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Bio-inspired electrodes for energy transport applications in renewable energy devices (RENU22-R/EE/MPEE/AGRAWAL)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Prashant Agrawal  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

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 2022.

In this PhD research, you will research bio-inspired multiscale electrodes for advanced renewable energy systems.


A key industrial strategy of the UK is clean growth aimed at reducing carbon emissions towards a Net-Zero target by 2050. Green energy generation and storage technologies, such as batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and photovoltaics, are critical elements of this journey. These devices are generally multi-layered and require a multi-step, energy intensive and environmentally harmful manufacturing processes. Sustainable manufacturing remains an important problem to overcome to ensure economic and environmental viability.

Project overview

Electrodes are an important component of these renewable energy devices for charge and heat transport. While electrodes should have a high thermal or electrical conductivity, some applications require minimal coverage for reducing contact resistance and retaining optical transparency. Leaf-venation inspired electrodes have shown a significant optical transparency with low thermal and electrical resistance [1]. The multidisciplinary project aims to develop an additive manufacturing process for fabricating such bio-inspired multiscale electrodes [2] to provide a functional, aesthetic and manufacturing advantage to the device. In this project we will:

1.      Design, fabricate and characterize bio-inspired electrodes with optimal electrical and thermal conductivity.

2.      Theoretically investigate the optimum geometry for enhanced charge and heat transport

3.      Integrate the electrodes in in-house developed thin-film solar devices and assess their performance

4.      Explore scalability limits of the patterning process.

While working in the Smart Materials and Surfaces Laboratory and the Renewable Energy Technologies and Materials research groups you will develop technical skills in:

1.      Engineering, fluid dynamics and materials

2.      Material characterisation: SEM, AFM, profilometry, electrical testing

3.      Fabrication: soft-lithography, 3D printing

4.      Design and numerical modelling: MATLAB, SolidWorks, COMSOL

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

The application closing date is 6 June 2022. 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. You can apply without proof of English Language proficiency however it is preferable that candidates have met the English Language requirements by the application deadline date.

·      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

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. ReNU22-R/…).
  2. You must upload with your application at least 2 reference letters
  3. You must read our privacy notice about how we use your data and acknowledge this by including in your personal statement the following phrase : ‘ I confirm I have read and agreed to the privacy policy in https://renu.northumbria.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-ReNUPrivacyNotice_01_03_21.pdf.

Deadline for applications: 6 June 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

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

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 2022/23 full-time study this is £16,602 per year) and full tuition fees. Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges). 

Applicants should be aware of the following additional costs that you may incur as these are not covered by the studentship.

·      Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application

·      If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.

·      Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19

·      Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the CDT. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

Note that 1 offer of a PhD place will be made for the ReNU CDT projects with the reference number 'ReNU22-R/…' advertised by Northumbria University.

* 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. Further information about how EPSRC classifies international fee status please see Annex B of https://www.ukri.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/UKRI-170821-TrainingGrantTermsConditionsGuidance-Aug2021.pdf


[1] B. Han et. al., Nat. Comms., 5,5674 (2014)
[2] Agrawal et. al., Phys. Rev. Appl., 12,031002 (2019)

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