PhD interview. Yashasvi Laxminarayan

PhD interview: Replacing coal with biomass

Tuesday 01 May 18


Yashasvi Laxminarayan
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 28 82

PhD students and their research are of great value to DTU Chemical Engineering. We interviewed Yashasvi Laxminarayan about ‘Formation, Sintering and Removal of Biomass Ash Deposits’.

The many PhD students at DTU Chemical Engineering are a vital part of the scientific life and community of the department. One of them is Yashasvi Laxminarayan who defended his PhD thesis ‘Formation, Sintering and Removal of Biomass Ash Deposits’ on 13 April 2018.

We asked the newly appointed PhD five questions about his research:

1. What is the essence of your PhD project?

Danish policy makers have set the goal of phasing out coal from power plants by 2030 to help reduce CO2 emissions and tackle climate change. Ørsted has an even more ambitious agenda to do the same by 2023. Biomass (straw, wood, etc.) is a CO2 neutral fuel and can potentially replace coal in power plants. However, burning biomass in power plants often causes operational problems, such as ash deposition and corrosion. My PhD project revolved around solving these problems.

2. What did you discover during your research?

During my PhD project, I discovered the effects of operating conditions and ash chemistry on the formation and removal of biomass ash deposits, and I identified methods to alleviate ash deposition in boilers. From a more personal perspective, I found out that doing research is incremental and unpredictable. You can never plan for the next three years, as your results from today may change your direction tomorrow. 

3. What are the possible wider implications of your research for society?

My research can be used by companies operating power plants to reduce problems associated with biomass combustion in their boilers. Policy makers can use my research to make informed decisions in their plan of replacing coal with biomass. Overall, my PhD project has been a small step in the direction of utilising sustainable fuels to reduce net CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change.

4. What made you choose applying for a PhD position at DTU Chemical Engineering?

Before applying to this PhD project, I knew that DTU is one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. What I really appreciated about DTU Chemical Engineering though, was its industry-oriented research.

More importantly, the topic of this PhD project appealed to me, as it complemented my aspirations to solve industrial problems, and involved both experimental and modelling work. Furthermore, I saw that the PhD study at DTU is well-structured, with sufficient emphasis on courses and teaching experience.

5. What does the future hold for you?

Currently, I am a Postdoc at DTU Chemical Engineering, working on a novel process for catalytically converting sugar into building blocks for plastic and paints. The project is in collaboration with Haldor Topsoe, and I am building a setup to experimentally investigate its hydrodynamics and validate CFD models.

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