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  ZENITH PhD Project: Development of polymeric composites for enhanced porosity and scalability of hydrogen storage

   Department of Chemistry

  , , ,  Thursday, May 30, 2024  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath is inviting applications for this funded PhD project expected to commence in September 2024.

An enhanced stipend of £21,010 per year is available to candidates who qualify for Home fee status and, thanks to the University of Bath’s Vice Chancellor’s International Scholarships initiative, a stipend of £13,890 can be offered to International students meeting the criteria for this scholarship, subject to approval by Faculty of Science. Please see the Funding Eligibility and Funding Notes sections below for more information.

This PhD project is one of seven projects funded through an exciting new collaboration between the University of Bath and GKN (with other projects advertised separately).

Project description: Efficient hydrogen storage is critical for the development of hydrogen-fuelled aircraft. Polymer composites containing porous fillers can be used as new generation, solid-state materials for secondary hydrogen storage and leak detention/prevention. Polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMS), aerogels and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are among several classes of material possessing exceptionally high surface areas. We have shown that such PIM-particulate composites have enhanced surfaces areas while retaining processability. However, the surface areas are lower than ideal and the composites display structural heterogeneity, limiting the amount of filler that can be incorporated without compromising the mechanical properties and compromising H2- uptake characteristics. This PhD project will address these limitations via three primary approaches. Objective 1 is to improve the dispersion of the porous filler in the polymer matrix. We will prepare nanoporous MOFs, then post-synthetically functionalise their outer surfaces by grafting polymer brushes using surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerisation (SI-ATRP) to improve miscibility with the polymer matrix. We envisage this will enable incorporation of a greater proportion of filler into the composite while also enhance the mechanical properties. Objective 2 includes enhancing the hydrogen uptake into the known PIMs by introducing metal centres into the polymer backbones through inclusion of metal complexes that share the same functional groups as the polymer precursors and evaluating bespoke PIMs targeting this application. Objective 3 is to employ novel processing methods to generate and evaluate, under cryogenic conditions, PIM/particulate composites targeting significantly better adsorption, mechanical and use properties than the current best materials. 

About the joint University of Bath and GKN ZENITH Project

Building on a relationship of over a decade, a major new partnership between the University of Bath and GKN has been funded in the form of the EPSRC Prosperity Partnership ZENITH (Zero Emission: the Next-generation of Integrated Technologies for Hydrogen).

Following decades of relative stability, the aerospace sector is open to disruption through the combination of environmental imperatives and ageing aircraft fleets. ZENITH aims to position the UK as a leader in the field in emerging zero emission aircraft.

ZENITH will develop fundamental new knowledge and understanding and deliver globally differentiated solutions in hydrogen energy storage and structures technologies which will have a clear impact on the UK’s aerospace industries and the UK’s 2050 Net Zero targets.

Seven 3.5-year, interdisciplinary PhD studentships are currently available which have been directed to help meet one of the four following ZENITH Technical Objectives:

TO1. Create new methods for the characterisation and certification of cryogenic composite materials that store liquid hydrogen. Work will focus on low temperature testing of materials and structures, and on the development of accompanying modelling capabilities.

TO2. Optimise capacity, efficiency and application of solid-state hydrogen storage materials. Work will focus on hydrogen storage material development and the experimental testing and modelling required for application in aerospace structures.

TO3. Develop new methods for structural integration and optimisation of damage tolerant parts within zero-emission aircraft. Work will focus on experimentation and numerical and analytical modelling required to enable design of next generation aerospace structures.

TO4. Generate new materials, designs and manufacturing selection methods to improve sustainability and repeatability in manufacture of composite products. Work will focus on analytical methods for high-rate production of composite components and life cycle analysis for sustainable manufacture.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a first-class undergraduate Masters degree or an MSc degree with distinction (or non-UK equivalents) in a relevant subject area within Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Science, Physics, Statistics or Mathematics.

International candidates must meet the English language entry requirements to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Maciek Kopeć ()

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry.

On your application form, in the 'Funding your studies' section, you must select 'Other' from the dropdown menu and specify 'ZENITH studentship' in the free-text box. You must also provide the supervisor's name and project title in the 'Your PhD project' section. Failure to complete these steps will result in a delay to the processing of your application and may cause you to miss the deadline.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Eligibility

Candidates eligible for the Home tuition fee rate will be considered for a maintenance stipend of £21,010 per year.

Candidates eligible for the Overseas tuition fee rate, who meet the criteria for the Vice-Chancellor International Scholarship, will be considered for a maintenance stipend of £13,890 per year, subject to approval by the Faculty of Science. You may require additional personal funds to support you while living in Bath - a sample postgraduate budget is found here.

Successful candidates will have their tuition fees covered, and have access to a research and training budget.

To check your tuition fee status, see our website or the UKCISA guidance.


Composites, Hydrogen, Aerospace, Manufacturing, Structures, Materials, Sustainable, Decarbonisation, Cryogenics

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

Home fee status candidates will be considered for a 3.5-year studentship, funded by the University of Bath and GKN, covering tuition fees and providing a research/training expenses budget and an enhanced stipend of £21,010 per annum. Please see the section on Funding Eligibility above to ensure you qualify for Home fees. Overseas candidates may be eligible, subject to approval by the Faculty of Science, and would receive a stipend of £13,890 per annum and should note that funding does NOT cover the cost of moving to the UK, obtaining a student visa or payment of the UK healthcare surcharge View Website.

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

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