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Synthesis and Investigation of Novel Ionic Conductors

Project Description

Fuel cells convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy with high efficiency and low emission of pollutants. In a fuel cell, the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen produces water and electricity and as such provides a clean alternative to fossil fuels. The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is highly efficient, stable, and operates over a wide temperature range (650 – 800 °C). In contrast to conventional low temperature fuel cells, the SOFC can use a flexible range of fuels. Hydrocarbon fuels such as organic acids and alcohols are currently being explored. The high quality exhaust heat released during operation of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) can also be used for combined heat and power (CHP) applications, so further increasing system efficiency. However in order to reduce system costs it is highly desirable to find new SOFC electrolytes which exhibit significant ionic conductivity at lower temperatures (< 650 °C). Recently there has been growing interest in high temperature proton conducting oxides that can be used in intermediate temperature fuel cells.

We have been investigating hexagonal perovskites which exhibit significant ionic conductivity at intermediate temperature. We have identified a new oxide ion conductor Ba3MoNbO8.51-3, which is the first hexagonal perovskite to exhibit significant oxide ion conductivity at 600 °C [1-3]. This opens up new horizons in the design of lower temperature SOFC electrolytes. We have very recently discovered a new proton conductor which also crystallises with a hexagonal perovskite structure. The project will focus on the design, and synthesis of novel hexagonal perovskite transition metal oxides which exhibit proton and/or oxide ion conductivity at low temperatures [< 650 C]. These new materials will then be used for the direct conversion of organic acids and alcohols into electricity. We will also investigate other novel materials for energy harvesting.

The new chemical compounds will be synthesised via conventional solid state chemistry techniques and analysed by powder X-ray and neutron diffraction, AC impedance, scanning electron microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry and thermogravimetric analysis.

The student will have the opportunity to attend neutron diffraction experiments at the ISIS neutron and muon source, Oxfordshire and/or the Institut Laue Langevin, Grenoble, France.

Formal applications can be completed online:
• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry
• State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Leverhulme CDT in Sustainable Production of Chemicals and Materials’ as the Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Funding Notes

Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars will receive maintenance costs at Research Council rates and tuition fees at the rate for UK/EU students. In 2018-19 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £14,777 per annum. International applicants who can pay the difference between the Home and International Fees would also be welcome to apply.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. Candidates will require an honours degree at 2.1 or above in chemistry or a related discipline.


1. S. Fop, J. M. S. Skakle, A. C. Mclaughlin, P. Connor , J. T. S Irvine and E. J. Wildman, Oxide Ion Conductivity in the Hexagonal Perovskite Derivative Ba3MoNbO8.5, J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 138, 16764 (2016).
2. S. Fop, E. J. Wildman, J. T. S. Irvine, P. A. Connor, J. M. S. Skakle, C. Ritter and A. C. Mclaughlin, Investigation of the Relationship between the Structure and Conductivity of the Novel Oxide Ionic Conductor Ba3MoNbO8.5. Chem. Mater. 29, 4146 (2017).
3. S. Fop, E. J. Wildman, J. M. S. Skakle, C. Ritter and A. C. Mclaughlin, The Electrical and Structural Characterization of Ba3Mo1-xNb1+xO8.5-x/2: The relationship between mixed coordination, polyhedral distortion and the ionic conductivity of Ba3MoNbO8.5. Inorganic Chemistry 56, 10505 (2017).

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