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DTPSCIDM: Design and Manufacturing of 3D-Printable Nanocomposites for Renewable Energy Applications

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

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Dr O Istrate No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

Additive manufacturing (3D-printing) is expected to revolutionise the way we design and manufacture products. Conventional equipment will be replaced by smart, flexible and customized systems. There are several 3D-printing technologies available which make it a highly desirable technique for designing and creating electrochemical devices, ranging from fully printable batteries to fuel cells, supercapacitors, electrolysers, sensors and flow battery cells. This opens up new possibilities with accelerated flexibility and reduced development time in the design cycle. This project will focus on the design of electrochemical devices for versatile applications, starting from nanocomposite materials for 3D printing of multifunctional electrodes. This allows improving a variety of properties such as surface area, electron transfer and porosity along with reducing cost and weight. These materials will be fabricated and characterised, and thereby improve the performance of a fully 3D printed energy storage cell with the goal to create well-structured battery devices with superior energy & power density thereby meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) towards a zero carbon future.

3D-printing is a relatively new technique that has already revolutionised the world; new shapes and structures can be created leading to new geometries and materials with unique applications. Additive manufacturing is being extensively investigated in many areas of energy storage and conversion devices, as this technique allows for fast prototyping and is relatively low cost. Since 3D printing can be extended to almost all types of materials such as metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and biomaterials, this technique has recently been applied to a wide range of applications in energy storage and conversion (e.g. batteries, fuel cells, redox flow cells, solar panels).

Given that there is a variety of 3D-printing technologies available, which includes fused deposition modelling (FDM), inkjet printing, select laser melting (SLM), and stereolithography (SLA), additive manufacturing has become a highly desirable technique for creating electrochemical devices and prototypes, ranging from fully printable batteries to fuel cells, supercapacitors, electrolysers, sensors, and flow battery cells. The area is expanding rapidly; however, there are still several challenges and drawbacks that need to be overcome to 3D print active and stable electrodes/ devices for electrochemical energy conversion and storage to rival that of the state-of-the-art. The goal is to create materials with:

(1)Enhanced specific capacity, energy density, power density

The major advantage of additive manufacturing is that the architecture, e.g. surface area and geometry of electrodes can be highly controlled, which is in sharp contrast to the conventional manufacturing techniques. Therefore, well-designed structures such as interdigitated structures can be created.

(2)Improvements in mechanical properties

3D printing of electronic devices provides a chance to integrate the fabrication of the whole device and all accompanying components in a single manufacturing step, which is far more cost-effective than separately fabricating the components.

(3)Versatility in material selection with wide-scale flexibility

Emerging direction pursued by the manufacturers of next generation energy devices for wearable electronics. This present higher feasibility to be woven into flexible textiles for wearable applications.

(4)Sustainability towards a zero-carbon future

By creating energy efficient systems for product design and manufacture we work towards reducing the CO2 footprint of energy devices and products using these (with optimisation as per kW/kg, kW/$, kg(CO2,e)/kg and kW/L).

The manufacturing of 3D printable nanocomposite materials for rechargeable batteries connects synergistically multiple fields of research, such as mechanical design, chemistry and materials science. This PhD project requires a candidate that can work in a highly interdisciplinary environment between the Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry / Chemical Engineering. Knowledge and a strong interest in materials science, mechanical design and an interest in electrochemical processes are a requirement.


Doing a PhD in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is a highly rewarding experience. You will carry out your research in a friendly and supportive environment, supervised by academics who are leaders in their field, using well-equipped laboratories and research facilities, alongside students from all over the world. We have around 100 students enrolled on a PhD at a time. The School has a vibrant PhD student mentoring programme and a student led Research Culture Committee.

The School’s research is focused around six interconnected research themes: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Future Aircraft, Composite Materials and Structures, Simulation Technologies, Clean Energy and Biomaterials and Biomechanics.

PhD opportunities are available in a wide range of subjects aligned to the specific expertise of our PhD supervisors. Many are linked with leading companies and organisations.

Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in the research activities undertaken within the School. Students attend international conferences and participate in relevant external academic and industrial networks worldwide.

  • The School has strong links with both local and international engineering employers, and has longstanding relationships with companies such as Airbus, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren F1 and Rolls-Royce.
  • PhD research contributes to major interdisciplinary centres in the University, including:
  • •Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE)
  • •Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC)
  • •Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC)
  • The School has well equipped laboratories and great research facilities. PhD students share offices alongside postdoctoral staff. The School has Research Culture Committee to enhance the research environment of the School and support PhD students.

Funding Notes

Industrial partnerships with SHELL and Horiba provides the opportunity for a well-performing student to arrange for 3 – 6 months of industrial placement either with SHELL (Netherlands), Horiba (England/Japan) or Fuelcon (Germany).
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