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Project Title: Designing the materials for production of tailored and sustainable aviation fuels from waste CO2 and Water (Advert Reference: RENU19/MCE/RASUL)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 08, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) from renewable resources is critical to help UK to transition to a low carbon future. This project aims to produce sustainable and tailored jet fuels by designing novel materials (photo-electrocatalysts) using renewable energy from industrially sourced CO2. For the aviation industry, it is vital that the jet fuel should comprise of single and tailored hydrocarbon instead of a mixture or blend of fuels to maximize the fuel efficiency which is a grand challenge for scientific community. In this project, twostep process will be carried out to obtain “tailored” jet fuel molecules. In the first step, CO2 will be converted to C1, C2 molecules using binary copper alloys (CuIn, CuSn) and then novel catalyst materials will be designed (multi-metallic) to “stitch” C1,C2 compounds together to obtain tailored SAF. For this purpose, an integrated materials design (bottom-up method to develop novel Copper based photo-electrodes) and engineering for reactor design (top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) approach will be implemented towards tailored and sustainable jet fuel production.
Following key skills will be gained during this project;

1. Materials Synthesis (Copper based binary and ternary compounds): Electrochemical, Soft-chemistry routes
2. Materials characterisation: Electron Microscopy, AFM, Electrochemical techniques
3. Analytical: GC (TCD, FID, BID), HPLC
4. Reactor design: 3D printing, COMSOL simulations

This multidisciplinary project unites leading Universities (Northumbria, Newcastle) and industry (Airbus) to conduct transformative research on SAF which will have a strong impact on society and economy, particularly in the energy sector and associated materials and process industries.

“Who this PhD” would suit: We are looking for innovative and hardworking candidates who are interested in working on renewable and clean energy technologies. Applicants with background in engineering (materials/mechanical/chemical) and applied sciences (chemistry, physics) are encouraged to apply. Working experience in electrochemical engineering and COMSOL simulations will be a plus.

About CDT ReNU
The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU) is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. The overall aim of ReNU is to create a pipeline of highly skilled doctoral graduates in the areas of small-scale renewable and sustainable distributed energy that will drive UK productivity and innovation in the future. The scope of ReNU focuses on materials for energy conversion, storage and efficiency, while at the same time taking a whole systems view of the energy sector. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project described below at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities for example in business, innovation and internationalisation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training.

Eligibility and How to Apply
Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
• The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria ( you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference RENU19/MCE/RASUL will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 8 March 2019
Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students from the UK and EU, which covers full fees, and a full stipend*, paid for four years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa).

*Stipend available to UK students only


1. Shahid Rasul, Dalaver H. Anjum, Abdesslem Jedidi, Yury Minenkov, Luigi Cavallo, and Kazuhiro Takanabe, “Highly selective Cu-In bimetallic electrocatalyst for the electrochemical reduction of aqueous CO2 to CO”, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 54 (2015), 2146-2150.

2. Abdesslem Jedidi, Shahid Rasul, Dilshad Masih, Luigi Cavallo and Kazuhiro Takanabe, “Generation of Cu-In alloy surfaces from CuInO2 as selective sites for CO2 electroreduction”, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2015, 3, 19085-19092.

3. Angel T. Garcia-Esparza, Kevin Limkrailassiri, Frederic Leroy, Shahid Rasul, Weili Yu, Liwei Lin and Kazuhiro Takanabe, “Photoelectrochemical and electrocatalytic properties of thermally oxidized copper oxide for efficient solar fuel production”, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2, 7389-7401.

4. Shahid Rasul, Andrien Pugnant, and Eileen Yu. “Electrochemical Reduction of CO2 at Multi-Metallic Interfaces”, ECS Trans. 2018 85(10): 57-66.

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