In situ TEM for understanding of the electrochemical performance of iridium based OER catalysts

   Department of Materials

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  Prof S Haigh  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis is a key route to production of green hydrogen from renewable electricity. However, the low operating pH and oxidising potentials limit the choice of catalyst materials for the O2 evolution reaction at the anode (2H2O → O2 + 4H+ + 4e-). Generally, the only currently viable solutions are oxides of Iridium, a highly expensive and scarce element. Engineering new anode materials that are robust to the electrolyser’s corrosive environment requires a detailed understanding of the degradation process, including the effect of nanostructured surfaces and local chemical inhomogeneities. Large-scale deployment of electrolysers relies on the discovery of new materials with improved efficiency and durability. Nonetheless, progress in developing these materials is being held back by the challenges of imaging and characterising structural degradation in the electrolyser environment at the nanoscale. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is one of the few tools able to directly study nanoparticle catalysts structure and chemistry with atomic resolution and single atom sensitivity. New capabilities developed in Manchester enable this to be done at atomic spatial resolution for solid materials when surrounded by liquid of gaseous environments.

Project aims

This project aims to further develop TEM imaging capabilities to enable study of the behaviour of the active solid-liquid interface of Iridium oxide electrode materials in liquid environments and with applied bias or during electrochemical cycling. This new technical capability builds on our existing state of the art platform for in situ TEM. The project will work closely with experts in materials development (Johnson Matthey and Manchester Metropolitan University) to understand the different in-situ degradation behaviour of new material systems, and thereby inform and accelerate access to improved materials. You will learn to use Manchester’s world leading TEM capabilities to image the structure and elemental distribution of electrode materials, and develop new abilities for TEM investigations in realistic electrolyser conditions and during electrochemical cycling. You will develop expertise in complementary characterisation methods, electrode materials development methods, and Python processing of large, complex data sets. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with industry, to attend international conferences and opportunities to undertake experiments at national and international facilities. It is expected that key results will be publishable and will lead to high impact publications in world leading journals. 

Student requirements

The applicant should have, or be expected to achieve a good (2.1) degree in Chemistry, Physics, Engineering or related discipline. 

Before you apply 

We strongly recommend that you contact the lead supervisor for this project before you apply. 

How to apply 

To be considered for this project you’ll need to complete a formal application through our online application portal

When applying, you’ll need to specify the full name of this project, the name of your supervisor, details of your previous study, and names and contact details of two referees

Your application will not be processed without all of the required documents submitted at the time of application, and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered.  

If you have any questions about making an application, please contact our admissions team by emailing [Email Address Removed]

Equality, diversity and inclusion 

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)

 About the Project