to showcase my work and gave me an appreciation of my contribution to the development and further improvement of engineering processes within particle technology.
I am grateful for SCI's financial support toward the cost of the conference and acknowledged the contribution in my presentation.
University of Leeds