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ReNU PhD Studentship in Closing the carbon loop with biomass-waste derived carbon nanodots

School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Number of awards:

Start date and duration:
September 2021 for 4 years.

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. 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.

This project takes a clean technology approach to produce sustainable fuels and feedstocks from carbon dioxide using sunlight (“artificial photosynthesis”). Carbon nanodots, derived from biomass waste, have remarkable optical and electronic properties. We will use their strong, tunable luminescence to produce a printable solar concentrator, which will enhance and direct sunlight towards a photocatalytic reactor for CO2 reduction to CO and formate. We will use scalable processing methods (3D printing and slot die coating) to prepare the waveguides and maximise the optical properties. This enhancement of light is necessary to overcome the thermodynamic and kinetic problems associated with CO2 reduction and increase the efficiency beyond what can be achieved by natural photosynthesis.

The project combines chemistry, chemical engineering, nanoscience, photophysics and catalysis. The surface of the carbon dots will be functionalised to improve their fluorescent properties, and the structure of the photocatalysts will be modified to improve the selectivity and solar to fuel efficiency. The system contributes to the circular economy of carbon, by converting waste back into fuels and high-value chemicals.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) -

Dr Anh Phan (Newcastle University), Dr Elizabeth A. Gibson (Newcastle University) with Shahid Rasul (Northumbria University), Neil Beattie (Northumbria University)

Eligibility Criteria:
• Academic excellence 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.
• Academic excellence in an appropriate subject area relevant to proposed project.
• If English is not your first language, you must have IELTS 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in all sub-skills)

Home and International students (Inc. EU) are welcome to apply. We have a limited number of International awards available, and applicants may be required to provide additional fees not covered by the UKRI Home fee contribution. Further information will be provided at application stage.

How to apply:
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system (
• Insert the programme code 8208F in the programme of study section
• Select PhD Energy Materials as the programme of study
• Insert the advert reference number renu213 in the studentship/partnership reference field
• Attach a covering letter and CV, quote code renu213, and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
• Attach a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and include the advert reference number.
• Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

Funding Notes

100% of home tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,285. Successful international candidates may be required to make up the difference between the home and international fees.

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