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ReNU PhD Studentship PHOTOCAP: Photocapacitors for ambient energy applications

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.

The Internet of Things is set to define technology for the next decades, but current designs are strongly limited by their choice of energy supply. Ambient light harvesters provide a new generation of self-powered and "smart" IoT devices powered through an energy source that is largely untapped.

Ambient light offers vast universally available energy, which can be used to design near-perpetual smart IoT devices. This research will overcome previous limitations in intermittent energy supply by introducing a new design and energy paradigm to power distributed IoT devices, maximizing their ability to sense, communicate, and predict. The intermittent character of the energy generation in indoor photovoltaics will be bridged using chemical supercapacitors to enable the overall IoT device to intermittently bridge periods of darkness for continuous operation mode.

The project will develop a novel dual-function device, Energy-Storable Dye-sensitized Solar Cell (ES-DSC) ⎯ a combination of energy harvesting (Indoor Photovoltaic) and energy storage (a chemical supercapacitor). The chemical capacitor will be based on organic redox materials, which are not only very efficient, but also sustainable and non-toxic. The research will involve synthesis and analysis of new charge-storage molecules, tuning of their electrochemical properties, and implementation and testing in chemical supercapacitors.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) -

Name of supervisor(s):
Dr Marina Freitag, Dr Elizabeth A. Gibson, Wenxian Yang, with brains4design group KG and Hunan Guoao Power Equipment Co. Ltd.

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 renu214 in the studentship/partnership reference field
Attach a covering letter and CV, quote code renu214, 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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