Functional, inorganic, material and supramolecular chemistry
Position: Highfield Campus
Closing date: Thursday 30 June 2022
Supervisory team: Peter Wells, Nuria Garcia-Araez, Richard Wills
Efficient production of high-value chemicals with electrocatalysis
Description of the project
A PhD position is available as part of a new Center of Excellence that will soon be launched called Light and Electrochemical Activated Processes for Chemical Industries (LEAP). LEAP’s intention is to coordinate the University of Southampton’s distinctive strengths in photonics materials and electrochemistry to address the challenge of decarbonising the chemical industry. The initiative brings together academics of chemistry, engineering, chemical engineering and the Optoelectronics Research Center who will enhance our fundamental understanding of these complex processes and develop engineered solutions that can be applied at scale.
Our industrialized society depends on the chemical industry, be it food, fuel or medicine. As we move towards a zero-carbon future, chemical transformations need to be made more efficient. Thermal-controlled processes that are ubiquitous in the chemical industry have inherent inefficiency no matter how macroscopic heat management demands are controlled. Photo / electrochemical technologies – reactions guided by light or directly by electricity – represent an alternative approach to produce both raw materials and fine chemicals that have the potential to be significantly more efficient.
The oxidation of olefins to produce high-value chemicals, such as ethylene oxide for the production of plastics, through heat-activated processes produces the same amount of CO2 as the desired chemical (Science 2020, 368, 1228–1233). In contrast, electrochemical methods offer a low-temperature path with much higher selectivity, but further work is needed to identify electrocatalytic materials capable of operating at the required industrial production rates. This project will investigate cutting-edge materials with novel characterization techniques, using industrially relevant cellular designs, to guide such development. The project will be overseen by a multidisciplinary team with unique skills in characterization (Dr. Peter Wells), electrocatalysis (Dr. Nuria Garcia-Araez) and industrial electrochemistry (Dr. Richard Wills). Reference experiments will be conducted with nanostructured materials of gold and palladium, as used in thermal catalysis (Science, 2017, 355, 6332; Nature Catalysis, 2019, 2, 157-163), with further investigations on novel materials based on understanding the difference reactivity in the gaseous phase and in electrochemical environments. The use of industrially relevant reactors will ensure the transferability of laboratory findings to industry and technical-economic analyzes will be employed to select the most promising processes based on economic feasibility and environmental sustainability.
If you would like to discuss the project details informally, please contact Peter Wells, Email: PPWells@soton.ac.uk, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 6826.
A very good degree (at least a UK 2: 1 Honors degree or its international equivalent) in chemistry or related subjects / relevant disciplines.
Closing date: Applications will be reviewed in order of arrival and the position will be deemed filled once a suitable candidate has been identified.
Financing: For UK students, tuition fees and a tax-free stipend of £ 16,062 per year for up to 3.5 years.
How to apply
Applications must be submitted online. Select the type of course (Research), 2022/23, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, on the next page select “Doctorate of Chemistry (full time)”. In section 2 of the application form you must enter the name of supervisor Peter Wells
Applications should include:
- Curriculum vitae
- Two letters of reference
- Graduation transcripts to date
Apply online: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/how-to-apply/postgraduate-applications.page
For general questions about the application process, please contact: email@example.com