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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/D012996/1
Title: The production of continuous and controlled super-critical water using microwaves
Principal Investigator: Lester, Professor E
Other Investigators:
Harrison, Dr I Kingman, Professor S Poliakoff, Professor M
George, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemical and Environmental Eng
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 November 2005 Ends: 30 April 2008 Value (£): 252,876
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Reactor Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project aims to deliver the world's first portable, continuous supercritical water system using microwaves. This is highly speculative but if successful, could open up a whole range of novel applications ranging from rapid synthesis of chemicals to destruction of chemical weapons in the form of a portable, continuous, and energy efficient system. There are significant scientific and engineering challenges to achieving this goal and therefore a highly multidisciplinary approach is taken. The critical point of water is 374oC and 221 bar and the materials of construction required to contain these temperatures and pressures are a severe limitation when designing a microwave heated system. Such a system would need to create high microwave power densities and generate ultra-rapid heating of a continuous stream of water at high pressure across the subcritical into the supercritical region. Conventional heating systems used to generate supercritical water do not have the power capabilities to heat at such a rate and therefore this research will challenge current conventions. Therefore the potential use of microwave offers an exciting step change in technology and allows the proven benefits of supercritical water to be realised in a much wider field of science and engineering. It is possible that such a system could create a new domain of research centred on the spin off benefits of highly controlled, ultra-rapid heating rate, high pressure water based chemistry. The proposal is highly speculative since certain data regarding the microwave absorbing properties of water at extreme conditions are currently unknown but only inferred and the optimal reactor design can therefore not be determined. This project will develop a fundamental understanding of the microwave interaction with water at elevated temperatures and pressures in order to elucidate the design of an optimised continuous system. We are seeking funding for a 2 year project with funding for a PDRA, consumables, microwave reactor and measurement components, and the level of technical support necessary for the development of the test equipment. The challenge of generating supercritical water with microwaves is extreme due to required conditions, however the rewards for doing so are significant. Within this proposal this high level of risk is mitigated by the potential to extend this technology to other highly polar or ionic fluids that also couple rapidly to microwave fields; these include propanol, ethanol and acetone, all of which have significantly lower critical points. This project addresses two of the key recommendations of the recently published EPSRC International Review of Engineering, namely (i) high risk research involving younger researchers and (ii) interdisciplinary research between engineering and basic sciences.
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk