The Department of Chemical Sciences and Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick are pleased to invite applications for a four-year PhD studentship, fully funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council (IRC) as part of an SFI-IRC Pathway Programme award. The position is part of the ALTERNATE project (Advanced Lithium–Sulfur BatTERies as a Beyond Lithium-Ion ENergy StorAge TEchnology), which is led by Dr. David McNulty and co-supervised by Prof. Kevin M. Ryan. The PhD project will focus on the synthesis of nanostructured materials for energy storage applications.
The project will involve various synthesis techniques including hydrothermal synthesis and solvent-vapour methods accompanied by a range of structural characterisation techniques including X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and electron microscopy. Electrochemical testing of promising electrode materials will involve galvanostatic cycling and cyclic voltammetry. There will also be an industry secondment at a world leading Irish based nanostructure manufacturer.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are struggling to keep pace with advancements in consumer electronics and there are growing needs for alternative rechargeable batteries with significantly improved performance. Lithium–sulfur (Li–S) batteries stand out as one of the most promising “beyond Li-ion battery” technologies in terms of both cost and energy density. Li–S batteries can deliver a practical gravimetric energy density of ~600 Wh/kg, which is double the values offered by state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries. However, there are still issues, which need to be addressed before widespread commercialisation of Li–S batteries can be possible, including the poor conductivity of sulfur and safety concerns over the use of pure Li metal as an anode. In ALTERNATE, nanostructured porous carbon materials (PCMs) will be investigated as sulfur-hosting cathodes to increase electrical conductivity and prelithiated silicon and germanium nanowires will be employed as innovative replacements for metallic Li. This highly novel pairing of electrodes will significantly advance the state-of-the-art for Li–S batteries as the replacement of Li metal with alternative materials is an essential requirement for realisation of commercial Li–S batteries. Additionally, a correlation of in-situ/operando characterisation techniques will shed new light on the charge storage mechanisms for Li–S batteries.
Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or related subjects. Applicants with previous experience in the development of Li-ion and Li–S batteries will be desirable.
The successful candidate will be enrolled in the PhD Programme in the Department of Chemical Sciences and the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick. The award includes tuition fees, €18,500 annual stipend, travel/work expense budget and graduate training. Applicants for whom English is a second language will be required to meet English language requirements, see
Deadline: June 10th, 2022.
How to Apply
Applicants should contact Dr. David McNulty ([Email Address Removed]) with a curriculum vitae (CV) and a short statement (as a separate document) highlighting their motivation and technical capabilities that may be relevant to the project. Independent PhD Fellowship applications related to the project will also be supported.
The Principal Investigator
Dr. David McNulty received his 1 st class honours B.Sc. in Applied Physics from the University of Limerick, in 2009 and his PhD from the Department of Physics in the University of Limerick in 2014. His PhD thesis focused on the synthesis, structural and electrochemical performance of V2O5 nanostructures as cathode materials for advanced lithium-ion batteries. Following this, David worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Chemistry in University College Cork from 2014 – 2018. During this time, he researched the synthesis and electrochemical characterisation of metal oxide and semiconductor nanostructures as anode and cathode materials for Li-ion batteries. From 2018 – 2020 David gained international experience while working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Electrochemistry Laboratory of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, where his research focused on lithium–sulfur batteries. David returned to the University of Limerick in late 2020 to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical Sciences and the Bernal Institute. During this time, David researched nanostructured silicon anode materials for application in bespoke Li-ion batteries for smart manufacturing applications as part of a Confirm Centre funded project. In 2021, David was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship as part of the ADMIRE Programme to investigate the conversion of waste plastic into value added porous carbon materials for use in advanced lithium–sulfur batteries. Following an SFI-IRC Pathway Programme award in 2022, David began his independent research career and established his own research group. Dr. McNulty’s publication history can be found at Google Scholar and ORCiD.