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Developing high-performance photocatalytic geopolymer composite for the sustainable clean city

Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

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Dr Xinyuan Ke , Dr Richard Ball No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2021.

Funding is available to candidates who qualify for ‘Home’ fee status. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the rules governing fee status have changed and, therefore, candidates from the EU/EEA are advised to check their eligibility before applying. Please see the Funding Eligibility section below for more information.

Project team: Dr Xinyuan Ke, Dr Richard Ball

Informal queries should be directed to Dr Xinyuan Ke - [Email Address Removed]


Every living second, we breath air surrounding us without knowing what harmful particulates and compounds it might contain. In the western world people can spend over 80% of their time inside buildings and the ongoing global pandemic has increased the importance of air quality to a record-high. However even before the pandemic, air pollution is one of the biggest threats to human health. In 2012 the WHO reported that around 1 in 8 of total global deaths was caused as the result of air pollution exposure. In 2019, Public Health England named air pollution as the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure (pre-Covid time). With the transition to electric vehicles, the outdoor air quality is expected to improve in the coming years, however, there are still significant challenges in effectively improving both outdoor and indoor air quality. Among the existing solutions, photocatalytic-functionalised building components is one of the most promising solutions to tackle this challenge.

Geopolymerisation is a green synthesis route capable of turning clays, minerals and wastes into the versatile functional materials known as geopolymers. Their superior engineering performance and low embodied carbon is gaining increased interest from industry. Recent studies have demonstrated the feasibility of synthesizing functional geopolymer composite materials with photocatalytic abilities by incorporating semiconductors such as titanium dioxide. However, optimising performance at the nano- and meso-scales requires a fundamental understanding of the reaction mechanisms and chemistry.

This PhD project will enable the successful candidate to develop advanced low-cost sustainable photocatalytic geopolymer composites with the ability to self-clean and neutralise pollutants and pathogens. These will have an exciting range of applications ranging from coatings for the built environment, filters, catalyst supports and 3D printed structures. The successful candidate will use the state-of-the-art facilities (such as XRD, solid-state NMR, ESEM-EDX, TEM, Raman spectroscopy, and nitrogen adsorption) to conduct nanoscale inspection.

The successful candidate will join a dynamic team of scientists and engineers in a vibrant and world leading engineering faculty. Outstanding training and continuing professional development opportunities will be provided through participation at national and international conferences and engagement with leading international research communities including, IoM3, RILEM and ACI.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Architecture & Civil Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Expected start date: 4 October 2021


Funding Eligibility:

In order to be considered for a studentship, you must qualify as a ‘Home’ student. The UK Government has not yet published the relevant Fee Regulations for courses commencing in 2021/22; however, our current understanding is that the main categories of students likely to qualify for ‘Home’ fees are (subject to confirmation by the UK Government):

·        UK nationals (meeting residency requirement*)

·        Irish nationals resident in the UK/Ireland since at least September 2018

·        EU/EEA applicants with settled or pre-settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (meeting residency requirement*)

·        Applicants with indefinite leave to enter/remain in the UK (meeting residency requirement*)

*Residency requirement: in most cases applicants must have lived in the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland continuously since September 2018.

EU/EEA citizens who live outside the UK are unlikely to be eligible for ‘Home’ fees and funding.

Up-to-date information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage and on the UKCISA website

Funding Notes

A studentship includes ‘Home’ tuition fees, a stipend (£15,609 per annum, 2021/22 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum) for up to 3.5 years.
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