Dr Paul Hellier

PhD, MEng

Paul Hellier

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Job title: Senior Research Associate
Division: Department of Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University College London
Tags: Fellowship: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Researcher, University College London
Related theme: Energy Engineering


Following a MEng in Environmental Engineering at Cardiff University, I undertook my PhD at University College London (UCL), Mechanical Engineering with BP, remaining at UCL as a Senior Research Associate. I enjoy working with researchers and industry across disciplines, with my interests including the design of future fuels, co-combustion, and fuels from wastes.

My Fellowship

My fellowship focuses on how future fuels can be developed from renewable sources with the minimum of post-processing and energy inputs so that these new fuels are truly sustainable, emitting lower levels of greenhouses gases and other pollutants over the whole production to combustion lifecycle. This means that I collaborate with chemists and biologists who are researching new ways of producing fuels and testing these prototype fuels in diesel and spark ignition engines.

For example, I am working with Molecular Biologists at UCL who are genetically engineering micro-algae to produce designer fuels, and the engine testing of these fuels, which assess the efficiency of combustion and the emission of pollutants such as soot and nitrogen oxides, identifies the most promising fuel designs and informs the direction of further genetic engineering. In this way we can iteratively design fuels on a molecular level that work with modern engines and are cleaner burning than current alternative fuels. 

The global demand for energy, and in particular liquid fuels, is expected to continue increasing for many decades to come, and so to be designing new, cleaner fuels that could be produced sustainably is an exciting area of research.

In the course of this fellowship, I intend to advance the scientific understanding of fuel design so that there is widespread realisation that in producing new fuels, rather than merely emulating existing fuels, we can develop alternative fuels that have been intentionally designed for sustainable production, efficient energy release and to emit lower levels of pollutants

Motivation to Apply

What I have found inspiring throughout my university career is the connections between the big global problems (energy security, climate change and waste disposal) and how engineering can tie these problems together and start to solve them.

During and since my  PhD, I have investigated unusual concepts like fuelling diesel engines with liquid fuel blends that contain solid algae biomass; being in academic research provides the independence and facilities to explore these kinds of high risk ideas, and this Fellowship is an exciting opportunity to continue contributing solutions to the global challenge of providing sustainable energy.

Career benefit of Fellowship

The award of this fellowship has given me the resources and confidence to not only fulfil my near-term research aims, but also to develop my future objectives and interests. The investment in my research by the EPSRC has helped me secure further support from UCL and industry collaborators, and to start building a research group of PhD students under my supervision centred around sustainable future fuels and combustion strategies. Furthermore, the independence this Fellowship provides is an excellent platform on which to build new collaborations and to lead future projects.

Advice for future applicants

The most exciting aspect of the fellowship application is creating the opportunity to explore your ideas; explaining and committing these ideas to paper is a great way to focus on what exactly your research proposal will answer and the importance of doing so. However, the application is a long process, and to maintain your commitment you need to be sure that the proposal reflects your research priorities and not those of the host institution or of colleagues. Take all of the offers to read your proposal prior to submission as this is the best way of testing how effectively you are communicating your ideas.