Dioxin Research Network

An EPSRC funded research network to promote expertise in dioxin research

The Dioxin Research Network aims to promote high quality research and to improve collaboration, dissemination and exploitation by developing better links throughout the research-based and industrial community of the process industry.

Dioxins and related compounds have a high public profile and influence the public perception of industry. For example, whilst it is increasingly agreed in the clean technology community that the thermal treatment of waste materials represents one of the best overall environmental options, this view has not been generally accepted by the public.

A major feature of objections at planning enquiries for incinerators and other industrial plants is the public fear of the unknown effects of dioxins/furans, making it important that industrial expertise in this field is placed on a firm and rigorously-based foundation.

To satisfy this need, the Process Engineering Dioxin Research Network has been established at the University of Sheffield.

The Network is a research consortium comprising partners from the UK Environment Agency, industry and academia and is designed to foster close working partnerships in the area of trace organic and dioxin/furan formation, control, measurement and analysis.

This interdisciplinary team from industry and academia, with wide and deep experience in the various facets of these problems, enables bench-scale research and computer aided characterisation of reaction pathways to be linked with dioxin/furan emission control in full-scale operating industrial plants.

Main features

  • Established world class state-of-the-art organics/dioxin analysis network
  • Sharing and pooling of resources, information and expertise
  • Facility for in-depth performance testing of new and existing methods
  • Development of new methods and techniques of analysis
  • Development of cost-effective analysis
  • Investigation of alternative technologies (e.g. immunoassay, ion trap MS-MS)
  • Seminars, training events and workshops
  • Short courses
  • Newsletters
  • Website

Main tasks

  • To review the effectiveness of the existing and developing end-of-pipe gas cleaning technology for the removal of dioxins/furans from process effluents
  • To assess the availability and performance of the equipment and processes, the scope for processes under development, the potential for processes in the research stage and the need for further research.
  • To highlight the uncertainty involved in the measurement of these trace species due to sampling and analytical uncertainties.
  • To review the ongoing ambient and source measurement work.
  • To identify the various known sources of toxic organic micro-pollutants and summarise the current inventory of UK estimated emissions.
  • To study the transfer of PCDD/Fs from gas phase to liquid/solid phase as a result of flue gas cleaning operations.
  • To consider how the environmental burden fits the known source inventory and to put UK inputs/outputs/fluxes in a global and historical context.
  • To facilitate and disseminate knowledge concerning the distribution and fate of polychlorinated PCDD/Fs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the environment.
  • To highlight transfers of these compounds through food chains and into organisms paying particular attention to human exposure.
  • To predict the future trends in emissions.
  • To outline future work which would improve knowledge of emission sources.
  • To identify the environmental significance of the various sources and the relative value of alternative abatement strategies.
  • To put abatement performance into context, i.e. with respect to the present and developing regulations in the UK and Europe.
  • To study the issue of cost and effectiveness of abatement methods for various processes.
  • To assess new catalytic scrubbing systems' ability to destroy Dioxins.
  • And last but not least, to train staff to work in this advanced diagnostic field.



A full list of members is available here.


Steering Committee

Professor Jim Swithenbank (Chairman)
Professor Vida N Sharifi (Director)
Sheffield University Waste Incineration Centre (SUWIC)
Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, The University of Sheffield

Professor C McLeod (Director)
Centre for Analytical Sciences (CAS)
Department of Chemistry, The University of Sheffield.

The Network was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and managed by The University of Sheffield.

Dioxin measurements.

Expertise and world-class facilities have enabled SUWIC to lead research in the field of dioxins and other environmental pollutants.