PhD Studentship in Low-Temperature Recycling of Lead-acid Batteries

Imperial College London - Department of Materials

Supervisor: Dr. David Payne

This PhD project aims to develop a new, low-energy and environmentally-friendly electrochemical technology for recycling of spent lead-acid batteries (LABs). The PhD will work on the RELAB project, a £1.3m EPSRC funded grant combining researchers in Materials and Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London.

LABs are still, and will remain a hugely important power supply for automotive industry, with a predicted market value of $80bn by 2025. This is due to the fact that LABs are still present in state of the art hybrid and fully electric vehicles, due to their position as ‘the’ energy storage device for the 12V internal electronics. With an increasing demand for energy from smart grid technology, next generation LABs are also a viable solution to store energy from renewable sources. Despite the widespread and new emerging applications, a major challenge facing the lead-acid technology is its toxicity and the environmental impact of lead when the batteries are recycled.

Our concept is an electrochemical, solution-based recovery of pure lead using lead paste (solid lead-acid battery waste) and deep eutectic solvents (DES, low-cost pseudo ionic-solvents capable of dissolving metal oxides and salts). This delivers a more sustainable path with greatly reduced lead-to-air emissions and low-energy consumption in comparison with the traditional smelting and hydrometallurgical processes, which currently dominate the industrial recycling of lead and lead compounds.

The project will focus on the mechanism of metal deposition from a battery waste/DES solution, including charge transfer processes, speciation of metal cations, stability of the solvents and understanding processes at the electrodes. The electrochemical and characterisation studies will involve cycling voltammetry, chronoamperometry, impedance spectroscopy, rotating disc electrode, electron microscopy, NMR, XPS and EXAFS. The PhD candidate will also work closely with our collaborators and industrial partner on scaling-up strategies and minimising process energy requirement.

Applications are invited from students with a relevant background in materials science, physical sciences and engineering. There is one funded studentship available for this project. 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.

The minimum academic requirement for admission is an upper second class UK MSci or MEng honours degree. Applications will be processed as received. For questions or further details regarding the project, please contact Dr. David Payne (d.payne@imperial.ac.uk).

Closing Date: 31 May 2018

For questions regarding the admissions process, please contact Mrs Fiona Thomson (fiona.thomson@imperial.ac.uk). Formal applications can be completed online: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/materials/research/phdopportunities while information about the Department can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/materials.

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.

The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. For more information, see https://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-evaluation/ 

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

London