A fully funded PhD studentship is available in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. The project will be cosupervised by Dr Zoe Schnepp and Dr Paramaconi Rodriguez. The project will be on the synthesis of metal carbide and nitride nanostructures for electrochemical reduction of CO2.
Addressing climate change and achieving a circular economy are two of the biggest challenges facing society. A key goal for sustainable development is the recycling of industrial CO2 emissions into valuable feedstocks. At present, CO2 is reduced to methanol by H2 on an industrial scale at >220 °C and >5 MPa. This is efficient, but requires high pressure H2 and large-scale facilities, far from the point of consumption. Direct electrochemical CO2 reduction removes the need for H2 and operates under mild conditions (aqueous electrolyte, <100 °C). This facilitates low cost infrastructure and fast start-up/shut-down, which is ideal for coupling with intermittent, renewable electricity sources as a means of producing readily-stored chemical fuels. However, while there have been considerable advances in catalysts for the CO2RR, particularly with metals like copper, existing materials are limited by high overpotentials and/or lack of selectivity. There is still a pressing need for catalysts that are highly-active, selective (particularly to C2 products), durable and economically-viable.
Theoretical and experimental studies have identified TM carbides and nitrides as promising electrocatalysts for reduction of CO2. However, the development of these materials has been limited by the lack of control over size and morphology in existing synthetic methods. This PhD project will develop a new technique of nanocasting (J. Mater. Chem. A, 2019, 7, 19506-19512) to prepare a range of metal carbide and nitride nanostructures. This will generate a new range of economical and efficient catalysts for CO2 reduction and will also provide critical precious-metal-free catalysts for electrocatalytic energy conversion in fuel cells.
The PhD applicant should have or be expected to gain a first class (or high 2.1) MSci or MChem degree in chemistry. The project will involve learning a wide range of skills, contact [email protected] for further information about this.