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Understanding the role of promoters in heterogeneous catalysis

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Wells
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Catalysts play a crucial role in our current way of life; they increase the availability of food through nitrogen fixation, via the Haber-Bosch process, as well as playing a key role in the petrochemicals industry, amongst many other applications. As society moves towards more sustainable technologies, catalysts will play a vital role in enabling these emerging industries.

Promoters are additives to catalysts which either enhance performance, suppress unwanted side reactions (this might also be called selective poisoning), or stabilise structure/surface area. Current industrial technologies use promoters across many applications, e.g. pollution control catalysts, fuel cells, and catalysts for the chemical industry. Often the role of promoters in catalysts is poorly understood, not least because they are added in such low levels and can be difficult to locate using traditional analysis methods. In collaboration with Johnson Matthey (, a global science and chemicals company, this project will examine the role of promoters in catalysts for chemical synthesis, developing methods to locate the promoters and relate their performance and function to preparation methods.

Throughout the course of the project the successful applicant will get first-hand experience of catalyst preparation, materials characterisation, and catalytic activity testing. This will be coupled with exposure to state-of-the-art techniques facilitated by modern synchrotron radiation sources, e.g. Diamond Light Source (

This project is a unique opportunity to be at the frontier of materials characterisation and demonstrate how it can impact on future technologies; funding is for 4 years and requires applicants to have, or soon to obtain, at least an upper second class degree in Chemistry or relevant disciplines. Funding will cover fees and stipend at current research council rates.

Entry Requirements
We welcome applications from future experts who have, or expect to shortly have, a very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Eligibility criteria can be found on the EPSRC website -

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 16 August 2019 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

We accept applications from those who wish to receive a funded scholarship, those who already have a funded scholarship from another source, or self-paying applicants, (proof of funds will be required).

Funding: full tuition plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,009 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply
Candidates should apply as soon as possible to be considered for a place for September 2019 entry. All shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview at the University of Southampton. Note that if, due to your personal circumstances, you are unable to attend for interview in person, please get in touch.

Applications should be made online selecting “PhD Chemistry (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Peter Wells under the Topic or Field of Research.

Applications should include:
Your Curriculum Vitae
Two reference letters
Degree Transcripts to date
Apply online:

General enquiries should be made [Email Address Removed]. Any queries on the application process should be made to [Email Address Removed]

How good is research at University of Southampton in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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