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  Developing Advanced Photoelectrocatalyst Materials and Coatings: Solar-to-hydrogen Generation from Wastewater – PhD in Mechanical Engineering

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Assoc Prof Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Applications are invited for a research studentship in the field of solar energy conversion leading to the award of the PhD degree. A background in materials, energy or mechanical engineering, physics/chemistry/nanoscience, with a strong track record in electrochemistry, is highly desirable. Similar backgrounds may also be considered.

The position opens for any nationality (UK/EU/overseas).

About the Project

The project will develop zero carbon green hydrogen fuel generation route from wastewater through a photo-electrocatalysis route using novel semiconductor catalyst and renewable energy (solar).  

Solar energy is an abundant renewable resource and is therefore of prime importance. Storing solar energy in chemical bonds, namely renewable fuel vectors such as hydrogen via water splitting using semiconductor catalysts. Such a ‘green hydrogen’ generation route has a near-zero carbon emission compared to the state-of-the-art carbon-intensive ‘grey hydrogen’ production process. However, the production of oxygen as a by-product, use of earth limited raw material catalysts, and use of freshwater resources makes it environmentally and economically less feasible. This project aims to design a novel earth abundance catalyst coatings at large scale for solar-to-hydrogen production (cathode) and integrate the wastewater treatment process at the anode. Such a process proposed in this project will therefore be able to simultaneously treat wastewater and generate green hydrogen that will both be sustainable and economical. Fundamental science and engineering aspects that affect overall solar-to-hydrogen generation efficiency during the scale-up process (electrode and reactor) will be investigated. In addition, a detailed life cycle assessment (cradle-to-grave) will be studied, accounting for the techno-economics and informing the environmental friendliness of the scale-up process. 

This project will provide specific training in nanomaterials synthesis and coatings,  characterisation techniques, and handling analytical tools. It will involve collaborations with materials science researchers, physicist, mechanical and chemical engineers, and industries (energy and wastewater treatment sectors) and PhD students expected to visit overseas collaborator labs.

The student will join Heriot-Watt’s Research Centre for Carbon Solutions, an internationally leading centre for researching solutions to prevent climate change. The centre includes state of the art laboratories, servicing a dynamic community of students and researchers.

Research Centre for Carbon Solutions:

Contact details

Name of supervisor: Dr Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu.

For further details and informal queries about this position, please contact Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu.

Contact: [Email Address Removed]


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed by Skype.

Closing Date

Applications must be received by December 27, 2021. The successful candidate should usually expect to start in February/March 2022.


The PhD studentship will cover 3 years of full tuition fees, and a tax-free stipend £15,609 per annum. 

How to Apply



When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:

(a) in ‘Study Option’

You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose “Mechanical Engineering PhD” and select “January 2022-Full time” for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)

(b) in ‘Research Project Information’

You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter the Title of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name (Dr Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu).

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)


Examples of further Reading
[1] B. Jones, K.R. Davies, M.G. Allan, S. Anantharaj, I. Mabbett, T. Watson, J.R. Durrant, M.F. Kuehnel, S. Pitchaimuthu, Photoelectrochemical concurrent hydrogen generation and heavy metal recovery from polluted acidic mine water, Sustainable Energy & Fuels, 5 (2021) 3084-3091.
[2] R. Raja, P. Sudhagar, A. Devadoss, C. Terashima, L.K. Shrestha, K. Nakata, R. Jayavel, K. Ariga, A. Fujishima, Pt-free solar driven photoelectrochemical hydrogen fuel generation using 1T MoS2 co-catalyst assembled CdS QDs/TiO2 photoelectrode, Chemical Communications, 51 (2015) 522-525.
[3] J. Choi, P. Sudhagar, J.H. Kim, J. Kwon, J. Kim, C. Terashima, A. Fujishima, T. Song, U. Paik, WO3/W:BiVO4/BiVO4 graded photoabsorber electrode for enhanced photoelectrocatalytic solar light driven water oxidation, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 19 (2017) 4648-4655.

 About the Project