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PhD Studentship: Materials and Interfaces for Semi-Solid-State Batteries

University of Birmingham - School of Metallurgy and Materials

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,600 p.a.
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 19th January 2024
Closes: 1st March 2024

A 3.5-year PhD studentship is available to study battery materials and interfaces within the School of Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham. The project will be supervised by Dr Dominic Spencer-Jolly and is available either full-time or part-time.

The successful applicant will join the Energy Materials Group which consists of 30-40 researchers developing rechargeable battery materials, as well as manufacturing and recycling processes. The group is co-led by Prof Emma Kendrick, Dr Dominic Spencer-Jolly, and Dr Carl Reynolds. It is based at The University of Birmingham, ranked in the top 100 universities globally.

This PhD project will study the materials and interfaces in semi-solid-state batteries using a range of electrochemical, spectroscopic, and imaging techniques. The successful applicant will develop new fundamental understanding of how semi-solid-state batteries operate and how they fail. They will use this understanding to innovate, improving semi-solid-state battery performance.

Why study semi-solid-state batteries?

Battery powered electric vehicles (EVs) are set to play a significant role in the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy. An important challenge is to increase the energy density of batteries (the amount of energy that they can store) as this will increase EV range. Commercially available lithium-ion cells are reaching their theoretical energy density limit, however a new generation of batteries made specifically for the EV market is poised to dramatically increase cell energy densities by exchanging low-energy graphite anodes for high-energy lithium metal. Doing so requires other changes to the cell; the liquid electrolyte in a conventional lithium-ion battery is not compatible with a lithium anode and must be exchanged for a solid electrolyte. A battery composed only of a lithium anode, a solid electrolyte and a cathode is called an all-solid-state battery and has been subject to a great deal of research interest over the last decade. However there remain serious barriers to all-solid-state battery commercialisation, not least of which is the challenge of maintaining intimate contact between the solid electrolyte and cathode during cycling, requiring high stack-pressures that are not practical in commercial battery packs.

Semi-solid-state batteries overcome these shortcomings by using not one, but two electrolytes. A solid electrolyte protects the lithium anode, while a liquid or gel electrolyte wets the cathode and guarantees excellent contact over the lifetime of the battery, even at low stack-pressures. The successful candidate will work on this cutting-edge new battery technology and have the opportunity to develop important skills for a future role in academia, the battery industry, or battery consultancy following completion of their PhD.

We are seeking candidates who:

  • Have or are on course to achieve a first or upper-second-class degree in a relevant discipline such as materials science or chemistry.
  • Are self-motivated, intellectually curious, and honest.

No prior experience is required to apply for this position, but experience in batteries, electrochemistry, processing of ceramics, surface chemical analysis (XPS, SIMS), imaging (SEM, X-ray CT, optical), inorganic synthesis, or crystallography might be viewed favourably.

How to apply:

Please send an informal enquiry to Dr Spencer-Jolly at d.h.spencer-jolly@bham.ac.uk, including:

  1. CV
  2. Cover letter summarising your motivations for applying for this PhD position (up tp 400 words)

Funding Details

Funding is available for home (UK) students covering home fees (~£4.2k pa) and a stipend (~£18.6k pa) for 3.5 years. Self-funded students (worldwide) are also encouraged to apply.

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