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Photocatalytic solar energy conversion

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

There is a clear need to develop processes that minimise the consumption of limited energy resources and reduce waste detrimental to the environment. Catalysis plays a central role for reducing waste and energy consumption and is consequently used in ca. 90% of industrial chemical products. Nevertheless, there is significant scope to develop new catalysis and apply energy more directly than simply heating, including solar energy. The focus of our work is the development of materials and processes that can be applied to heterogeneous photocatalysis, which would not only provide the benefits inherent to heterogeneous processes, including easy catalyst separation, but also exploit an essentially limitless supply of free energy.

Projects are available to study the synthesis of solar fuels and also selective transformation of organic molecules. All projects are underpinned by light absorption, charge separation and redox catalysis. For example semiconductors or metal complexes can be used for light absorption or redox catalysis and combinations of suitable materials can be prepared to absorb light across the visible spectrum to generate an excited state that can undergo charge separation to give reducing and oxidizing equivalents that can drive redox reactions.

Example reactions for solar fuels synthesis include water splitting for hydrogen and oxygen production, and carbon dioxide reduction for e.g. methanol, both of which essentially store solar (photon) energy in chemical bonds. These reactions represent solar energy conversion to storable chemical fuels (solar fuels) providing a renewable source of energy that can be used on demand (e.g. for transportation).

The second class of reaction is focussed on light-driven organic reactions using semiconductor solids, such as metal oxides that are cheap and are easily recycled. For example, selective oxidation of organic molecules can be achieved using molecular oxygen which is in contrast to commonly used metal and organic oxidants that generate significant waste.

However, although there has been significant progress developing photocatalytic reactions there still remain significant challenges to improve efficiency and reduce corrosion using Earth abundant materials. We are studying the development of new photocatalytic systems and also try to gain a deeper understanding of known systems to guide improvements using a range of spectroscopic and electrochemical analytical techniques.

Specific projects can be discussed prior application.

All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.

This project will provide specific training in materials synthesis using a range of techniques including metal complex synthesis, hydrothermal synthesis and electrospray deposition; characterisation techniques including electron microscopy, powder x-ray diffraction, various spectroscopies (Infra-red, Raman, Fluorescence, diffuse reflectance and time-resolved photoluminescence) and electrochemistry; and analytical methods relating to photocatalytic reactions including gas chromatography and determination of photocatalytic efficiency. Overall the training will support acquisition of skills in inorganic and materials chemistry wth the opportunity to develop expertise in one or more of the above techniques.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel. Chemistry at York was the first academic department in the UK to receive the Athena SWAN Gold award, first attained in 2007 and then renewed in October 2010 and in April 2015.

Funding Notes

This project is open to students who can fund their own studies or who have been awarded a scholarship separate from this project. The Chemistry Department at York is pleased to offer Wild Fund Scholarships to those from countries outside the UK. Wild Fund Scholarships offer up to full tuition fees for those from countries from outside the European Union. EU students may also be offered £6,000 per year towards living costs. For further information see: View Website

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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