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Improving water electrolysers by understanding gas bubbling formation and electrode blocking

   Chemical and Process Engineering

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  Dr Aaron Marshall  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We aim to develop anodes which will lead to world-beating anion exchange membrane electrolyser (AEMEL) performance. AEMEL is an emerging technology which leverages advantages from both PEM and traditional alkaline electrolysers. Unfortunately the performance of AEMELs lag behind PEM and alkaline electrolysers due to the sluggish kinetics of the anode.1-3 Even at modest current densities (0.3 A/cm2), the anodic overpotential is above 250 mV, in contrast to 50 mV found at the cathode.4 This large overpotential lowers the efficiency of AEMEL and makes operating these electrolysers at high H2 production rates effectively impossible.

While ultra-high surface area materials can increase catalytic activity, evolved gas bubbles can block the surface of these electrodes5-7 reducing electrolysis efficiency. This is an often overlooked yet important issue and so we will use MRI and x-ray tomography methods guide our electrode development. To enable MRI measurements, large conductive electrodes must be avoided and so we will use thin gas evolving electrodes connected to porous polymer models. The formation of bubbles within this network will be quantified by the changes in signal intensity and/or relaxation time within the pore space.8 The flow of the electrolyte into and out of the electrodes will be quantified using pulsed field gradient NMR.8, 9 We also aim to use the new microCT beamline at the Australian Synchrotron and electrical resistance tomography to image bubble formation in electrolysis cells. To complement these methods, the bubble behaviour will be simulated using two-phase lattice Boltzmann methods,10, 11 which are ideally suited to these systems due to the low flow rate and complex pore geometry. Normally lattice Boltzmann is limited to phases of similar density, however in the small pores of the electrode, the flow will not be buoyancy driven and therefore it is not necessary to use the true density of the gas in these simulations.

Required experience

Applicants must hold a honours or masters degree in Chemical Engineering. Others will be considered if they have experience with fluid mechanics, CFD or electrochemical engineering.

Scholarship details

$35k/year (tax-free) + fees for 3 years. Available to international students.

Supervision team:

Professor Aaron Marshall, Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Canterbury,

The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology,

[Email Address Removed]

Professor Daniel Holland, Chemical and Process Engineering, UC


1. T. Priamushko, R. Guillet-Nicolas, M. Yu, M. Doyle, C. Weidenthaler, H. Tüysüz and F. Kleitz, ACS Applied Energy Materials, 2020, 3, 5597-5609.
2. M. Yu, G. Moon, E. Bill and H. Tüysüz, ACS Applied Energy Materials, 2019, 2, 1199-1209.
3. A. R. Zeradjanin, J. Masa, I. Spanos and R. Schlögl, Frontiers in Energy Research, 2021, 8.
4. H. A. Miller, K. Bouzek, J. Hnat, S. Loos, C. I. Bernäcker, T. Weißgärber, L. Röntzsch and J. Meier-Haack, Sustainable Energy & Fuels, 2020, 4, 2114-2133.
5. J. Eigeldinger and H. Vogt, Electrochim. Acta, 2000, 45, 4449-4456.
6. H. Vogt and R. J. Balzer, Electrochim. Acta, 2005, 50, 2073-2079.
7. K. Zeng and D. K. Zhang, Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, 2010, 36, 307-326.
8. J. Mitchell, T. C. Chandrasekera, D. J. Holland, L. F. Gladden and E. J. Fordham, Phys. Rep., 2013, 526, 165-225.
9. M. R. Serial, M. I. Velasco, E. V. Silletta, F. M. Zanotto, S. A. Dassie and R. H. Acosta, ChemPhysChem, 2017, 18, 3469-3477.
10. D. A. Clarke, F. Dolamore, C. J. Fee, P. Galvosas and D. J. Holland, Chem. Eng. Sci., 2021, 231, 116264.
11. G. R. Molaeimanesh, H. Saeidi Googarchin and A. Qasemian Moqaddam, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2016, 41, 22221-22245.
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