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Mobile robot chemists for autonomous solar fuels research

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found.

Description: The production of clean solar fuels is a major challenge of our time and a longstanding Holy Grail in chemistry. In principle, we can design powdered photocatalysts that produce hydrogen fuel directly from water using sunlight, but so far, the efficiencies of such materials are too low for scale up. One problem is the complexity of these catalysts, and the enormous number of potential combinations that must be trialled. This project will develop a disruptive new approach to this problem: the use of mobile robot chemists that can autonomously search the available chemical space. A video of our progress so far can be found here: The project will involve both the development of the hardware and the software to drive the autonomous searching, as well as defining the chemical space that the robot will search. This approach is globally unique, and the student will graduate with a diverse skill set that could launch a career in either academic research or in industry. The project forms part of the £10 M Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design, and there will be multiple opportunities to interact with other members of that centre in a range of areas such as experimental chemistry, computational chemistry, robotics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Environment: The studentship will be based in the Autonomous Chemistry Laboratory, which forms part of the Materials Innovation Factory (MIF), a new £82 M research facility, supervised by Professor A. I. Cooper FRS, the MIF Academic Director. The studentship is funded by the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design, a £10 M, 10-year activity funded by the Leverhulme Trust. You will be part of the Cooper Group. Twitter: @AICooperGroup

Qualifications: A 2:1 or higher degree or equivalent in Chemistry is required. Ideally, the candidate will already have strong programming abilities (e.g., in Java), but an interest in programming and a willingness to learn are essential.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Professor Cooper

Funding Notes

Depending on the successful applicant (EU or non-EU) this studentship would include a commitment to work up to 50 hours per academic year to help with teaching-related activities in modules currently taught in the Department of Chemistry, as assigned by the Head of Department or his representative. The award will pay full home/EU tuition fees and a maintenance grant (£15,007pa in 201919) for 3.5 years. Non-EU applicants may have to contribute to the higher non-EU overseas fee.

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