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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Flow synthesis of organic monomers for fabrication of next generation anion-exchange membranes with enhanced durabilities in fuel cells and electrolysers


Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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Dr D Whelligan , Dr P Roth No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
Guildford United Kingdom Environmental Chemistry Organic Chemistry Chemistry Synthetic Chemistry

About the Project

In order to mitigate climate change, clean energy conversion technologies are required to store renewable energy produced in times of high production but low consumption. Part of the key to this is moving to a hydrogen-based economy involving interconversion of electricity from renewable sources, water and hydrogen. This is facilitated by fuel cells and electrolysers, which must be inexpensive, efficient and durable. Alkaline anion exchange membrane (AAEM) devices employ solid polymeric electrolytes which conduct hydroxide ions and have the advantage of functioning with low (ultimately eliminated) loadings of precious metal electrocatalysts, reducing cost. However, careful design of the membrane is required to give it both high ion conductivity and chemical stability. At the University of Surrey, we have been involved in this research for decades and our radiation-grafted AAEMs show world-leading performances, but improvements in durability are still required. The monomers employed in our radiation grafting of commercial films give co-polymers whose functional groups permit conversion to the positively charged head groups that yield the desired anion-conductive membrane. 

This PhD research project, supervised by Drs Daniel Whelligan and Peter Roth and part of a larger £1M UK project led by Prof John Varcoe (alongside Newcastle University, EPSRC grants EP/T009233/1 & EP/T00939X/1), involves the design of novel monomers which will make anion exchange membranes with high hydroxide conductivities and increased stability to both alkaline conditions and reactive oxygen/radical species (these are generated as side products during the electrocatalytic reactions). Efficient synthetic routes to these novel monomers will be devised and optimised on our new, state-of-the-art flow reactor. This will permit immediate scale-up to produce hundreds of grams of monomer whilst removing the hazards of large-scale batch synthesis.

This is a three-year project, commencing in April 2021.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Chemistry. IELTS requirements: 6.5 (6.0 in individual units).

How to apply:

Apply online (https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/chemistry-phd#apply ) by selecting the ‘Apply’ tab then ‘Chemistry PhD, full-time, Jan 2021’ and completing the forms and uploading the documents stated therein.


Funding Notes

Tuition fees are covered for the duration of the project for UK/EU students with a stipend of £15,285 per annum.


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