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Design of Artificially Nano-structured Materials for Three-dimensional Electrodes and Catalysts (Advert Reference: FAC21/EE/MPEE/HODaniel)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr D Ho  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Developing highly active, and low-cost electrocatalysts with superior durability for both the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is a grand challenge to produce clean hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. OER is the major bottleneck of the overall water splitting in energy conversion and storage, especially in hydrogen fuel cells. Currently, two primary precious metals (Ir, and Ru) and their oxide materials (IrO2, and RuO2), are widely used in the OER process to reduce energy consumption and enhance energy conversion efficiency and storage. For HER, Pt-based composite nanoparticles have generally been employed as the fuel cell anode material. However, these noble metal (Pt, Ru, and Ir)-based electrocatalysts cannot satisfy the industrial requirement for large-scale production due to their scarcity, high cost, easy agglomeration, and poor stability. In this project, we will develop a scalable approach to design 3D diamond lattice-like (e.g. rod-connected diamond (RCD), and inverse woodpile geometries [1-3]) structured noble metals for the OER in polymer electrolyte membrane water electrolysers. This 3D nano-structured artificial membrane provides a platform to increase the electrochemically active sites through a large surface area of 3D catalysts. We will fabricate the 3D nano-structured artificial membranes by 3D direct laser writing using two-photon polymerization [4-6]. Furthermore, to improve the efficiency of electrocatalytic water splitting, an integrated 3D nano-structured electrode with electrocatalysts directly grown on conductive substrates will be applied. We will then fabricate Pt-free and efficient catalysts for water splitting using 3D nano-structured electrodes made of Ni (or NiFe) and coated with graphene and then a final active catalyst layer. For the active layer, we will investigate IrO2, RuO2, as well as emerging 2D materials such as transition metal dichalcogenides [7-9] and bismuth oxyhalides [10]. The 3D electrocatalysts will significantly advance the research towards industrial-scale water electrolysis.

The principal supervisor for this project is Dr. Daniel Ho.

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: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. FAC21/EE/MPEE/HODaniel) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1 October 2021

Start Date: 1 March 2022

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU/ Worldwide students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/2, this will be £15,609 p.a.) and full fees.


1. M. P. C. Taverne, Y.-L. D. Ho, X. Zheng, L.-F. Chen, C.-H. N. Fang, and J. G. Rarity, “Strong Light Confinement in Rod-Connected Diamond Photonic Crystals,” Opt. Lett. 43, 5202- 5205, 2018.
2. Lifeng Chen, Katrina Morgan, Ghada Alzaidy, Chung-Che Huang, Y. -L. Daniel Ho, Mike P. C. Taverne, Xu Zheng, Zhong Ren, Daniel W. Hewak, John G. Rarity, “Observation of Complete Photonic Bandgap in Low Refractive Index Contrast Inverse Rod-Connected Diamond Structured Chalcogenides,” ACS Photonics 6, 1248−1254, 2019.
3. Y. Hu, B. Miles, Y.-L. D. Ho, M. P. C. Taverne, L.-F. Chen, H. Gersen, J. G. Rarity, and C. F. J. Faul, “Towards direct laser writing of actively tunable three-dimensional photonic crystals,” Adv. Opt. Mater. 5, 1600458, 2017.
4. G. I. Williams, M. Hunt, B. Boeheme, M. Traverne, Y.-L. D. Ho, S. Giblin, D. E. Read, J. G. Rarity, R. Allenspach, and S. Ladak, “Two-photon lithography for 3D Magnetic Nanostructure Fabrication,” Nano Res. 11, 845–854, 2018.
5. Une G. Butaitie, Graham M. Gibson, Ying-Lung D. Ho, Mike P. C. Taverne, Jonathan M. Taylor, and David B. Phillips, “Indirect optical trapping using light driven micro-rotors for reconfigurable hydrodynamic manipulation,” Nat. Commun. 10, 1215, 2019.
6. D. B. Phillips, M. J. Padgett, S. Hanna, Y.-L. D. Ho, D. M. Carberry, M. J. Miles, and S. H. Simpson, “Shape-induced force fields in optical trapping,” Nat. Photonics 8, 400–405, 2014.
7. C.C. Huang, F. Al-Saab, Y. Wang, J.Y. Ou, J.C. Walker, S. Wang, B. Gholipour, R.E. Simpson, D.W. Hewak, “Scalable high-mobility MoS2 thin films fabricated by an atmospheric pressure chemical vapor deposition process at ambient temperature”, Nanoscale, 6 12792-1279, 2014.
8. V. Orsi Gordo, M.A.G. Balanta, Y. Galvão Gobato, F. S. Covre, F. Iikawa, O. Couto Jr, Fanyao Qu, H. V. A. Galeti, M. Henini, D. W. Hewak and C. C. Huang, “Revealing the nature of low-temperature photoluminescence peaks by laser treatment in Van der Waals Epitaxially grown large-scale WS2 monolayers”, Nanoscale 10, 4807, 2018.
9. J. F. Felix, A. F. da Silva, S. W. da Silva, F. Qu, B. Qiu, J. Ren, W. M. de Azevedo, M. Henini and C. C. Huang, “A comprehensive study on the effects of gamma radiation on the physical properties of two-dimensional WS2 monolayer semiconductor”, Nanoscale Horiz. 5, 259-267, 2020.
10. J. Guo, Xin Liao, Ming-Hsien Lee, Geoff Hyett, Chung-Che Huang, Daniel Hewak, Sakellaris Mailis, Wei Zhou, Zheng Jiang, “Experimental and DFT insights of Zn-doping effects on the visible-light photocatalytic water splitting and dye decomposition over Zn-doped BiOBr photocatalysts”, Appl. Catal. B 243, 502–512, 2019.
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