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In-situ x-ray and electrochemical characterisation of microcrystals for CO2 reduction

   Department of Physics

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  Dr Y Grunder, Dr Francesco Carla  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The aim of this project is to develop the use of surface x-ray diffraction (SXRD) on microcrystal for investigating the electrocatalytic properties of transition metals towards the CO2 reduction. This PhD project lies at the border between physics and chemistry where both fundamental investigation and technical development are integral part of the research work.

Electrochemical processes play a crucial role in our daily life and underpin many technologies such as corrosion inhibition, metal plating, energy supply through batteries and energy conversion by fuel cells and solar cells. Electrochemistry deals with reactions that involve transfer of electrical charge at interfaces between an electrode and a chemical species in solution. 

The project will help to establish structure-stability-reactivity relationships of metal electrodes, elucidating the role and stability of the atomic structure of the electrode.

Copper and copper oxide-derived surfaces are the only catalysts that can electrochemically convert CO2 to high-value and energy-dense products such as methane ethylene, formic acid, methanol and ethanol. The efficiency and the selectivity of these processes are far from optimal and the parameters controlling these factors are not-fully understood. Experiments on macro-crystals have played a key role in the development of structure-reactivity relationships for electrocatalysis. A drawback of these measurements are the limitations to defect-free macroscopic crystals which due to electrocatalytic instabilities often undergo atomic rearrangements and morphology changes - the aim of this project is to overcome these limitations through the use of microcrystals. The development of a sample environment for in-situ/operando experiments and suitable tools for the microcrystal manipulation will be part of this project as well as the experiment design and the development of suitable data analysis tools.

Training in all aspects of the project will be provided with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure in the University. The student will acquire skills in materials processing and characterisations and in the application of synchrotron radiation for the study of materials.

The work will be carried out in the frame of a collaboration between Dr Yvonne Grunder (Liverpool University) and Dr Francesco Carla' (Diamond Light Source, Oxford) and will make use of cutting-edge experimental setups for the structural characterization at the atomic scale of electrochemical systems in real reaction conditions. This will offer a unique training environment that will best suit students with a passion for experimental research and an interest for developing an experience at large scale facilities.

Prior background in electrochemistry and/or condensed matter physics (especially X-ray diffraction) would be an advantage. The project may involve the use of computer algebra or numerical methods for data analysis. Some programming skills and background in computer science would be helpful but not necessary. The successful candidate should have or expect to have at least a 2:1 degree or equivalent in Physics and/or Chemistry.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Yvonne Grunder on +44(0)1517952156, email [Email Address Removed].

To apply for this opportunity, please visit and press the 'Ready to apply? Apply online' button. Please ensure you quote the following reference on your application: PPPR021- In-situ x-ray and electrochemical characterisation of microcrystals for CO2 reduction

Funding Notes

Funded by the University of Liverpool and Diamond Lightsource for 3.5 years, this award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant.
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