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Better Air-quality, Free Energy, Environmental Sustainability and Higher Animal Productivity; Four Birds with One Stone (RENU21/EE/MCE/BAYATI)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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About the Project

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU)is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities, for example in business, innovation and internationalisation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training. The start date is 1st October 2021.

Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK, and the fourth greatest threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity. Unlike other air pollutants, ammonia emissions in the UK have been rising since 2013, with significant implications for biodiversity, human and livestock health, and environment. Once ammonia mixes with other gases in the atmosphere, it can form particulate matter (PM) with major health concerns to the lungs and heart.

Agriculture emitted around 244900 tonnes ammonia in 2017. The government`s aim is to reduce emissions of ammonia against the 2005 baseline by 16% by 2030 and to reduce PM emissions by 46% by 2030.

This multidisciplinary bi-university project proposal aims to develop an innovative and versatile electrochemical fuel cell for ammonia electro-oxidation (AEO) that benefits eliminating ammonia as well as generating electricity. The fabricated fuel cell will be tested electrochemically, microscopically and spectroscopically and its efficiency will be improved using simulating models. The cell will be tested in a real farm for ammonia mitigation. This novel device employs state-of-the-art synthesized catalyst earth-abundant material developed in this project to produce a fuel cell that can aid in the delivery of Net Zero Agriculture in the livestock sector.

The main objectives and key technologies used in research work packages are:

• Preparation of composite electrodes (Hydrothermal and etc.)

• Materials characterisation: Electrochemical testing (CV, LSV, Chronoamperometry), SEM, TEM, XPS and Differential Electrochemical Mass Spectrometry.

• Fuel cell Simulation using COMSOL and similar softwares

• Installing the fuel cell in Newcastle University farm and measuring ammonia emission.

This project is supervised by Dr Maryam Bayati. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]

The application closing date is 7 February 2021 and we will aim to have the interviews take place in early March. Please note that interviews, should they be arranged, will be online rather than in person due to COVID-19.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note that applications must include all of the following to be considered:

  1. A research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), and include the advert reference (e.g. ReNU21/…).
  2. You must upload with your application at least 2 reference letters

Deadline for applications: 7 February 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

* please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

• have settled status, or

• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.

Funding Notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students, and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2020/21, this was £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees. Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges). 

We have a limited number of International awards available.   Note that up to 6 offers of a PhD place will be made for the ReNU CDT projects advertised by Northumbria University.


1. Bayati, M.; Liu, X.; Abellan, P.; Pocock, D.; Dixon, M.; Scott K ACS Appl. Energy Mater. 2020, 10.1021/acsaem.9b01979.

2. Liu, X.; Xi, J.; Fang, B.; Xu , B. B.; Wang, Y.; Bayati, M.; Scott, K.; Gao C.; Small Methods, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/smtd.201800138.

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