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Scalable Conjugated Polymer Photocatalysts for Sustainable Hydrogen Production from Wastewater

   Hydro Nation Scholars Programme

About the Project

The production of clean storable energy to replace fossil fuels remains one of the key challenges for our societies. The Sprick group (, Twitter: @SebSprick) aims to solve this challenge by designing conjugated polymers that use the Sun’s energy to produce hydrogen from water through a process call solar water splitting (Nat. Energy 2019, 4, 746–760).

Conjugated polymers have emerged as a new exciting photocatalyst class for water splitting as their properties can be fine-tuned through synthetic approaches using a wide range of building blocks compared to inorganic photocatalysts. This project will be focused on the development of new materials through new synthetic strategies and post-synthetic modification based on recently reported solution-processible polymer photocatalysts (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 19382–19395).

A particular focus will be on using wastewater streams rather than pure water using photocatalytically active polymer films. This will not only increase the yield of the hydrogen production through coupling of hydrogen production to the oxidation of organic pollutants but also enables the removal of persistent micropollutants which typically cannot be removed in sewage treatment plants, thus escape intact into surface and groundwater bodies.

A key component of the project will be the analysis of the fate of organic pollutants and micropollutants during hydrogen production and their oxidation by-products. This will be studied with Dr Efthalia Chatzisymeon at the University of Edinburgh who will also co-supervise the project. She is the director of a well-equipped lab in the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment (IIE) at the University of Edinburgh for monitoring wastewater and water quality.

Dr Christine Davidson (Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde) will also co-supervise the project. She has over 30 years’ experience of carrying out research at the interface between analytical and environmental science, with particular interests in the development and application of methods for study of soil, water and airborne particulate matter providing access to instrumentation complementary to that of Dr Chatzisymeon.

The student will gain experience in modern synthetic methods, characterisation techniques, as well as in photochemical measurements and determining water characteristics, including quantification of micropollutants can be measured by means of analytical instruments such as GC-MS, HPLC, and TOC analysers, UV-vis spectrophotometry, BOD, COD, pH, conductivity and turbidity measurements. Additional opportunities are available through the University’s PG Researcher Professional Development Programme to develop transferable skills. Research findings will be published in high impact journals with the opportunity to present at an international conference.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 26th or 27th January 2023

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