Fully Funded PhD Studentship Available!
We have a number of fully funded PhD studentships available in the group. This is a very exciting opportunity to join a dynamic and creative research team. The details of the project(s) are below. For further information please contact Dr. Payne directly.
Novel Spectroscopy. Understanding Surfaces. Cleaner Energy
The out-dated and highly polluting combustion technology of the 20th century desperately needs to be replaced by modern, clean, low-cost alternatives. Solid oxides fuel cells (SOFCs) offer this future by converting H2/O2 fuel streams into energy (electricity) and H2O waste. These systems also offer flexibility in use, from decentralised small-scale domestic applications (housing, transport) to large-scale centralised power generation. Typically SOFCs operate at high temperature (600-800 oC) and this presents a number of problems that need to be addressed. The highly oxidising and reducing nature of the fuel means that materials need to be chemically robust, unreactive with other components and display high levels of conductivity (both ionic and electronic). Studying the surface of a material is nowadays relatively trivial using standard characterisation techniques under static conditions, but understanding surfaces as they undergo chemical reactions, with varying gaseous environments, temperatures and electrical bias is considerably more challenging.
High-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HPXPS) is at the forefront of advanced surface characterization techniques allowing the measurement of surface chemistry and physics of fuel cell anodes and cathodes. The main aim of this project is to study experimentally, and validate theoretically, the surface reactivity and stability under fuel streams of the anode and/or cathode materials for SOFCs. You will join the world-leading Advanced Photoelectron Spectroscopy Laboratory (APSL) at Imperial and study materials such as Ni-CeO2/YSZ and (La/Sr)2NiO4 under highly controllable pressures of H2, O2 and H2O using principally HPXPS, but also conventional XPS, environmental scanning electron microscopy and SIMS-LEIS. David Scanlon at UCL will provide a theoretical grounding for the chemical reactivity and surface defect behaviour of the range of oxide surfaces. The results of these measurements and calculations will have profound implications for enhancement of the stability and performance of SOFCs, and enable greater acceleration towards commercial competitiveness.
The project will sit at the heart of a large multi-disciplinary project funded by two large EPSRC SUPERGEN grants, and collaborating with other groups within Imperial as well as the Universities of St Andrews and Cambridge. The HPXPS measurements will be performed at Imperial, but many other novel spectroscopies will be performed at large scale facilities (synchrotrons) around the world including Japan, USA, France and Italy. The three-month placement will be at Elettra Sincrotrone, Trieste, Italy where a new beamline has been built to grow high-quality materials and characterise the surfaces using state-of-the-art techniques (http://trieste.nffa.eu/). This exciting project will require frequent travel to project meetings, conferences and provide plenty of opportunities for presenting results, meeting new potential collaborators and networking.