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Atomic Layer Deposition of metals and oxides on ‘shaped’ catalyst support particles: Creating advanced catalysts for the production of sustainable next-generation feedstock chemicals for the consumer chemical sector

   Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Materials Engineering

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  Dr R Potter, Prof P R Chalker, Prof M J Rosseinsky  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This opportunity will remain open until the position has been filled and so early applications are encouraged.

This PhD studentship is part of a large project that aims to provide the scientific foundation that will allow the UK consumer chemical sector to become sustainable and carbon neutral. The consumer chemical industry makes products that go into cosmetics, vitamins and health supplements, soaps, detergents, household chemicals, perfumes and foods. While some steps have already been taken to make this sector more sustainable, the use of virgin petrochemicals and other non-sustainable and/or polluting feedstocks remains prevalent. The project will develop routes to synthesise (and recycle) feedstock chemicals that do not depend on virgin petrochemicals. These new materials will not only need to be sustainable and carbon neutral, they also need to offer high performance, be cost effective to produce in bulk quantities and must not have long-term persistence in the environment after use. This will require new catalysts and catalytic processes.  

This PhD project: The current PhD studentship will focus on developing advanced catalysts for the synthesis of long-chain alcohols from C1 waste hydrogenation and also catalysts for synthesis of monomers from waste. Rather than developing conventional ‘bulk’ catalysis, this PhD project seeks to use low cost, earth abundant ‘support’ particles coated in ultra-thin layers of ‘active’ material. The ultra-thin outer layers will be carefully surface-engineered to optimise catalytic efficiency, while also increasing durability by blocking unwanted side-reactions that would poison the catalysis. This ultra-thin film approach potentially enables large quantities of high-surface area catalyst to be manufactured from tiny quantities of the ‘active’ material. Given that many of the active materials needed for catalysts use scarce and expensive elements, this route is essential to make the catalyst production commercially viable and sustainable. To achieve the controlled surface engineering, we will make use of powder-based atomic layer deposition (ALD). ALD is a form of chemical vapour deposition (CVD), but unlike conventional CVD, it enables us to produce highly conformal layers with truly atomic-scale control of thickness and composition. The project will investigate the use of ‘shaped’ support particles, synthesised using bulk chemistry to give faceted crystalline structures, which are likely to catalytically active.      

This is a multi-disciplinary PhD that sits at the interface between Chemistry, Materials Science and Manufacturing. You will be based in the School of Engineering where you will have access to the thin film growth equipment in the Wolfson Cleanroom together with various physico-chemical characterisation techniques, however, you will also have access to facilities in the School of Physical Sciences including state-of-the-art facilities in our Materials Innovation Factory (MIF). The MIF is not only home to outstanding University research facilities, but is also the permanent base for many industrial scientists.

For any enquiries please contact Dr Richard Potter on: [Email Address Removed]

To apply for this opportunity please visit:

Funding Notes

The Studentship is funded by the EPSRC as part of a business-led research collaboration between leading UK businesses and their long term strategic University partners. The eligibility details of both are below.
EPSRC eligibility
Applications from candidates meeting the eligibility requirements of the EPSRC are welcome – please refer to the EPSRC website -
The award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 3.5 years. The maintenance grant is £15,285 pa for 2020/21, with the possibility of an increase for 2021/22


J. R. van Ommen, A. Goulas, Atomic layer deposition on particulate materials, Materials Today Chemistry, 2019, 14, 100183
G. Celik, et al., Upcycling Single-Use Polyethylene into High-Quality Liquid Products, ACS Central Science, 2019, 5, 1795-1803
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