Centre for Energy

Development of catalysts for the low-temperature plasma-catalytic synthesis of alcohols from methane and carbon dioxide

To Apply

For more information and to apply, please contact

Dr Jesse Santoso

Research Associate

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +61 8 6488 7600

Plasma Reactor 

Project Description

The use of low-temperature plasmas for the synthesis or reforming of renewable fuels and chemicals has attracted significant interest over the past few years. By using a plasma, electrical energy can be directly utilised to activate chemical species and cause reactions to take place. This offers many advantages over conventional thermocatalytic techniques due to the responsiveness and compactness of plasma reactors. One of the principal applications of plasma reactors currently under investigation is their use in gas-to-liquid conversion, with a particular focus on the utilisation of CO­2 and CO­2-rich gases (such as biogas) as feedstocks for the production of liquid fuels. If used in combination with renewable electricity, plasma reactors have an excellent potential to contribute to the low carbon or carbon neutral production of industrial chemicals and synthetic fuels.

Of particular interest is the use of heterogeneous catalysts in combination with plasmas in plasma-catalytic reactors to achieve even greater efficiency, yield, and selectivity. Plasma catalysis is a relatively new field and the interactions between plasmas and catalysts remain poorly understood. One of the primary roles of typical heterogeneous catalysts is to lower the activation energy required to break the bonds of the feedstock chemical species. However, in the plasma state, chemical species are excited or dissociated before reaching the surface of the catalyst, allowing for entirely different reaction pathways to occur. This means that catalysts which are ideal for a given reaction in thermocatalysis may not be ideal for the same reaction in plasma catalysis. It will therefore be necessary to develop new catalysts which take full advantage of the different reaction pathways offered by combined plasma catalysis.

Supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) under the Discovery Projects scheme (DP180103588), this project will focus on the development and evaluation of catalysts for the direct synthesis of methanol (and potentially higher alcohols) from CO­2 and CH4 in a packed bed dielectric barrier discharge type plasma-catalytic reactor.

The goals of this project include:

  • Reviewing the existing literature to identify potential mechanisms to target with novel catalysts.
  • Preparing and experimentally evaluating the performance of novel catalyst candidates in a prototype plasma-catalytic reactor.
  • Evaluating the effect of plasma exposure on catalytic materials.
  • Exploring underlying mechanisms of plasma catalysis through theory and simulation.


The successful applicant should have a B.Sc (Hons., 2A or higher), M.Sc, or M.Eng in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, or Physics. Previous experience with heterogeneous catalysis is desirable.