PhD position in Hydrogen Release from Organic Molecules using Plasmonic Catalyst Materials with University of Bath

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2022 under the supervision of Dr Simon Freakley.

We seek a motivated student based at the University of Bath as part of a collaborative project between the UK Catalysis Hub and leading groups in plasmonic materials at Imperial and Kings College London. 

This project will develop new catalytic materials based on inexpensive Cu materials to allow hydrogen to be reversibly stored in and released from organic molecules which act as liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs). We will explore how the morphologies of these inexpensive copper-based catalysts are related to catalytic performance in (de)hydrogenation reactions under thermal and photocatalytic conditions and how these morphologies evolve under light and thermal energy input. 

(De)hydrogenation catalysts typically contain precious metals such as Pd and Pt, however they are often unselective and are expensive compared to Cu. Catalysts based on Cu require harsher conditions than Pd or Pt to activate or release H2 under thermal conditions. However, on illumination with visible light corresponding to the surface plasmon wavelength of Cu (550 – 600 nm) hydrogenation and dehydrogenation reaction rates can be significantly increased at lower temperatures. The project will focus on the synthesis and characterisation of these monometallic and bimetallic copper-based catalysts with the aim to optimise both light absorption and catalytic activity. This will build towards the development of new sustainable liquid organic hydrogen carrier systems that can operate at milder conditions and are based on bio-derived molecules. 

The project will be highly collaborative and involve interaction with numerous research groups with complimentary expertise. 

During the project the successful candidate will gain experience of

  1. Synthesis of nanoparticle catalyst materials;
  2. Catalytic testing in high pressure systems and chromatography techniques;
  3. Catalyst characterisation by SEM/TEM, XRD and solid-state spectroscopic techniques (UV-Vis/IR).

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or a related subject . A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Preferable skills/interests include materials synthesis, heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, kinetics and mechanistic studies.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Simon Freakley (email:

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

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on the University of Bath website.

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