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Sugar-based polymers for renewable, degradable and efficient battery electrolytes


Department of Chemistry

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Dr Antoine Buchard No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

PhD in organic synthesis, catalysis, synthetic polymer chemistry and the applications of novel polymers to energy materials

Applications are invited for a 3.5-year PhD studentship in the Buchard group (www.buchardgroup.org) in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, UK.

As the world transitions towards a low carbon economy, storing the energy generated by intermittent renewable sources is crucial. Using a polymer doped with ion salts as a Solid Polymer Electrolyte (SPE) holds great potential for the next generation of rechargeable batteries, including those based on multivalent and abundant metal anodes (Mg, Ca). However, these technologies are still very much in their infancy. At Bath, we have developed a platform of functionalisable sugar-based polymers, and our hypothesis is that this polymer platform is ideally suited to develop new high performance SPEs: the high oxygen content of these sugar polymers promotes coordination and therefore solubility of ion salts; the structure and properties of these polymers is tuneable to explore a large chemical space, relevant to several ion mobility mechanisms.

In this project you will develop sustainable polymers for novel efficient SPEs, including for less studied post-Li batteries. You will combine natural sugar molecules and their derivatives with diverse functional groups and linkages. These monomers will be polymerised using controlled polymerisation techniques and the analysis of the resulting materials undertaken to establish their structure/properties relationship. As applications in energy materials are being explored, you will also carry out electrochemical analysis of the polymers and test them as battery electrolytes. These polymers will be renewable, (bio)degradable and non-toxic, which would minimise the carbon footprint of future batteries and facilitate recycling of the precious elements involved

About us:

Research in the Buchard group addresses all aspects of the development of sustainable polymers (see references). We develop new reactions for the synthesis of novel monomers from renewable feedstocks, design new polymerisation catalysts and processes, and produce innovative polymers for new technologies. Our group have for example recently discovered a method that replaces phosgene with for the synthesis of cyclic carbonate monomers. We have successfully applied this protocol to various sugar derivatives and developed promising tuneable, biocompatible and biodegradable polymers. Furthermore, we have recently reported divergent stereoselective polymerization catalytic strategies that can direct a polymer’s properties between a soft amorphous material and a hard semi-crystalline material, as well as some reusable heterogeneous metal polymerisation catalysts that leave little metal residue behind. This project aims to take our vision for sustainable polymers further and in a new direction.

Training:

The student undertaking this interdisciplinary project will receive training in a wide variety of experimental and computational techniques at the molecular and macromolecular level, and will gain expertise across chemistry, engineering and material science. Synthesis of organic compounds (monomers) and polymers (via catalysis and controlled living methodologies) will be required during the project. Rigorous physicochemical characterisation of polymer materials will then be performed (thermal, mechanical, electrochemical, degradability). These experimental skills will be complemented by training in computational chemistry (Density Functional Theory, Molecular Mechanics) for mechanistic and structural studies, including polymer modelling. The student will finally have opportunities to present their work at group meetings, departmental seminars and suitable national and/or international conferences, as well as to be involved in the University of Bath teaching activities.

Candidate requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours’ degree in Chemistry (or the equivalent from an overseas university) alongside excellent written and oral communication skills. A master’s level qualification would be advantageous. The ideal candidate will have some experience of synthetic polymer chemistry, as well as an interest in the electrochemical applications of polymer materials.

Enquiries and applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Antoine Buchard on email address [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry:
https://samis.bath.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RDUCH-FP01&code2=0014

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:
http://www.bath.ac.uk/guides/how-to-apply-for-doctoral-study/

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Research Council funding is available for an excellent UK or EU student who has been ordinarily resident in the UK since September 2017. For more information on eligibility: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/.

Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees, maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,285 per annum tax-free in 2020/21, increasing annually in line with the GDP inflator) and a training support grant (£1,000 per annum) for a period of up to 3.5 years.

We also welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded candidates and candidates who can source their own funding.

References

Group website: www.buchardgroup.org
List of publications: www.buchardgroup.org/publications

For recent publications see below:
[1] Journal of the American Chemical Society 2019, p13301;
[2] Polymer Chemistry 2019, p5894;
[3] Macromolecules 2019, p1220;
[4] Journal of CO2 Utilization 2018, p283;
[5] Polymer Chemistry 2018, p1577;
[6] Polymer Chemistry 2017, p1714;
[7] Macromolecules 2016, 7165.
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