If humanity were to replace fossil fuels, it would need to find a way to store vast amounts of renewable energy cheaply for use when the sun is not shining or when the winds are still. One solution is to use devices called solid oxide cells which can use surplus power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen (electrolysis mode) or recombine these gases to produce power (fuel cell mode) when needed. Hydrogen is not only a fuel, but also a staple of the chemical industry of growing importance. Although, in principle, the same device can provide both functions, possibly enabling a step-change in accessibility and use of renewable, in practice this is rarely the case. This is due to the stringent requirements that intermittent operability poses on the constituting materials.
This PhD project will develop reversible solid oxide cells based on a newly discovered class of materials, so called exsolved or emergent materials. Exsolved materials can self-reorganize under operation into confined arrays of nanoparticles which are partly or fully immersed in the parent matrix. Due to the way such materials are formed and structured, they provide realistic solutions to be used in all the parts of a reversible solid oxide cell, unlocking levels of manufacturability, functionality, activity and durability which could make such technology viable. Specifically, this project will explore the design, characterisation, incorporation and application of exsolved materials for into reversible solid oxide cells. The project is thus highly multidisciplinary in scope, employing different structural and chemical characterisation methods, manufacturing and application testing procedures, and provide the candidate the opportunity to interact with world leading expert collaborators and institutions in the respective fields.
In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.
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