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PhD Studentship: Glass to Ceramic Transition in Sodium Solid-state Electrolytes

University of Bath - Physics

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, Self-funded Students
Funding amount: £14,777 per annum, UKRI annual stipend (2018/19 rate) + tuition fees + training support grant
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th November 2018
Closes: 27th January 2019

The project:

Lead supervisor: Professor Philip Salmon, Department of Physics
Co-supervisor: Dr Anita Zeidler, Department of Physics

Glass-ceramics are special materials, whose composition and microstructure can be tailored to deliver the properties of both glass and polycrystalline materials, which include a low coefficient of thermal expansion, optical transparency, machinability and biocompatibility. Here, the crystalline phases are produced by controlled nucleation and growth in a base glass, which can be moulded to give the desired shape.

Nucleation mechanisms are either homogeneous, starting in the bulk of the glass, or heterogeneous, starting at its surface. Knowledge of these mechanisms and the kinetics of crystallization is therefore crucial for understanding and controlling the material characteristics. Thus, the glassy precursors, nucleation processes, and crystalline products are all of interest in the preparation of glass-ceramic materials.

The focus of this project is on glass-ceramic materials for battery and sensor applications. Here, the induction and control of homogeneous nucleation is desirable because it can be used to create a uniform distribution of crystallites of controllable size and shape throughout the bulk material. The materials to be investigated are from the sodium phosphate system, which are expected to yield crystalline sodium (Na)-super ionic conductors (NASICONs). Sodium offers a lower-cost alternative to lithium because it is a thousand times more abundant, making it less susceptible to resource and supply risks. Unlike commonly investigated sodium solid-state electrolytes based on the β-alumina structure, NASICONs have the advantage of offering three-dimensional as opposed to two-dimensional ion-conducting pathways. Hence, NASICONs have a key role to play in a sustainable energy economy.

Neutron and x-ray scattering methods will be combined with other techniques to investigate the structure-property relations of these materials. The issues to be investigated range from the essentials of crystal nucleation to the enhancement of ion mobility, and therefore span both fundamental and applied research. The work forms part of an emerging collaboration between Bath and the Universities of São Paulo/São Carlos (Brazil) via the Center for Research, Technology and Education in Vitreous Materials (CeRTEV). This team will provide expertise in sample preparation and characterisation using, e.g., solid state NMR and electrical conductivity measurements.

The successful candidate is expected to spend a substantial amount of the project at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France (www.ill.eu), a world leading centre for research using neutrons.

Applicants should have a background in the physical sciences and have, or expect to gain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent from an overseas university 

Informal enquiries should be directed to Prof Philip Salmon, p.s.salmon@bath.ac.uk.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Physics:
samis.bath.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RDUPH-FP01&code2=0013

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:
www.bath.ac.uk/guides/how-to-apply-for-doctoral-study

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019.

Funding:

UK and EU students who have been resident in the UK since September 2016 will be considered for an EPSRC DTP studentship covering UK/EU tuition fees, a stipend (£14,777 per annum, 2018/19 rate) and a training support grant of £1,000 per annum for 3.5 years.

EU applicants who do not meet the residency requirement may be eligible for alternative funding (to be confirmed).

Overseas applicants are NOT eligible for funding; however, we welcome applications from self-funded candidates and candidates who can source their own funding.

   
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