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Hydrogen Release from Organic Molecules using Plasmonic Catalyst Materials

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr Simon Freakley  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2022 under the supervision of Dr Simon Freakley.

Eligible applicants will be considered for a fully-funded studentship – for more information, see the Funding Notes section below.

Overview of the Project:

We seek a motivated student based at the University of Bath as part of a collaborative project between the UK Catalysis Hub and leading groups in plasmonic materials at Imperial and Kings College London.

This project will develop new catalytic materials based on inexpensive Cu materials to allow hydrogen to be reversibly stored in and released from organic molecules which act as liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs). We will explore how the morphologies of these inexpensive copper-based catalysts are related to catalytic performance in (de)hydrogenation reactions under thermal and photocatalytic conditions and how these morphologies evolve under light and thermal energy input.

(De)hydrogenation catalysts typically contain precious metals such as Pd and Pt, however they are often unselective and are expensive compared to Cu. Catalysts based on Cu require harsher conditions than Pd or Pt to activate or release H2 under thermal conditions. However, on illumination with visible light corresponding to the surface plasmon wavelength of Cu (550 - 600 nm) hydrogenation and dehydrogenation reaction rates can be significantly increased at lower temperatures. The project will focus on the synthesis and characterisation of these monometallic and bimetallic copper-based catalysts with the aim to optimise both light absorption and catalytic activity. This will build towards the development of new sustainable liquid organic hydrogen carrier systems that can operate at milder conditions and are based on bio-derived molecules.

The project will be highly collaborative and involve interaction with numerous research groups with complimentary expertise.

During the project the successful candidate will gain experience of

  1. Synthesis of nanoparticle catalyst materials;
  2. Catalytic testing in high pressure systems and chromatography techniques;
  3. Catalyst characterisation by SEM/TEM, XRD and solid-state spectroscopic techniques (UV-Vis/IR).

Project keywords: Heterogeneous Catalysis, Photocatalysis, Plasmonic, Nanoparticles, Hydrogen.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or a related subject . A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Preferable skills/interests include materials synthesis, heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, kinetics and mechanistic studies.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Simon Freakley (email: [Email Address Removed]).

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be considered for a 3.5-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC DTP) studentship. Funding covers tuition fees, a stipend (£15,609 per annum, 2021/22 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum). EPSRC DTP studentships are open to both Home and International students; however, in line with guidance from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the number of awards available to International candidates will be limited to 30% of the total.


Isolated Pd Sites as Selective Catalysts for Electrochemical and Direct Hydrogen Peroxide Synthesis – ACS Catalysis, 2020, 10, 10, 5928–5938
A residue-free approach to water disinfection using catalytic in situ generation of reactive oxygen species – Nature Catalysis, 2021, 4, 575–585.
Acceptorless dehydrogenation of 1-phenylethanol using Pd/TiO2catalysts prepared by sol immobilisation – Catalysis Communications, 2022, 162, 106377.
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