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Development of a Versatile Electrolysis Flow Cell For In Operando X-Ray Diffraction Studies of Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen Production, CO2 Reduction and Fuel Cell Applications

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof R Walton, Dr K Brinkert  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A PhD position is available in collaboration from 1st October 2022 with Johnson Matthey funded by an Industrial CASE award to develop new analytical methods to understand mechanism of electrocatalysts. The project will be jointly supervised at Warwick university by Professor Richard Walton and Dr Katharina Brinkert in Chemistry, working with Dr David Walker of the X-ray diffraction facility.

Proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis provides a sustainable solution for energy conversion and storage and is well suited technology to combine with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Recently, a significant increase in demand for green energy has renewed interest in PEM electrolysis, attracting attention from governments, energy and chemical industries, and investors, as the technology transitions from early stage demonstration projects today to large, grid scale implementations over the coming years.

The understanding of electrolysis reactions requires the development of in operando techniques that can mimic real conditions and able to collect in real time quality data during operation. The development of an in-operando cell is a demanding task, it requires effective management of mass transport and gas bubbles at the electrode interface, and maintaining catalyst activity/turn over at current densities comparable to optimised cell designs used in practical applications. X-ray diffraction is a powerful technique for phase identification and structure characterisation of crystalline materials. Combining X-ray diffraction with electrochemical investigations along with gas detection could bring a powerful capability for studying reaction pathways and phase changes of electrode materials. X-ray absorption spectroscopy and atomic pair distribution may provide complementary information about oxidation states and local atomic environment. For this project we propose to develop an in-situ X-ray technique that can be used to further the understanding of industrially relevant reactions in the electrolysis area: CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) for water splitting. Such systems are expected to offer grid scale energy balancing and in the case of CO2RR offer integration into the current chemical industry (e.g. ethylene) or offer alternative energy vectors (e.g. methanol).

We are seeking a suitably qualified student, ideally with a Master’s degree, in Chemistry or another physical science. Since the emphasis of the project will be on developing an analytical technique, there will be a high level of data analysis involved. Experience in electrochemistry is desired, but not necessary. The student will be based at Warwick, but there will be opportunities to spend time working at the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre (JMTC) near Reading.


Applicants should have an honours degree (at least 2.1 or equivalent) in chemistry, or other relevant discipline, and should be a UK citizen or have been a resident in the UK for three or more years.

How to apply:

Please direct informal enquiries and requests for further information to Professor Richard Walton or Dr Katharina Brinkert [Email Address Removed] or [Email Address Removed]

Details on the formal application procedure can be found at

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