Advanced oxidation processes with bubbles and sound

Project Details

Key Questions

Can we oxidise alcohols to aldehydes, ketones, or epoxides by controlling cavitation?


Advanced oxidation processes to convert low cost chemicals to valuable ones is crucial for our society and impacts nearly every aspect of our life. However, the chemistry often relies on energy intensive heterogenous catalysis in the presence of harsh oxidants, which is not environmentally sustainable at present. Sonochemistry, i.e., the use of sound and collapsing bubbles, may provide a more sustainable alternative route for advanced oxidation processes. By controlling bubble collapse events around catalysts, it may be possible to facilitate the specific oxidation of cheap chemicals to form more valuable ones.

Aims of the Project

The key aim of this project is to demonstrate more effective oxidation of benzyl alcohol to benzaldehyde through the development of heterogenous catalytic sonochemistry.

Project Description

The purpose of this project is to determine if controlling cavitation events around catalysts will enhance the oxidation of an alcohol to an aldehyde, ketone, or epoxide. Here, the specific oxidation benzyl alcohol to benzaldehyde will be used as a test case. The student will be expected to use developed methods to synthesize catalytic cavitation agents (CCAs) and test their acoustic properties using conventional acoustic analytical methods. Using a sonochemical reactor, the student will test the catalytic performance of the CCAs and compare them to other systems reported in the literature by exploring a range of acoustic parameters and environmental conditions (temperature, pressure, gas content, etc.). Students will also be expected to analyse product species with the use of conventional analytical techniques (gas-chromatography, mass spectrometry, etc.).

Project specifics will be defined during a discussion with the PI.

Methods to be used

Nanoparticle synthesis

Analytical chemistry

Acoustics and cavitation analysis

Specialised skills required

A desire to learn new things

A willingness to explore challenging problems

Please contact James Kwan on if you are interested in this project