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PhD in High Throughput Electrocatalysts Discovery for Water Oxidation in PEM Electrocatalysis

Imperial College London - Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Duration: 42 Months, starting in October 2022

Supervisor: Prof. Magda Titirici (Chemical Engineering)
Co-supervisors: Dr. Ifan Stephens (Materials), Prof. Sarah Haigh (Uni Manchester), Prof. Camille Petit (Chemical Engineering)

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolysis represents the most promising technology for green hydrogen production, being the most efficient among all types of electrolysers (alkaline, solid oxide, anion exchange). Yet, its implementation at scale is hindered by the cost of materials, both the active catalysts as well as the porous transport layer for the anodic oxygen evolution reaction and by the high electricity input related to high potential at which the oxygen evolution reaction occurs. While the cathodic reaction, i.e. the hydrogen evolution reaction, occurs with minimum overpotentials (ηHER ) of ~ 0.01V at 1.4 V requiring as little as 0.05 mg/cm2 Pt catalysts, the anodic oxygen evolution reaction occurs with much higher overpotentials  (ηOER ) of ~ 0.4 V and requires a high amount of 0.3-0.5 mg IrOx. Ir is a scarce metal which is a biproduct of Pt or Ni mining industry with an annual production and consumption of only 3 tonnes/year. In addition, oxygen evolution occurs under very corrosive conditions where most catalysts (including IrOx) as well as the porous supports, corrode under the reaction conditions.

The aim of this PhD project will be to discover stable and efficient catalysts for the anodic oxygen evolution reaction in PEM electrolysers using a high-throughput synthesis and testing approach. The best performing identified catalyst will be thoroughly characterised using advanced microscopy as well as in operando XANES to reveal structure-performance corelations and understand the fundamental mechanism leading to improved performance and stability. This project will be performed in close collaboration with DFT modelling being conducted in a parallel PhD/Postdoc project within bp-ICAM.   

This PhD project will make use of automized parallel reactors where the reactions conditions can be varied individually to change the morphology, porosity and composition of IrO2 by doping with other metals or creating mixed oxides. The different resulting catalysts will also be electrochemically tested in high throughput using parallel rotating disks operating under similar loading and ink preparation conditions. The best identified performing catalysts will be selected for in depth advanced characterisation to reveal the fundamental understanding leading to performance and stability.

The studentship is supported by an industrial case studentship, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and bp through the bp International Centre for Advanced Materials (https://www.icam-online.org/). You will interact with a diverse and dynamic group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers withing the green H2 programme within bp-ICAM. Informal enquiries should be made to Prof. Magda Titirici (m.titirici@imperial.ac.uk). Further information on the area of research can be found at https://www.titiricigroup.com and http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/i.stephens. Applicants should have a Master’s degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry. We encourage applications from under-represented groups.

The project will last 4 years. This is open to UK students, and it will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annuum. This amount will increase every year with inflation. International students from outside the UK are also invited to apply,  and if appointed, it will cover full tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annuum.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV, transcripts, a cover letter and the information of two referees through College application portal; https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/how-to-apply/apply-for-a-research-programme-/. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available at: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/pgprospectus. Please contact Alba Maria Matas Adams (a-matas-adams@imperial.ac.uk) for further information on how to apply and Dr Ifan Stephens for more information about the project. Information about the Department can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/materials

Closing date: October 31st or earlier if position is filled.

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/  

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Please see advert text
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 1st September 2022
Closes: 31st October 2022
 
   
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