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Atomic Layer Deposited Heterojunctions for Light-Driven Water Splitting in Tandem Cells

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Andrew Johnson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has launched a joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: Bath University

Supervisor at Bath: Andrew Johnson (lead), Frank Marken and Chris Bowen
Supervisor at Monash: Jie Zhang


Light driven chemical processes will be of growing interest and processes like sunlight-powered sea water splitting to give hydrogen could be of key importance in future energy supply infrastructure. The efficiency of light-driven reactions is strongly dependent on the design of semiconductor interfaces to (i) effectively harvest light, (ii) convert the light to charge carriers, (iii) separate the charge carriers, and (iv) deliver chemical products without energy losses.

Atomic layer deposition (ALD) relies on alternated, self-limiting reactions between gaseous reactants and an exposed solid surface to deposit highly conformal coatings with a thickness controlled at the sub-monolayer level. These advantages have rendered ALD a mainstream technique in microelectronics and have triggered growing interest in ALD for a variety of nanotechnology applications, including energy technologies. Often, the choice for ALD is related to the need for a conformal coating on a 3D nanostructured surface, making the conformality of ALD processes a key factor in actual applications.

In proof-of-concept experiments we have tested coating of nano-crystalline n-type titania needles (grown on a ceramic substrate) with p-type NiO using the ALD. Initial results show enhanced (by an order of magnitude) photocurrents for water splitting. However, many aspects of the mechanism and the tuning of the performance remain unresolved. A wider range of materials could be employed.

In this project, we want to follow up this proof-of-concept experiment. The student will engage in ALD techniques and coating technologies. Hydrothermal reactions will be employed to create the nano-crystalline semiconductor substrates. The resulting coated nano-structured “heterojunction interfaces” will be characterized and systematically tested and improved. The type of p-type coating, the thickness and distribution over the nano-crystal needles will be investigated. Complementary theory will be developed and photo-electrochemical measurements will be performed aiming at sea water splitting. The nano-crystal morphology has unique features based on “through-crystal” harvesting of electrons and the possible tuning of both nanocrystal length and doping. Components for both oxygen evolution and hydrogen evolution will be developed and paired. The mechanism of photo-electrochemical processes will be carefully studied.

Application process

We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable & Circular Technologies.

You MUST express interest for three projects in order of preference – you can see all projects here: . Please submit your application at the Home institution of your preferred project (‘Home’ institution details can be found in the project summary). However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

University of Bath

Please submit your application through the following link:
Please make sure to mention in the “finance” section of your application that you are applying for funding through the joint Bath/Monash PhD programme for your specified projects.
In the “research interests” section of your application, please name the three projects you are interested in and rank them in order of preference. Please also include the names of the Bath lead supervisors.

Monash University

Expressions of interest (EoI) can be lodged through The EoI should provide the following information:
CV including details of citizenship, your Official Academic Transcripts, key to grades/grading scale of your transcripts, evidence of English language proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL, for full requirements see:, and two referees and contact details (optional). You must provide a link to these documents in Section 8 using Google Drive (Instructions in Section 8).

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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