PhD Studentship in exsolved nanoparticles for catalytic applications

Imperial College London - Department of Materials

Supervisor: Dr. David Payne

Of key importance in solid oxide fuel cell commercialization is the development of a high quality cathode material for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) that displays good catalytic activity, stability, and low area specific resistance (ASR) at real operating conditions.

A promising in-situ synthesis method has been demonstrated to produce stable nanoparticles on perovskite surfaces without sacrificing catalytic activity. The atomic species that form nanoparticles are expelled from the bulk of the perovskite to the surface, and the term “exsolved” nanoparticles has been coined. Remarkably when heated to high temperature for a prolonged time period to simulate real fuel cell operation, these nanoparticles do not sinter and exhibit an anchoring effect with the parent perovskite. This leads to the remarkably stable ASR during operation at high temperature for hundreds of hours. A very interesting property is that exsolved nanoparticles can be dissolved to the bulk by simply heating the material under oxidizing condition and exsolved back to the surface under reducing conditions. This suggests a practical method of maintenance for real fuel cell application. The challenge is to understand the mechanism of formation of these nanoparticles, characterise their growth and understand their increased surface stability and catalytic performance, and this will be the focus of this PhD project.

As part of a very large EPSRC-funded “Critical Mass” grant, the successful candidate will become a member of the consortium of universities studying different aspects of this phenomenon, including the Universities of St Andrews, Bath, Newcastle and Ulster. We will perform a wide range of cutting-edge characterisation measurements including high-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HPXPS) (currently available in the laboratory of Dr. Payne), as well as Photoelectron Emission Microscopy (PEEM), hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and environmental Transmission electron microscopy (eTEM) – the latter at Arizona State University, USA. This exciting project will enable wide ranging collaboration and travel, in an area of future clean energy technologies.
The minimum academic requirement for admission is an upper second class UK MSci or MEng honours degree.

Applications will be processed in two stages:
Stage 1: Send a full CV, including your marks (%), the names and contact details of two referees, as well as a covering letter, to Dr. David Payne (d.payne@imperial.ac.uk). Applications that do not provide all this information cannot be considered.

Stage 2: Suitable applicants will be interviewed and, if successful, invited to make a formal application. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘Applying’) are available at: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/pgprospectus.
Please contact Fiona Thomson
(fiona.thomson@imperial.ac.uk) for further information. Information about the Department can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/materials 

Funding: This 3-year studentship, funded by the EPSRC, will begin in October 2018 and will provide full ‘home rate’ fees plus the standard maintenance stipend to UK and EU students who meet the EPSRC residency criteria (currently a stipend of £16,553). We will though welcome applications from students who are not eligible for this funding but can self-fund.
Closing Date: 31 May 2018

Committed to equality and valuing diversity, we are also an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, a Disability Confident Employer and are working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

London