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PhD Studentship – “Operando spin-state selective X-ray emission spectroscopy of battery electrode materials”

  • Full or part time
    Prof A Russell
  • Application Deadline
    Saturday, March 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

co supervisors: Dr. Sofia Diaz-Moreno - Diamond Light Source and Dr. Gilberto Teobaldi – Scientific Computing Department (SCD), STFC

PhD Description: Ion storage materials for batteries are often mixed metal oxides or nanoparticle systems, hindering understanding the fundamental processes of charge storage. Spin-state selective X-ray spectroscopies, X-ray Emission Spectroscopy (XES) and High Resolution X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (HR-XANES), offer the opportunity to selectively study the metal atoms by coordination site and/or oxidation state. Such measurements are made possible by the chemical shifts in the position of the maximum of the Kβ emission line that accompany differences in the geometric (e.g. octahedral vs. tetrahedral site) and/or electronic structure (e.g. high vs. low spin states).

In this project, which is a collaborative effort between the University of Southampton, Diamond Light Source, and STFC’s Scientific Computing Department (Theoretical and Computational Physics Group), you will develop electrochemical cells to allow the study of a class of battery electrode materials under working conditions (in operando) using XES and HR-XANES. This will involve synthetic preparation of the battery materials, preparation of electrodes, electrochemical testing in conventional battery cells, design of cells for the operando measurements, collection of X-ray data at the Diamond Light Source and other synchrotrons, and analysis of the data.

We have selected the Prussian blue analogues, which are ferrocyanide based materials of the form AxMFe(CN)6, where A is an alkali metal cation (0 ≤ x ≤ 2) and M is a variety of metals (Fe, Mn, Co, Ni, Cu), as an interesting class of battery materials for this study. They can be used as Na+ ion storage for electric vehicle applications in non-aqueous electrolytes, whilst in aqueous electrolytes they are candidate Na+ and Zn2+ storage materials, which have applications for stationary/grid-scale storage.

In addition to the XES and HR-XANES measurements, you will learn and use a wide variety of materials characterisation techniques such as SEM, TEM, powder XRD, and EXAFS. You will become expert in the electrochemical characterisation of battery electrodes and the analysis of voltammetric and impedance data. As such you will develop a range of experimental skills that are transferable to a wide range of other electrochemical, catalytic, and materials research areas.

You will be based at the University of Southampton in the laboratory of Prof. Andrea Russell
You will be seconded to the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, site of Diamond Light Source and the Scientific Computing Department, for approximately half of your time. You will work with Dr. Sofia Diaz-Moreno to complete your training in XES and HR-XANES data collection and analysis, and participate in developments on the spectroscopy beamlines.

While seconded at the Harwell site, you will also broaden your skills in use of first principles simulation methods to interpret your experimental results with Dr. Gilberto Teobaldi (SCD).

Funding Notes

The project is funded for 3 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree in Chemistry or allied subjects/relevant disciplines. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates per annum.(predicted 201920 rates are £15.009)

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK students and EU students who meet the RCUK eligibility criteria


Applications for a PhD in Chemistry should be submitted online at

Click on the Research radio button, select 2019-20 in the academic year field and enter Chemistry in the search text field. Click ‘search for programme’. Select PhD Chemistry (Full Time).

Please place Prof. Andrea Russell in the field for proposed supervisor/project

General enquiries should be made to Prof. Andrea Russell at [email protected] Any queries on the application process should be made to [email protected]

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified

The University of Southampton and the School of Chemistry both hold Athena SWAN Silver Awards, reflecting their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and particularly to gender equality.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.80

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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