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  Conversion-type cathodes for battery-powered aviation

   Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research

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  Dr Dominic Spencer-Jolly  No more applications being accepted  Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

A PhD position is available to study battery materials and interfaces within the School of Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham. The project will be supervised by Dr Dominic Spencer-Jolly and is available either full-time or part-time. The successful applicant will join the Energy Materials Group which consists of 30-40 researchers developing rechargeable battery materials, as well as manufacturing and recycling processes. The group is co-led by Prof Emma Kendrick, Dr Dominic Spencer-Jolly, and Dr Carl Reynolds. It is based at The University of Birmingham, ranked in the top 100 universities globally.

The PhD project: Battery-powered aviation is set to play an important role in the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy. While conventional lithium-ion batteries are sufficient for powering electric cars, battery-powered flight will require a complete reinvention of cell chemistry and architecture to achieve higher energy and power densities. This project will focus on integrating high-energy-density conversion-type cathode materials into batteries, and improving their rate performance by modifying cathode chemistry and morphology. Conversion-type cathodes for battery-powered aviation: Conventional lithium-ion batteries use intercalation-type cathode materials in which lithium ions are reversibly inserted and removed from between transition metal oxide layers during discharge and charge. This type of cathode material has considerable advantages, but perhaps most important is that intercalation is highly reversible, leading to stable battery cycling with minimal capacity fade over hundreds of cycles. However, unfortunately the energy densities of these intercalation-type cathode materials are not sufficient for use in aviation. Conversion-type cathode materials, on the other hand, have very high energy densities, but face other challenges. Conversion-type cathodes are lithiated during discharge to form structurally-distinct compounds, with the reverse occurring during charge. Unlike intercalation, these conversion-type reactions have poor reversibility over hundreds of cycles, resulting in shorter battery lifetimes. What is more, conversion-type cathode materials are often electronically insulating, limiting the rate at which lithiation and delithiation can occur and leading to poor battery power densities. In this project, the successful candidate will study conversion type transition metal fluorides (e.g. CuF2), oxides (e.g. MnO2) and/or sulfides (e.g. FeS2).

The two focuses of the project will be on:

1. Improving rate performance. This will be done by doping of the cathode material during synthesis to improve electronic conductivity, nanosizing the cathode particles, and optimising the electrode composition and microstructure.

2. Improving cyclability. Degradation of the cathode material will be understood using X-ray diffraction and advanced spectroscopic techniques. Changes in the cathode chemistry, electrode microstructure, and choice of electrolyte will be proposed to mitigate degradation.

Candidate profile:

We are seeking candidates who:

• Have or are on course to achieve a first or upper-second-class degree in a relevant discipline such as chemistry or materials science.

• Are self-motivated, intellectually curious, and honest.

No prior experience is required to apply for this position, but experience in batteries, electrochemistry, inorganic synthesis, or crystallography might be viewed favourably.

How to apply: Please send an enquiry to Dr Spencer-Jolly at [Email Address Removed], including: 1. Your curriculum vitae (CV) 2. A cover letter summarising your motivations for applying for this PhD position (no more than 400 words) 3. The contact details of two referees

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

Funding may be available for UK home students who are able to start before September 2024. Unfortunately, there is not funding available for international students at the present time, but feel free to contact me regarding the options of self-funding or pursuing scholarships.

Where will I study?

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