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Particle Packing in High-nickel Content Cathodes

Project Description

A fully funding 4-year Faraday Institution PhD is available in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield with Dr Rachel Smith and Professor Serena Corr. The Faraday Institution ( is the UK independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science and technology, bringing together scientists and industry partners across a range of projects to reduce battery cost, weight, and volume; to improve performance and reliability; and to develop whole-life strategies from mining to recycling to second use. This PhD studentship, part of the Faraday Institution funded Degradation project, will directly tackle the critical gap in knowledge of particle packing and understanding of rheological properties for optimised cathode film preparation for next-generation Li-ion batteries.

In addition to acquiring intimate knowledge of crystal structure and redox properties, the development of cathode materials for Li-ion batteries requires in-depth analysis of particle properties, including particle shape, size, aggregate arrangement and packing information. This is a critical gap in our current knowledge for high-nickel content cathodes. This project addresses the pressing need for insights into particle packing in high nickel-content NMC particles and how this affects cathode film preparation and eventual performance. This PhD student will work with Dr Rachel Smith (expert in particle engineering) and Professor Serena Corr (expert in Li-ion battery cathodes) to fully characterise pristine and coated particles using a combination of microscopy, tomography, diffraction and spectroscopy techniques to identify size, shape and 3D aggregate microstructure properties, as well as rheological properties of cathode slurries. The goal here is to identify optimal packing arrangements for best electrochemical performance. This information will enable us to (i) identify how rheological and thixotropic effects influence capacity stability with extended cycling and (ii) develop methodologies for consistent cathode film production for reliable cyclability.

The University of Sheffield is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence, to equality of opportunity and to a pro-active and inclusive approach to equality, which supports and encourages all under-represented groups, promotes an inclusive culture, and values diversity. In REF2014, 99% our research was assessed as internationally recognised or better, placing us in the top 10% of all UK universities. We are proud of our dedication to equality and enjoy celebrating the diversity of our staff. Our commitment to being an equal opportunities employer is recognised externally as well as by our own staff. The University is recognised as one of the best places to work in the UK and has been featured for the third year running in The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work for 2018, the only university to feature on this list. We are also a Stonewall Top 100 Employer for 2019 demonstrating our continued commitment to LGBT equality. For further details on our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, please see

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is a thriving department within one of the UK’s top Faculties of Engineering and one of the top Russell Group Universities. With an extensive research culture spanning Materials & Products, Biological Engineering, Sustainability, and Processes & Systems themes; the Department boasts 35 Academics, 40 Researchers, 16 Technical Staff, 18 Professional/Support Staff and 176 PhD Students. CBE are experiencing an exciting period of growth and diversification in both research and teaching, with £3.5m investment in new facilities and £21m research income in the last five years. The Department is proud to have held an Athena Swan Silver Award continuously from 2013 and are keen to continue to grow the diversity of our staff.

This is an especially exciting project working on an important and impactful scientific challenge. We actively collaborate with multiple research teams around the UK and we hope you will enjoy working as part of a collaborative team, driven by scientific curiosity and an ambition to solve practical challenges. 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.

Please contact Dr Rachel Smith () or Professor Serena Corr () for any informal enquires on this project. If you wish to formally apply for this position, please complete our online application form found here and reference the project title “Particle packing in high-nickel content cathodes” in your application: Early applications are advised as an offer will be made once a suitable candidate shortlist is available.

Funding Notes

Candidates should be highly motivated, with an excellent graduate degree in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science or a related field with a strong interest in particle processing, battery materials, and physical chemistry.

If English is not your first language, then you must have International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component.

The 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.

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