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Fully Funded PhD in Sustainable Catalysis

   Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

About the Project

The transition toward an environmental friendly economy based on the use of renewable energy and alternative raw materials replacing fossil resources is one of the main scientific challenges of our time. 

Many research activities are currently directed toward the utilization of semiconductor photocatalysts, such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) to harvest the renewable solar energy and produce hydrogen. However, these conventional photocatalysts present several problems, such as high electron-hole recombination and poor absorption of visible light, which lead to low efficiencies. 

This project will explore the development of new photocatalytic materials for sustainable hydrogen production and CO2 conversion. Our vision is to reimagine the conventional TiO2-based photocatalytic systems to produce hydrogen from reforming of organics and convert CO2, invoking a synergistic coupling of functional materials. Success of this project will provide the scientific community with optimized catalytic systems and with promising technologies to address the environmental crises and energy shortage. 

The key objectives are: 

(i) Identifying the roles of surface chemistry, including band gap and nature of the active sites, in the efficiency of the photocatalysts.

(ii) Building a robust microkinetic model to predict the behaviour of the investigated reacting systems over different photocatalysts and operating conditions, and developing a screening approach.

(iii) Evaluating the activity and selectivity of the engineered photocatalysts.

The PhD student participating in this research will design model catalysts with a well-defined structure and composition and develop a mechanistic understanding of the reacting processes through a combination of computational and experimental techniques.

This is a multidisciplinary project involving reaction engineering and first-principle kinetic analyses. The successful candidate will benefit from a top-level research environment, as well as acquire skills at the interface between catalysis and microkinetic modelling. We will offer advanced trainings on heterogeneous reaction engineering, microkinetic modelling and DFT software (e.g. VASP, CASTEP, Gaussian09).

The applicant will join a vibrant and well-established research group that is interested in the discovery and design of novel catalytic materials that address fundamental challenges in the chemical, environmental and energy landscape. 

Sustainable applications of catalysis are currently in high demand in both industry and academia. The area of photocatalysis has been growing during the past years to become one of the most prospective technology in the fields of sustainable hydrogen production.

The successful student will have access to the University of Sheffield laboratories and to the High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters (ShARC and Bessemer). Our group has access to VASP, CASTEP and Gaussian09 for quantum calculations, NetGen and RMG for kinetic network generation. The necessary infrastructure (office space, laboratory, computational resources, etc.) will be available for the duration of the proposed fellowship. 

Please see this link for information on how to apply: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/cbe/postgraduate/phd/how-apply. Please include the name of your proposed supervisor and the title of the PhD project within your application.

The ideal candidate will have a 1st class or 2nd upper class degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, process engineering, industrial chemistry, material sciences or related disciplines, experience in cross-disciplinary work, excellent computational and laboratory skills and a hands-on approach to problem solving. The successful candidate will benefit from a top-level research environment, as well as acquire skills at the interface between catalysis and reaction engineering, that are in high demand in both industry and academia. We are looking for highly motivated, committed, and creative individuals, able to work in a team and with excellent communication skills. If English is not your first language then you must have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component, or equivalent. Please see this link for further information: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/phd/apply/english-language.

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