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Mapping the chemical, electronic and ionic properties of high-capacity cathode materials

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, May 01, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries have a vital role to play in sustainably meeting our energy needs, by storing the energy generated by renewable sources for when it is needed, and in powering the electric vehicles of the future. However, significant improvements in their capacity and working lifetime (cycle life) are first required. The design of new electrode materials to achieve this, demands a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in Lithium ion transport within electrodes, and at the interface with the electrolyte. This PhD studentship, funded through the Faraday Institution, will apply multimodal imaging capabilities to reveal how the chemical and structural properties of high capacity Nickel Manganese Cobaltate cathode materials, including their electronic and ionic conductivities, vary as they are charged and discharged. Key to this will be spatially resolving these properties within individual cathode particles at different stages of charge/discharge and after different numbers of charge/discharge cycles, providing insights into the degradation mechanisms responsible for capacity fade in these materials. This requires resolution from nanometres up to microns to be able to detect transition metal dissolution at particle surfaces and longer-range variations in Lithium content, oxidation state, and electronic and ionic conductivities. To this end, this studentship will involve the use of photoemission electron microscopy (PEEM), nanoprobe x-ray diffraction (XRD), Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy (c-AFM), and Electrochemical Strain Microscopy (ESM). This is expected to provide important insights into how these electrode materials can be tuned to improve their performance in real battery systems.

The project will be based in Dr. Robert Weatherup’s research group, embedded within the University of Manchester at Harwell (, located alongside Diamond Light Source on the Harwell campus. This is the UK’s leading science innovation and technology campus situated 20 minutes from Oxford and one hour from London. You will be co-supervised by Dr. Karin Kleiner (beamline I11 at Diamond), and be provided with in-depth training in the experimental techniques listed above and their associated analysis methods. You will also gain experience in electrode material preparation techniques, Li-ion battery fabrication, and electrochemical methods. There will be the opportunity for an extended research trip (or trips) to the group of Prof. Florian Hausen at the Forschungzentrum Juelich (Germany) to perform scanning probe measurements.

Faraday Institution Cluster PhD students receive an enhanced stipend over and above the standard EPSRC offer. The total annual stipend is approximately £20,000 plus an additional £7,000 annually to cover training and travel costs. Recipients will have access to multiple networking opportunities, industry visits, mentorship, internships, as well as quality experiences that will further develop knowledge, skills, and aspirations.

The University of Manchester will actively foster a culture of inclusion and diversity and will seek to achieve true equality of opportunity for all members of its community.

Applicants are expected to hold, or be about to obtain, a good 2:i honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science or a related discipline.

Contact for further Information:
Robert Weatherup,
Karin Kleiner,
Florian Hausen,

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year PhD studentship funded by the Faraday Institution. Funding will cover fees, an enhanced stipend of £20,000 per year plus an additional £7,000 annually to cover training and travel costs.

Open to UK/EU applicants only due to funding restrictions.

We expect the programme to commence in September 2019.

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