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Electro-catalytic conversion of ammonia into hydrogen PhD


   School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE)

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  Dr Mingming Zhu  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A fully-funded PhD studentship is offered through a collaboration between Cranfield University and EDF UK, global leaders in renewable energy. The UK Government has plans to achieve Net-Zero by 2050 and hydrogen energy will play a significant role. Due to the low volumetric density of hydrogen, ammonia is an option to improve the storage and distribution of hydrogen and the conversion from ammonia into hydrogen is a critical step in delivering a cost-effective system. The overall aim is to develop a novel electro-catalytic technology that can efficiently convert ammonia into hydrogen as a zero-carbon fuel.

In the concept of decarbonisation and renewable energy, hydrogen is considered as the ultimate carbon-free fuel and energy carrier for many applications. However, the fact that pure hydrogen does not exist naturally and has a low volumetric energy density means that hydrogen is faced with immense technical, economical and infrastructure challenges before it can play a major role in decarbonisation. Ammonia (NH3) is an excellent hydrogen carrier as it can be stored at room temperature and relatively low pressure and has a comparable energy density to other liquid fuels. NH3 is already a mass commodity product and enjoys a vast, well-established infrastructure, global trade and distribution network. Most importantly, NH3 can be synthesised by utilising renewable energy sources to lower carbon footprint for the entire life-cycle process of NH3 production and use. One of the key challenges is to convert NH3 into hydrogen for use, which is what this PhD will address. 

This collaborative project between Cranfield University and EDF UK will develop an electro-catalytic technology to dissociate NH3 into hydrogen for use in either aircraft or power station turbines. The use of an electro-catalytic process will lower the temperatures of operation compared to other thermal conversion technologies, thus reducing the cost of ammonia cracking. The specific objectives are to investigate new electro-catalysts for the conversion of ammonia into hydrogen and evaluate the performance in terms of energy efficiency and NH3 dissociation efficiency. The students will be expected to perform experimentation on catalyst synthesis, characterisation using advanced techniques and performance evaluation using a lab scale reactor.

The student will be supported by expertise at both Cranfield University and EDF UK. Cranfield University is a world leading research institution in technology transformation research, particularly in hydrogen and ammonia energy such as sorption enhanced steam methane reforming with hydrogen production and CO2 capture, and direct combustion of hydrogen and ammonia as a fuel for heat, power and high temperature processing. As a global leader in low-carbon energy, the EDF Group covers every sector of expertise, from generation to trading and transmission grids. The EDF R&D UK Centre is an integral part of the Group R&D network and is responsible for leading research and development activities in the UK. As of today, the UK centre is a 60-strong fully international team engaged in projects of various sizes in support of EDF Energy and works across all energy aspects. The EDF UK R&D centre is supplemented by a deep hydrogen and ammonia expertise at EDF’s German research centre, EIFER (European Institute for Energy Research), based in Karlsruhe. The excellent synergies in areas of research, laboratory equipment and experiments between EDF and Cranfield University will provide an excellent platform for the students to conduct cutting edge research. 

This is a great opportunity to work in a project at the cutting edge of renewable energy and hydrogen energy and to learn cutting-edge techniques in catalyst preparation and characterisation, electro-chemical reaction engineering. They will have an opportunity working on the field site of the industry partner. The student will receive training from the UKRI-funded doctoral training centres as well as promoted to participate in entrepreneurial, project management and technique specific training. They will also be a member of the hydrogen community of practices and hydrogen research group led by Dr Clough. They will also benefit from interactions with EDF UK, EDF Group in France, EIFER and other EDF R&D international centres, including a work placement at EDF’s R&D UK centre and possibly at EIFER’s facility in Karlsruhe, Germany.

 Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first- or upper second-class UK honours degree or equivalent. This project would be particularly suited to graduates in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Catalysis, Materials Science, Energy Engineering or a related discipline. We strongly welcome applications from candidates with industrial experience.

 How to apply 

For further information please contact: Name: Dr Mingming Zhu. Email: [Email Address Removed]

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form.


Funding Notes

Sponsored by EPSRC, EDF UK, and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of £20,000 (tax free) plus fees and research costs for four years.
This studentship is open to both UK and international applications. However, we are only permitted to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants from outside the UK. Funded studentships will only be awarded to exceptional candidates due to the competitive nature of the funding. The funding available does not cover the full cost of the international tuition fees, therefore international candidates must be able to cover 50% of the tuition fee cost (~£10k/year).
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