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Development of Graphene Silicon-Lithium Ion Battery Anodes (Advert Ref: RENUC22/EE/MCE/ELMARAKBI)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Prof Ahmed Elmarakbi, Prof R Fu  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU)is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities, for example in business, innovation and internationalisation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training. The start date is 1st March 2023.

Silicon-based anodes for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) offer considerably higher energy density than graphite ones and better stability than lithium ones, but have a key problem in which silicon is susceptible to swelling upon lithiation, thus causing surface cracking and rapidly decreased energy storage performance.

This project aims to improve the efficiency of batteries using a cost-effective manufacturing approach to fabricate novel graphene/silicon composite anode with high-efficiency nanostructured heterogeneous designs. The performance and stability of LIB anodes can be boosted using graphite-silicon composites, without apparent swelling issues. To take advantage of silicon’s high storage capacity for lithium, there is a requirement to improve stability, which is achievable using new material design and/or new production techniques. Different anode process techniques and their impact on anode structure and performance will be determined, including methods of graphene coated silicon structure in order to address stability issues and avoid direct contact of the silicon surface with the electrolyte, which may cause a reduction of silicon contact with the current collector. The key research topic will be focused on the study of their degradation mechanisms and relationship between performance and  microstructures. Electrochemical performance of the anode materials and their structural characterisations will be performed to determine the charge/discharge mechanisms during cycling.

Key novelties: Create invented multifunctional surfaces with designed morphology and the crystal growth mechanisms; Design the anode’s structures to reduce ions diffusion and improve charge/discharge rate, and control homogenously diffusive surface interactions; Provide highly active sites and large surface areas to increase Li-ions’ storage, specific capacity, and high diffusion of the Li-ions; Construct electrodes using 2D nanostructures to facilitate the transfer of electrons, active sites formations, and achieve outstandingly electrochemical performance.

Applicants for this position should have a solid foundation and passion for carbon-based nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, and an excellent knowledge of their applications within energy storage devices. Experience of preparing, developing and characterising dispersions of such materials would be highly desirable for this role.

Currently, relatively large amount of intellectual properties exist within the relatively narrow fields of lithium-silicon batteries, and so a good knowledge of relevant IPs within this field would also be beneficial.

The project is supported by an industry partner: Applied Graphene Materials UK Ltd.

This project is supervised by Prof. Ahmed Elmarakbi. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Eligibility Requirements:

•       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 they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

•       Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

•       have settled status, or

•       have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

•       have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

·        Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application

·        If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.

·        Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19

·        Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. ReNU22/…).

Deadline for applications: 12/12/2022

Start date of course: 1 March 2023

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career Development of Researchers.

Funding Notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).
Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

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