Deadline for applications is April 1-st 2018

Available EU/UK candidates only

Contact: for details

PhD 1: This project will investigate the synthesis of fluorescent carbon dots from biomass derivatives produced using hydrothermal processes and understand their interaction with light. It will be determined whether these low-cost biomaterials will be able to generate excitons and separate them into electrons and holes upon irradiation with light and how different structural features of the carbon dots will influence their lifetime and mobility of electrons/holes in the exited states. Hybrids with other well-known semiconductors will also be prepared and characterised for their physicochemical properties as well as in the exited states. Of interest will be to understand how the carbon dots will be able to photosensitise existing well-known semiconductors such as C3N4 or conjugated polymers. Finally, we will investigate the ability of these carbon dots alone or in conjunction with other semiconductors to be involved in oxidation reactions from simple reactions such as oxidation of phenol to more complex reactions such as oxidation of important biomass derivatives such as 5-hydroxymethylfurfural into other high-value products such as 5-hydroxy-4-keto-2-pentenoic acid or other chemicals like 2,5-diformylfuran or even 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid.

PhD 2: Oxygen electrocatalysis is of crucial importance for energy storage and conversion technologies such as electrolyses (OER happening at the anode of an electrolyser), fuel cells (ORR happening at the cathode of a fuel cell) and metal air batteries where bifunctional catalysts capable of performing both OER and ORR. Our group has previous experience in the synthesis of noble metal free electrocatalysts based on carbon materials produced from biomass resources. These catalysts are doped with heteroatoms, such as nitrogen, sulphur and boron and in addition with abundant and available metals such as Fe. We have demonstrated that only traces of Fe (as low as 0.2% at) are needed to significantly boost the ORR catalytic activity. We have also demonstrated that inducing edge defects in carbon electrocatalysts can also increase the performance towards both ORR and OER.

In this project we want to understand the fundamentals beyond these processes and the mechanism involved in the ORR/OER using defects-rich Fe/heteroatom doped carbons We will investigate the influence of the Fe chemical state within carbon electrocatalysts and understand the oxygen adsorption at the active site and electron transfer processes. Various electrochemical characterisation techniques such as sampled current voltammetry (to study O adsorbates), CV/LSV (to determine onset potentials, limited diffusion currents, half wave potentials) as well as Koutechy–Levich (KL), ring disk voltammetry and impedance spectroscopy (for determining electron transfer number and kinetics) will be used. “In operando” characterisation techniques such as EXAFS to characterise the change in the active sites during ORR/OER as well as the interactions of the active sites with the aqueous electrolyte and the generated water will also be employed. We will be collaborating with theoretical chemists and use DFT modelling to calculate oxygen binding energies on our catalysts and changes occurring at different potentials as well as the influence of water from the electrolyte and as a reaction product.

QMUL Research Studentship Details

  • Applicant required to start in September/October 2017
  • The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (Currently set as £16,296 in 2018/19).
  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language then you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).





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