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PhD Studentship in Advanced Battery Technologies: Understanding Battery Failure Using High Speed X-ray Imaging

Department of Chemical Engineering

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Dr P Shearing No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


The Department of Chemical Engineering at University College London (UCL) in partnership with the European Synchrotron ESRF is seeking up a PhD student (to be based at ESRF in Grenoble, France) to work on high speed X-ray imaging of battery failure using beamline ID19.
The Electrochemical Innovation Lab (EIL) is an internationally leading hub for research in electrochemical science and engineering. The EIL’s approach is to embody scientific, engineering and commercial thinking in the research phase. In this way the EIL identifies commercial opportunities early, considers the engineering and commercial implications of the science and builds research programmes to accelerate the science into commercial products.
The EIL is very well equipped with a range of fabrication, test and analysis equipment, providing one of the best research environments for electrochemical technology development in the world.

The ESRF is the world’s most intense X-ray source and a centre of excellence for fundamental and innovation-driven research in condensed and living matter science. Located in Grenoble, France, the ESRF owes its success to the international cooperation of 22 partner nations.

The 150 m-long beamline ID19 at ESRF offers outstanding sensitivity for X-ray imaging as well as ultra-short exposure times due to the brightness of the source, especially when white beam imaging is considered. Techniques such as (in situ) microtomography as well as high-speed radioscopy are applied to a wide variety of topics, including besides materials research also cultural heritage, biomedical applications and instrumentation.


The Li-ion battery was one of the transformative technologies of the 20th century and promises to have wider impact in the 21st century with the rapid uptake of electric vehicles. Battery degradation remains one of the most pressing issues facing vehicle electrification and is also critical across a range of industries from consumer electronics to aerospace.

In recent years numerous high profile failures of Li-ion batteries have been reported, contributing to wider concerns about the safety of high energy density cells across a range of applications. Recent work conducted by UCL and ESRF in collaboration with numerous international partners, has demonstrated a new method for failure characterisation using ultra-high-speed imaging at beam line ID19. The methodology which combines high speed radiography (and tomography) will be further developed here, to include correlative thermal, calorimetric and acoustic spectroscopy.

The scientific goals of the project are as follows:

1. To demonstrate the application of high speed X-ray for a range of failure scenarios, including mechanical, electrical and thermal abuse, providing new insight into cell failure which can be interpreted through complementary modelling,
2. To develop a permanent experimental rig at ESRF to facilitate these failure investigations, to enable high throughput installation and sample changes, and operation to the highest H&S protocols,
3. To undertake correlative measurements, for example using acoustic measurements to provide additional validation of emerging techniques for battery characterisation,
4. To explore the application of correlative neutron imaging with enhanced sensitivity to metallic Li, and gas generation effects,
5. To extend investigations to evaluate next generation cells (cell formats, components and geometries)
6. To contribute to new international standards for cell qualification and safety.

The student will be registered as a PhD candidate at UCL, but will be primarily based at the ID19 beam line at the ESRF.


The candidate will have or be expected to have or obtain a degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, physics or an associated discipline. The ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment using experimental and modelling research tools is expected. Effective written and verbal communication, good time-management and the ability to work in a team are essential.


Please note that due to funding restrictions the post is open to UK/EU citizens only. Further details about the studentship are available at the bottom of this page.
The successful applicant must hold (or soon be expecting to obtain) a 1st, 2:1 (and/or M.Sc.) in a relevant scientific or engineering discipline (e.g. chemical engineering, chemistry, physics, materials) and be a UK or EU citizen.
The closing date for applications by email is 15th Oct. 2020, however the position will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found, so we recommend that you apply be sending a CV and cover letter via e-mail to Prof Paul Shearing ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Alexander Rack ([Email Address Removed] ) as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

£17432 per annum + UK/EU fees

Start date: Autumn 2020

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