Students in the lab

In the Department of Materials, we have a range of exciting PhD/CDT opportunities available in our different research groups.

We have listed our available opportunities below.

Accordion

Rational Design of Sodium Ion Batteries

Supervisors: Prof Mary Ryan and Prof Milo Shaffer  (as part of a research team involving Prof Magda Titrici, Dr Ajit Panesar and Dr Ifan Stephens
Start date: As soon as possible
Duration: 3.5 years
Entry requirements: Applicants should have a keen engagement and solid background in materials processing and characterisation and a demonstrated interest in electrochemical energy storage. Experience of air-sensitive chemistry, electrochemical characterisation and advanced characterisation will be an advantage. Applications are invited from candidates with (or who expect to gain) a first-class honours degree or an equivalent degree in Chemistry, Materials, Engineering or a related discipline.
Funding: Funding is available for UK citizens and EU citizens who have resided in the UK for the past three years. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609.
Closing date for applications:
Open until filled

PhD Industrial Studentship in In situ Evaluation and Nanoscale Design of Battery Electrodes for Optimized Performance and Lifetime

Project summary: Applications are invited for a Ph.D. studentship focused on nanoscale battery anode design within the Chemistry and Materials Departments at Imperial College London. Whilst the project will have a fundamental focus, it will contribute to the wider development of energy storage systems. As part of a collaboration with a major international industrial partner, the research will target the development of sodium ion battery systems for grid storage to support the implementation of renewable energies.

The project will focus on fabrication and detailed assessment of optimized architectures for electrodes in sodium ion batteries, based on numerical simulations carried out as part of the wider project. In particular, the PhD program will develop and implement advanced operando characterization tools, based on X-ray, Raman and electron microscopy. It will exploit state-of-the-art equipment available at Imperial, including a brand new suite of atomic resolution instruments specified for electrochemical device studies, and in situ cells available as part of a collaboration with the Diamond Light Source national Facility.

Queries: Informal enquiries and requests for additional information for this post: Professor Mary Ryan or Prof Milo Shaffer
               Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to John Murrell.

Committed to equality and valuing diversity.  We are also an Athena Bronze SWAN Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Ticks Employer.

Development of high performance oxygen reduction catalysts for a metal supported solid oxide electrochemical cell

Supervisor: Prof Stephen J. Skinner

Industry Partner: Ceres Power Ltd.

Solid oxide cells are a technology that will provide a future clean energy solution, with options for both power generation and fuel production. As the technology has developed, options for operation at lower temperature have evolved allowing the development of metal supported architectures, providing significant advantages in terms of durability. In order to operate effectively in fuel cell and/or electrolysis mode it is essential to have high performance electrodes that allow the critical electrochemical reactions to take place. These reactions include fuel oxidation and oxygen reduction, with understanding of the kinetics of the oxygen reduction process essential and potentially rate limiting.

The aim of this PhD project is to undertake the development of a new electrode composition for the air electrode, in partnership with Ceres, and to probe the oxygen transport within the produced ceramics. To achieve this we will explore the use of oxygen isotopic labelling combined with secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) that will allow the diffusion and surface exchange kinetics of bulk ceramics to be determined as a function of both operating temperature and atmosphere. As the diffusion mechanism can be either through the grain or through grain boundaries, further work with the high resolution Hi5 plasma FIB-SIMS and atom probe tomography system will allow imaging of the grain boundary regions. From this imaging, correlation of oxygen transport with any cation mobility will be observed understanding of which is critical for manufacturing effective devices. Finally the surface chemistry of the outermost layers will be investigated using a combination of low energy ion scattering and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.    

Microstructure, deformation and processing of new Co/Ni superalloys

Supervisor: Prof David Dye
Applications accepted all year round
Funded PhD Project (UKRI-eligible Home fees status only) 
London; Materials Engineering

A PhD studentship collaboratively with Rolls-Royce on the formation of fine grain size novel polycrystalline Co/Ni superalloys in jet engines. This project will advance EBSD and in situ (S)TEM characterisation of novel microstructure formation mechanisms in new superalloys for thin section applications.

New Co/Ni superalloys we have recently patented show great promise where traditional powder metallurgy 50% γ′ Ni superalloys cannot be fabricated, e.g. where isothermal forging routes are impractical.  Examples include thin section applications, where the low solvus temperatures enable hot rolling, die forging and induction forging process routes. The new approach, termed post-dynamic recrystallisation, allows very fine grain sizes to be achieved, with improved strength and fatigue performance [eg Nicolaÿ et al., Acta Mater, 2019].  In this project, we will use Gleeble physical simulation and in situ microscopy to understand how to produce improved microstructures. This project will strongly involve the development of EBSD, TKD and (S)TEM characterisation, including BF and NBED STEM imaging modes and FIB TEM foil preparation.

You will be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirement for a PhD degree at Imperial College, most likely funded via the CDT in Advanced Characterisation of Materials https://www.cdt-acm.org or the EPSRC DTA mechanism, co-funded by Rolls-Royce. You must qualify for Home Fees in England. You will have a 1st class Masters-level degree in Materials Engineering or a related subject such as Physics, Aero or Mechanical Engineering, with strong computational skills and understanding of the fundamentals of materials: phases, crystal structures and defects. An interest in industrial applications is essential. Good team-working and communication skills are essential. We are particularly keen to receive applications from underrepresented groups.

For further details of the post, contact Prof David Dye, david.dye@imperial.ac.uk. Interested applicants should send an up-to-date resume to Prof Dye. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at Imperial College London in order for their qualifications to be addressed by College Registry.

Closing date: until post filled

On the 3D Printing of Flexible Batteries for Wearable Electronics

Department: Department of Materials

Supervisor: Dr Cecilia Mattevi

Duration: 42 months

Eligibility criteria: Open to students with home fee status.

Funding: The studentship is for 3.5 years starting as soon as possible with tuition fees at the home rate and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £18,062 per annum.

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship focused on the Flexible Batteries for Wearable Electronics within the Materials Department at Imperial College London. The market of wearable technologies is rapidly expanding, providing consumers with interconnected and autonomous electronic devices such as smart clothes, activity trackers and wearable cameras. To power this rising number of wearable systems, new battery technologies and manufacturing methods are needed. 3D Printing allows the sustainable fabrication of energy devices with arbitrary architectures on small footprint area on a variety of substrates, including plastic, cellulose paper, and textile, providing an ideal manufacturing platform for wearable batteries.

This research project will focus on the formulation of inks for the 3D printing of microbatteries to power wearable and flexible electronics. The full battery system will be manufactured by 3D Printing - Robocasting on flexible substrates.

The project will involve inks formulation, 3D printing of electrodes and current collector, structural characterisation using advanced microscopy and tomography methods to determine the microstructure, and electrochemical characterization of the devices.

Advanced spectroscopy characterization will be also utilized to study the chemical composition and physical properties of the electrode materials after cycling. Upon device evaluation, the design of the device, the microstructure and the ink formulation will be revised to optimize the device performance.  State-of-the-art equipment available in Materials Dpt at Imperial will be utilized in this project including a brand-new suite of instruments for electrochemical device studies at South Kensington and White City Campuses.  Applicants should have a keen engagement and solid background in energy storage devices, materials chemistry and materials characterisation. Applications are invited from candidates with (or who expect to gain) a first-class honours degree or an equivalent degree in Materials, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering or a related discipline.

Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College application procedure. Informal enquiries and requests for additional information for this post can be made to Dr Cecilia Mattevi 

How to apply: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/how-to-apply/apply-for-a-research-programme-/ Any queries regarding the application process please contact: Dr Annalisa Neri

Closing Date: until the position is closed

The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. For more information, see https://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-evaluation/

The College believes that the use of animals in research is vital to improving human and animal health and welfare. Animals may only be used in research programmes where their use is shown to be necessary for developing new treatments and making medical advances. Imperial is committed to ensuring that, in cases where this research is deemed essential, all animals in the College’s care are treated with full respect, and that all staff involved with this work show due consideration at every level. http://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-integrity/animal-research/ 

We are committed to equality of opportunity, eliminating discrimination and creating an inclusive working environment for all. We, therefore, encourage candidates to apply irrespective of age, disability, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion and belief, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation. We are an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Disability Confident Leader and a Stonewall Diversity Champion.

PhD in enzyme inspired green ammonia synthesis on carbon materials

Supervisors: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials), Prof. Magda Titirici (Chemical Engineering) and Prof. Sheetal Handa (bp)
Start date: October 2022
Duration: 42months 
Funding: Tuition fees at the home rate plus a stipend of £17,609 per annum 

Current ammonia synthesis, via the Haber Bosch process, produces >1% of global CO2 emissions, due to its reliance on methane derived H2. There is a burgeoning interest in electrochemical N2 reduction to NH3 at room temperature and under ambient pressures. Should it be powered by renewable energy, it would enable sustainable NH3 production. Should the process be efficient enough, it could provide a means of producing a CO2-free energy-dense sustainable fuel.

Experiments, thus far, have only been able to produce trace amounts. Given that NH3 is ubiquitous in most laboratory environments, it is highly challenging to distinguish spurious contamination from true N2 reduction. To this end, Dr Ifan Stephens, and colleagues developed a protocol to verify N2 reduction is possible, using isotopic labelling (Andersen, S.Z. … Stephens, I.E.L et al, Nature 2020). Using the protocol, they provided the first quantitative proof that N2 electroreduction is possible under ambient conditions, using non-aqueous electrolytes. Even so, the electricity-to-ammonia efficiency is only ~3%: there is ample room for improvement.

Conversely, in nature, the nitrogenase enzyme catalyses N2 reduction at a reasonable efficiency improvement (Westhead, O, …. Stephens, I.E.L. et al, Science 2021). It has an active site consisting of two adjacent Fe atoms at its centre. However, nitrogenase has a prohibitively large footprint, 1000 times greater than a metal atom. We aim to emulate the activity of nitrogenase on a solid electrode, taking advantage of the much higher density of active sites.

For the current studentship, we propose to synthesise, test and characterise nitrogenase-inspired metal-doped carbons as catalysts for N2 reduction. They will contain dimers of Fe, Re, Mo or W at the active site, coordinated to sulfur or nitrogen. It will involve (a) catalyst synthesis and characterisation (b) testing H2 evolution and N2 reduction (c) measuring the products using a novel on-chip electrochemical mass spectrometry method. The project will draw inspiration from battery science and enzymatic nitrogen fixation.

The studentship can be funded by an industrial case studentship, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and bp through the bp International Centre for Advanced Materials (ICAM-online.org). You will interact with a diverse and dynamic group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers studying this reaction.

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Ifan Stephens. Further information on the area of research can be found at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/i.stephens. Applicants should have a Master’s degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry.  We encourage applications from under-represented groups.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV, transcripts, a cover letter and the information of two referees through the College application portal.

Please contact Dr Annalisa Neri, for further information on how to apply and Dr Ifan Stephens for more information about the project. 

Closing date:  10 January 2022 or earlier if the position is filled.

Committed to equality and valuing diversity, we are also an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, a Disability Confident Employer and are working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people. The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. Click here for more information.

PhD in green electrochemical ammonia synthesis, using plasmonics as a tool

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering

Campus: Between White City and South Kensington

Duration: 42 Months, starting in October 2022

Supervisor: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials)

Co-supervisors: Dr Fang Xie and Johannes Lischner (Materials)

One of the most important challenges facing humanity today is to decarbonise ammonia synthesis. The current process, via the Haber Bosch process, produces >1% of global CO2 emissions, due to its reliance on methane derived H2. There is a burgeoning interest in electrochemical N2 reduction to NH3 at room temperature and under ambient pressures. Should it be powered by renewable energy, it would enable sustainable NH3 production, revolutionising the fertiliser industry. Should the process be efficient enough, it would even provide a means of producing a CO2-free energy-dense sustainable fuel. Experiments, thus far, have only been able to produce trace amounts. To this end, Dr Ifan Stephens and colleagues developed a protocol to verify N2 reduction is possible, using isotopic labelling (Andersen, S.Z. … Stephens, I.E.L et al, Nature 2019). Using the protocol, they made a breakthrough: they provided the first quantitative proof that N2 electroreduction is possible under ambient conditions, using non-aqueous electrolytes. Even so, the electricity-to-ammonia efficiency is only ~3%: there is ample room for improvement (Westhead, O, Jervis, R, Stephens, I.E.L., Science, 2021).

The aim of this project is to probe the species participating in the reaction. We will use infrared absorption spectroscopy in operando in an electrochemical cell. We will draw on advances in the science of plasmonics to synthesise tailored gold nanostructures that amplify the signal of specific reaction intermediates. The project will hence combine electrochemistry, synthesis of nanostructures, operando spectroscopy and catalysis. It will also draw on insight from battery science and enzymatic nitrogen fixation.

The studentship constitutes part of two wider projects, EPSRC Programme Grant “New perspectives in photocatalysis and near-surface chemistry: catalysis meets plasmonics”, and the European Research Council grant "NitroScission”. You will interact with a diverse, large and dynamic group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. We encourage informal enquiries to be made to Dr Ifan Stephens at i.stephens@imperial.ac.uk. Further information on the area of research can be found at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/i.stephens. Applicants should have a Master’s degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry.

The project will last 3.5 years. For home students, it will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £18,062 (this year’s rate) per annum. Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV and a cover letter. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available at: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/pgprospectus. Please contact Dr Annalisa Neri (a.neri14@imperial.ac.uk) for further information. Information about the Department can be found at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/materials.

Closing date: 31 July 2022, or until the position is closed

Committed to equality and valuing diversity, we are also an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, a Disability Confident Employer and are working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people. The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. For more information, see https://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research- evaluation/   

 

PhD Studentship in New Approaches to Understanding Hydrogen Embrittlement of Steels

Supervisors: Dr Stella Pedrazzini, Dr Martin Trustler Prof Mary Ryan

Shell POC: Stephen Brown

Applications are invited for a research studentship in the field of hydrogen embrittlement of steels, leading to the award of a PhD degree. The post is supported by a bursary and fees (at the UK student rate only) and is sponsored by EPSRC and Shell. EPSRC candidates should fulfil the eligibility criteria for the award.  Please check your suitability at the following web site:  http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/Pages/eligibility.aspx.  The studentship is for 48 months from October 2022. The position is available immediately and will stay open until filled.

Project Summary:  A PhD studentship is available to study hydrogen embrittlement in steels to tackle the unique challenges associated with the decarbonisation of the energy sector.  The aim of the first project is to develop a fundamental understanding hydrogen embrittlement in steels, using a variety of characterisation techniques including cryogenic Focussed Ion Beam (FIB) and Atom Probe Tomography (APT).

The anticipated major expansion in hydrogen production, transportation and utilisation calls for massive investments in infrastructure. One of the biggest challenges of the hydrogen economy is storage and transport. Current hydrogen storage technology involves either physical storage systems such as pressurised canisters (typically made from steel, which may be embrittled by the cryogenic temperatures and hydrogen exposures- or the synergistic effects of both) or materials such as hydrides which can store hydrogen in a reacted form, that will then need to be extracted. Hydrogen embrittlement in steel at cryogenic temperatures is poorly understood – and lack of mechanistic insights means that material selection or bespoke alloy development remains challenging. Steels that are resistant to embrittlement at room temperature are certainly available but tend to be expensive, and their behaviour under cryogenic temperatures has not been well-explored. Improved fundamental understanding of the processes of hydrogen dissolution in the metal, and the role of microstructural features that act as hydrogen traps sites, will assist in screening steels for hydrogen service. This iCASE project will therefore focus on the experimental investigation of hydrogen dissolution, diffusion and distribution in different steels – with the steels studied and characterized under cryo-conditions. Using new experimental facilities at Imperial, we have a chance to create a step-change in understanding of the properties. The experimental work will be supported by numerical modelling, leading to a workflow for characterising candidate steels for hydrogen service.

This PhD project is sponsored by the EPSRC and Shell based in the Materials and Chemical Engineering Departments, Imperial College London. We are looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirements for enrolment for the PhD degree at Imperial College London. You need to have a background in Chemical or Mechanical Engineering, Materials, Chemistry or a related field, and an enquiring and rigorous approach to research together with a strong intellect and disciplined work habits. Training will be given in the relevant investigative techniques. You will become a skilled communicator, comfortable in an international situation. Good team-working, observational and communication skills are essential.  The project will involve close collaboration with Shell and you will be expected to visit and communicate with various Shell Technology Centres.

To find out more about research at Imperial College London in this area, go to:   https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/s.pedrazzini 

For information on how to apply, go to:  https://www.imperial.ac.uk/materials/study/phdlist/ 

Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at Imperial College London in order for their qualifications to be addressed by College Registry.

Closing date: One month from insertion

Committed to equality and valuing diversity.  We are also an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Ticks Employer

Shocking Titanium for Containment

Supervisor: Prof David Dye

Applications accepted all year round

Funded PhD Project (UKRI-eligible Home fees status only)

 A PhD studentship collaboratively with Rolls-Royce on the micromechanics of high rate deformation in titanium alloys in jet engines. This project examines why new Ti alloys that we have developed work harden at high strain rates, giving them double the energy absorbtion of Ti-6Al-4V.

Titanium's high rate behaviour during bird strike scenarios is a critical design factor, but is relatively poorly studied or understood. Titanium can cold creep at low strain rates near the yield stress, having very little work hardening for pri<a> dislocation slip in the hcp titanium phase.  Surprisingly, new Ti alloys we have patented do work harden at high strain rates, unlike traditional alloys like Ti-6Al-4V, and are therefore being introduced rapidly into service following successful impact testing.  However, the operating deformation mechanisms giving rise to this work hardening are not yet understood.  In this project we will look at the microstructures, textures and effect of individual alloying additions and how these relate to the observed dislocation mechanisms in the (S)TEM. As well as alloy development, this project will strongly involve EBSD, TKD and (S)TEM characterisation, including WBDF and BF STEM imaging modes and FIB TEM foil preparation.  There is the potential also to perform in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction characterisation on the new generation of dedicated shock impact beamlines with ns resolution at MHz repetition rates at Petra-IV and ESRF.

You will be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirement for a PhD degree at Imperial College, most likely funded via the CDT in Advanced Characterisation of Materials https://www.cdt-acm.org or the EPSRC DTA mechanism, co-funded by Rolls-Royce. You must qualify for Home Fees in England. You will have a 1st class Masters-level degree in Materials Engineering or a related subject such as Physics, Aero or Mechanical Engineering, with strong computational skills and understanding of the fundamentals of materials: phases, crystal structures and defects. An interest in industrial applications is essential. Good team-working and communication skills are essential. We are particularly keen to receive applications from underrepresented groups.

For further details on the post, contact Prof David Dye, david.dye@imperial.ac.uk. Interested applicants should send an up-to-date resume to Prof Dye. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at Imperial College London in order for their qualifications to be addressed by College Registry.

Closing date: until post filled