PhD Studentship Opportunity in Development of Novel Radiation-grafted Powder Ionomers for use in High Performance Alkali Membrane Fuel Cells.

University of Surrey - Chemistry

The overall aim of the project will involve the synthesis of radiation-grafted anion-exchange powder ionomers (RG-AEI) building on initial developments in this field [1].

These RG-AEIs can be used, along with anion-exchange membranes (RG-AEM) [2], to fabricate membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) for development of high performance alkali membrane fuel cells (AMFC) [3][4]. The role of the RG-AEI is to impart anion conductivity in fuel cell electrodes (when combined with nano-electrocatalysts) so that the electrodes produce world-leading AMFC performances.

The type of work envisaged for the student involves the following:

  • Synthesis of RG-AEIs with different polymer substrates and cationic head-group chemistries [5];
  • Characterisation of the RG-AEIs using titration methods, conductivity measurements, spectroscopies (solid-state NMR, infrared, Raman microscopy), thermo-mechanical and elemental analyses, and electron microscopies;
  • Investigation of the solubility of the RG-AEIs in common organic solvents or in aqueous solutions;
  • Fabrication of AMFC electrodes containing the RG-AEIs along with nano-electrocatalysts (both Pt- and non-Pt-types)
    [this may involve the testing of electrocatalysts prepared by international collaborators];
  • Synthesis and characterisation of RG-AEMs (so that MEAs containing the RG-AEI-based electrodes can be fabricated)
    [note: the student will be involved in the testing of anion-exchange membranes supplied by international collaborators];
  • Testing of the MEAs (containing the RG-AEI) in hydrogen-fuelled AMFCs;
  • Studying the ex situ and in situ alkali degradation of the AEIs;
  • Assisting with the preparation of high impact publications (or patents) stemming from the student’s work;
  • Assisting with the supervision of final year undergraduate project students working in related fields;
  • Undertaking paid demonstrating duties in the undergraduate teaching laboratories.

The student will be expected to present their results at a national or international conference as well as at one of the University of Surrey’s Doctoral Training College’s annual conference.

There may also be an opportunity for international travel (involving visits to collaborative partners).


EU/UK  fees for 3 years: 2018-19 level £4195
Standard stipend for 3 years: 2017-18 level £14,553
£5k bench fees across three-year project

Entry Requirements

Candidates must have been awarded a first-class Bachelor or 2.1 Masters level degree in Chemistry that contained significant polymer and synthetic chemistry content. Prior experience of electrochemical methods would also be desirable.

How to Apply

Information on how to apply can be found on our programme page.

For application enquiries or an informal chat, please contact:

Prof John Varcoe (supervisor) -
Dr Daniel Whelligan (co-supervisor) -

All applications must be submitted by the 16th May 2018.

Interviews will be held by end of June 2018.

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