Who got that job?

May 12, 2006

Stuart Scott, lecturer in sustainable energy engineering, Cambridge University

Job advertised in The Times Higher, October 21, 2005

Stuart Scott's research is not to be sniffed at - he experiments with ways of extracting environmentally clean energy from sewage.

His research centres on the basic processes of solid fuel combustion for either extracting energy from waste products or burning coal using clean technologies.

"The science is basically the same whether you burn wood, coal or something else," Dr Scott said. "We started by looking at refuse-derived fuels such as sewage sludge. This is the most hellish thing to have in a lab, but it's not too bad once dried and heat-treated.

"Sewage used to be sent out to sea, but that's now illegal, so it has to be treated and then landfilled. But if we can use the sludge for energy production, we can reduce some of the costs and add value."

The fuels are analysed in small-scale fluidised bed reactors. "We feed in the fuels and analyse the gases developed from the reactions," he said.

"The reactors have hot sand, and we blow hot gas through so the sand behaves like fluid. You can use it like a water bath to maintain a constant temperature, but at 900C."

The group is working on clean coal technology. When coal reacts with oxygen-carrying chemicals instead of burning in the traditional way, it becomes easier to control the collection of carbon dioxide.

Dr Scott decided to pursue a career in energy research at college. "My generation of engineers grew up with sustainability. It probably wasn't called that at the time, but chemical engineering teaches you how to make the best use of materials and to account for where they go. Environmental impact is replacing economic impact when thinking about sustainability."

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