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Renewable energy rain or sunshine – harvesting droplet kinetic energy on transparent thin films (RENU21/EE/MCE/LI)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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Dr Y Li , Dr MW Shahzad No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Newcastle United Kingdom Electrical Engineering Energy Technologies Environmental Engineering Manufacturing Engineering Mechanical Engineering Engineering Materials Science

About the Project

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. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project 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. The start date is 1st October 2021.

The grand vision of “Internet of Things” (IoT) behind a sustainable smart world requires billions of sensor nodes. This brings the urgency of developing self-powered devices with energy harvesting mechanisms that are sustainable, maintenance free, and with long lifetimes. However, there is still a lack of desired “all-rounder” 24/7 energy harvesting solution, efficient at mixed ambient conditions - raining or sunshine, day and night.

The proposed method is to integrate transparent thin film (reported recently in journal Nature, page392, 2020) rain-drop energy harvesting technologies, making it possible to be integrated with solar energy harvesters to continuously power next generation sensor nodes rain or sunshine.

In addition, thermal energy recovery (reported in Energy Sustainability in Built and Urban Environments, pp255, 2019) will also be investigated, to potentially power the device, or facilitate freshwater production from the water collected during raining.

The core research will focus on creating and characterising electro-mechanical device configurations and thin-film material properties to improve overall energy harvesting efficiently.

Proposed work will include:

· Theory and numerical simulation

· Materials characterisation

· Surface wettability and microfluidics

· Thin film deposition and characterisation

You will work with an award winning, interdisciplinary supervisory team with widely acknowledged expertise in surface-wetting, thin-film smart materials (Dr. Yifan Li), energy and water engineering (Dr. Muhammad Wakil Shahzad).

Project external partner WootZano Ltd. has extensive expertise in ZnO based piezoelectric nanogenerator energy harvesters, and IoT solutions.

We are seeking to recruit a highly motivated PhD student with:

· Essential - good work ethic, creative mindset and keenness to learn.

· Desirable - a combination of 2 of the following background subjects:

Supervisor websites:

This project is supervised by Dr Yifan Li and Dr. Muhammad Wakil Shahzad. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]

The application closing date is 7 February 2021 and we will aim to have the interviews take place in early March. Please note that interviews, should they be arranged, will be online rather than in person due to COVID-19.

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.

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

Please note that applications must include all of the following to be considered:

  1. A research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), and include the advert reference (e.g. ReNU21/…).
  2. You must upload with your application at least 2 reference letters

Deadline for applications: 7 February 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

* please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

• have settled status, or

• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.

Funding Notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students, and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2020/21, this was £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees. Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges). 

We have a limited number of International awards available.   Note that up to 6 offers of a PhD place will be made for the ReNU CDT projects advertised by Northumbria University.
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