PhD in Oxygen Evolution Catalysis to Accelerate Sustainable Fuel Production

Imperial College London - Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering

South Kensington Campus

Duration: 48 Months, starting in October 2018

Supervisor: Dr Ifan Stephens

Co-supervisors: Dr Gareth Hinds at National Physical Laboratory and Dr Jonathan Sharman at Johnson Matthey.

The increased uptake of renewables is contingent on efficient means to store the energy. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers are ideal for this purpose; they split water to form hydrogen, an energy-dense fuel. Their low operating temperature affords fast start-up and shut down, ideal for coupling with intermittent renewables. Their efficiency is governed by the rate of the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) at the anode. Currently, only Ir-based oxides (IrOx) are able to drive this reaction at sufficient rates without dissolving excessively. Even so, there remains an urgent need to improve the stability of IrOx: it dissolves into the electrolyte at a low, yet significant, rate.

The aim of the current project is to measure the dissolution rate of IrOx in model experiments and PEM electrolysers and correlate the findings to the catalyst composition and structure. We will determine the parameters that control the catalyst stability. On that basis, we will develop new strategies to mitigate the corrosion.

The project will make use of basic science methods to resolve problems of importance to society, industry and the environment. The majority of the project will take place at Imperial College London, with a six-month placement at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. Johnson Matthey will provide materials and expertise on the technological aspects of the work.

The project will involve (a) the synthesis of IrOx catalysts (b) testing them in model experiments and real devices, and (c) their physicochemical characterisation. The student will acquire skills in electrochemistry, catalysis and materials characterisation, particularly important for emerging clean energy technologies.

We encourage informal enquiries to be made to Dr. Ifan Stephens at
Further information on the area of researchcan be found at

Applicants should have a Master’s degree or First degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry.

This PhD studentship is funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and is open to UK home students or European students who have spent the last three years in the UK. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £16,553 (this year’s rate) per annum.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV and a cover letter. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available at: Please contact Fiona Thomson ( for further information. Information about the Department can be found at

Closing date: 15 February 2018

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