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Lead-free pyroelectric materials for a new form of water treatment by harvesting low grade waste heat

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Chris Bowen
    Prof Frank Marken
    Prof Toby Jenkins
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has launched a joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: Bath University
Supervisor at Bath: Prof. Chris Bowen (lead); Prof Frank Marken; Prof. Toby Jenkins
Supervisor at Monash: Dr. Alison Funston; Dr. Jie Zhang


Pyroelectrics are a class of materials that convert thermal fluctuations into electric charge as a result of a change in their polarisation with temperature. Applications have focused on their use for infrared detection and thermal imaging. However, in recent years a new avenue for ferroelectric materials has emerged in applications related to electrochemical catalysis based on the pyroelectric effect. This new approach in controlling electrochemical applications involves exploiting the pyroelectric charge generated during changes in the natural ambient temperature to drive electrochemical reactions. This PhD will explore potential applications related to degradation of water pollutants, and water disinfection and by using low grade waste heat (<100°C) to provide the necessary temperature fluctuations.
The PhD combines skills from Bath (pyroelectrics, electrochemistry and disinfection) and Monash (plasmonics and electrochemistry) and will:
(i) Explore the potential to maximise performance using low Curie temperature (Tc ) materials (< 100 °C) as a result of the large changes in polarisation due to a transition from a low temperature ferroelectric state to high temperature paraelectric state (Schematic 1). To date, limited attention has been paid to the application of the low Tc pyroelectrics, especially the use of lead-free ferroelectrics which exhibit a low Tc.
(ii) Create fine scale nano-sized powders to offer an opportunity to maximise the surface area and total surface charge when the pyroelectric particulates are in direct contact with the electrolyte.
(iii) Examine the performance and electrochemical mechanisms for disinfection of bacteria and removal of pollutants by reduction-oxidation reactions.
(iv) Further increase performance by the creation of pyroelectric particulates combined with plasmonic particles to improve photo-thermal heating.

The work aligns within the sustainable and circular technologies since it aims to reuse low grade waste heat or light for sustainable clean water and addresses key research challenges that span the chemistry/materials engineering interface. Bath will provide expertise in pyroelectric materials manufacture (Bowen), electrochemical mechanisms (Marken) and water disinfection (Jenkins) and Monash will provide expertise in plasmonics (Funston) and advanced dynamic electrochemical techniques for characterization (Zhang) of the pyroelectric enhanced reactions.

Application process

We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable & Circular Technologies.

You MUST express interest for three projects in order of preference – you can see all projects here: . Please submit your application at the Home institution of your preferred project (‘Home’ institution details can be found in the project summary). However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

University of Bath

Please submit your application through the following link:
Please make sure to mention in the “finance” section of your application that you are applying for funding through the joint Bath/Monash PhD programme for your specified projects.
In the “research interests” section of your application, please name the three projects you are interested in and rank them in order of preference. Please also include the names of the Bath lead supervisors.

Monash University

Expressions of interest (EoI) can be lodged through The EoI should provide the following information:
CV including details of citizenship, your Official Academic Transcripts, key to grades/grading scale of your transcripts, evidence of English language proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL, for full requirements see:, and two referees and contact details (optional). You must provide a link to these documents in Section 8 using Google Drive (Instructions in Section 8).

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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