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Fundamental studies underpinning catalysis

Fundamental studies underpinning catalysis

Fully funded PhD studentships (48 months)
available at the EPSRC and SFI CDT for Sustainable Chemistry-Atoms2Products

This fundamental work is part of a CDT Theme in Sustainable Chemistry focussed on understanding the catalytic process at the molecular level. These will range from gas-phase laser spectroscopic studies of small molecules interacting with single metal atoms, the deposition and study of sputtered metal nanoparticles, the study of molecules interacting with MOFs, reactions inside carbon nanotubes, and the study of “real” catalysts. The work will be underpinned by a gas-phase laser spectroscopy on cold (< 10 K) molecules and clusters, surface spectroscopy, electron microscopy and a range of quantum chemistry and modelling studies. Students will be able to tailor their project and training according to their interests (one of the main benefits of a CDT) and may select to focus on fundamental studies, more applied studies, theoretical studies, or a mixture of some or all of these.

The overall theme is entitled ‘Dial-a-Catalyst’ and is one of four multidisciplinary research thematic areas within EPSRC and SFI CT in Sustainable Chemistry – Atoms2Products.

The long-term aim of the research is the development of the new generation of nanocatalysts that combine the best features of homogenous (high activity and selectivity) and heterogeneous catalyst (high stability and recyclability) and their application in some of the most important reactions for the chemical industry (e.g. CO2 utilisation and ammonia synthesis). Once developed, the unique catalytic properties of the novel nanocatalysis will be evaluated by: (i) in situ and in operando methods, to understand the interaction between metals and small molecules (e.g. CO2, N2, H2), ii) in catalytic reactions using batch and flow reactors at the laboratory level and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Siemens semi-industrial nanocatalyst test facility. In this project, we (PhD students and academic mentors) will make a step change in the understanding of molecular-level interaction that will lead to the design and fabrication of nanocatalysts solving a number of challenges of the chemical industry.

In addition to their research projects the students will also benefit from the following thematic training activities:

  • A large range of synthetic and characterisation methods using cutting edge instrumentation at University of Nottingham and Diamond Light Source.
  • Undertake quantum chemical and molecular dynamics computations
  • Industrial training at Siemens/Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Green Ammonia Pilot Plant facility

Available research areas

  • Nanocatalysts: design and synthesis
  • Laser spectroscopy: studying interactions of metal clusters with small molecules
  • Surface spectroscopy and electron microscopy, to study molecules interacting with surface, inside MOFs and inside CNTs
  • Modelling/computation of materials and catalytic reactions
  • Catalytic processes: e.g. CO2 utilization, ammonia synthesis

For further information please contact Dial a Catalyst Research Theme Lead Dr Jesum Alves Fernandes on [email protected] or Prof Tim Wright on [email protected] or 0115 846 7076.

Benefits of studying with us

  • An extensive training and development programme
  • Collaboration in smaller multidisciplinary Theme-specific groups
  • Being part of a Cohort of students with a range of peer support
  • Opportunity of industrial experience as an integral part of the programme
  • A consumables and conference attendance budget
  • A stipend of £15,009pa (2019/20 value)

Application criteria

Candidates should hold one of the following:

  • A minimum of an upper second-class honours degree from a 4-year undergraduate course, or equivalent in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Biosciences, Natural Sciences, Biotechnology, Pharmacy or a closely related subject.
  • A 3-year undergraduate course in one of the above disciplines plus a Masters degree and/or at least one year’s experience in industry.

For more information about the programme and to apply, please visit the website.

Due to funding restrictions, studentships are available to Home and EU applicants only.


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