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  Green Chemical and Hydrogen Production via Plastic Waste Electrolysis for Chemical Sector Decarbonisation

   School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences

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  Dr Hui Luo, Prof Robert Dorey, Dr Q Cai  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

​​This is an exciting fully funded PhD studentship opportunity exploring the development of energy materials for green hydrogen and chemical production to decarbonising the energy and chemical sectors. 

​In the transition towards Net-Zero, there is significant interest in phasing out fossil fuels as both the energy source and precursor for chemical production in the chemical sector.[1] With a circular economy mindset, one attractive solution is getting the fossil fuel alternatives from the accumulated waste stream.[2] In this project, you will be part of a cutting-edge research community, to develop an alternative electrolysis process,[3] that utilises waste polyethylene terephthalate (PET) derived ethylene glycol to produce hydrogen and value-added chemicals. Aiming towards a scaling up technology, this process will directly contribute towards mitigating the 11 Mt CO2/year emitted by the UK chemical industry. 

​As the PhD candidate in this project, you will acquire research skills for developing cost-effective electrocatalysts to drive ethylene glycol electrolysis with high activity and selectivity. Specific activities include: 

  1. ​Fabricate nanostructured electrocatalysts and benchmark against commercial materials to reveal activity/selectivity differences. 
  2. ​Characterise the catalyst materials with X-ray techniques, electron microscopy at Surrey and national facilities. 
  3. ​Optimise catalyst structure and morphology to achieve high electrochemical performance. 
  4. ​Demonstrate the ampere-level feasibility of EG electrolysis in a membrane-electrode-assembly electrolysis device. 

​This interdisciplinary project has strong connections with UK-based world leading chemical company, national facilities and research groups across other UK universities. Therefore, the PhD candidate may gain additional research and industrial experiences by visiting and conducting work at collaborators’ sites. Other supports including training opportunities, additional funding for travel, mentorship for personal and professional developments are also available to help with career progression.​ 

Supervisors: Dr Hui Luo, Professor Robert Dorey and Professor Qiong Cai.

Entry requirements

Open to any UK or international candidates. Up to 30% of our UKRI funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees. Find out more about eligibility. Starting in October 2024.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Engineering Materials PhD programme.

​Candidates must meet Surrey graduate entry requirements which include holding at least an upper second-class degree or equivalent qualifications in a relevant subject area such as physics, chemistry, materials science or engineering. A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline and additional research experience would be an advantage. 

​We strongly encourage candidates from under-represented groups, including but not limited to Female, Black, Asian, or minoritised ethnic communities (sometimes referred to as BAME). Additional supports can be provided upon request.​ 

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Engineering Materials PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal, you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

You are also encouraged to reach out to the supervisor Dr. Hui Luo ([Email Address Removed]) to learn more about the project

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

UKRI standard stipend (currently £18,622 p.a.) with an additional bursary of £1,700 p.a. (for the full 3.5 years) for exceptional candidates. Full home or overseas fees (as applicable) covered. A research, training and support grant of £3,000 over the project is offered. Open to any UK or international candidates. Up to 30% of our UKRI funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees.


[1] G. W. Coates, Y. D. Y. L. Getzler, Chemical Recycling to monomer for an ideal, circular polymer economy. Nature Reviews Materials, 2020 (5), 501 - 516.
[2] H. Luo, J. Barrio, et al., Progress and perspectives in photo‐and electrochemical‐oxidation of biomass for sustainable chemicals and hydrogen production. Adv. Energy. Mater., 2021 (11), 2101180.
[3] H. Luo, V. Y. Yukuhiro, et al., Role of Ni in PtNi Bimetallic Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen and Value-Added Chemicals Coproduction via Glycerol Electrooxidation. ACS Catal., 2022 (12), 14492 - 14506.

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