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Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscopy of Next Generation Li-ion Batteries for Large-Scale Energy Storage

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R E Douthwaite
    Dr V Lazarov
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Whilst renewable sources of energy (e.g. wind and solar) are making an increasing contribution to immediate global electricity demand, there is a need to store energy for use on demand. These demands include transportation, night time usage and the need to balance load across the power grid. The need for large-scale storage of intermittent sources of renewable energy and the envisaged rapid deployment of electric powered vehicles has significantly stimulated battery research. Whilst Li ion batteries (LIBs) are ubiquitous for consumer electronics with a relatively short lifespan, there is a major challenge to develop battery technologies with > 10 year lifetime that can be rapidly charged, do not degrade after charge/discharge cycles, and use sustainable and safe materials.

The primary aim of this proposal is to gain fundamental understanding, at an atomistic level, of the ion dynamics in nanoporous oxide films, which can be used as the anode or cathode of a battery, and to study the processes that limit their performance. To gain direct atomistic structural information, this project will use state-of-the-art time-resolved transmission electron microscopy. Structural changes and ion mobility will be tracked on the second timescale under electrical bias to mimic a functioning battery. In addition, the electron microscope at York has a unique capability to examine materials under liquid or gaseous environments which will also allow the investigation of potential failure mechanisms arising from changes in temperature and exposure to air. The project is a collaboration between chemistry and physics with ample opportunity for a motivated student to gain cross-disciplinary knowledge of experimental and theoretical methodologies. This project would be suitable for a student with a background in chemistry, physics, materials science, or a related field.

All research students follow cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take a core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select specific technical training courses related to the area of their research available at York or externally.

This project will provide specific training in materials with an emphasis on time-resolved high resolution electron microscopy under functional conditions. Experience of other techniques include synthesis using hydrothermal and electrospray methodology; and characterisation using powder x-ray diffraction, atomic force microscopy and electrochemistry. Overall the training will support acquisition of skills in advanced materials chemistry and physics with the opportunity to develop expertise in one or more of the above techniques.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel. Chemistry at York was the first academic department in the UK to receive the Athena SWAN Gold award, first attained in 2007 and then renewed in October 2010 and in April 2015. This PhD project is available to study full-time.

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-19), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables.

The studentship is available to any student who meets the EPSRC eligibility criteria: .


Candidate selection process:

• Applicants should submit an application for a PhD in Chemistry by 21 June 2019
• Supervisors may contact their preferred candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors may nominate up to two candidates to the assessment panel
• The assessment panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York
• The Awards Panel will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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