PhD studentship at Durham University

A 4 -year PhD studentship is available in the Department of Chemistry, Durham University, which will commence on 01st October 2024. Supervisors: Dr Simon Beaumont (Durham University) and Dr Liliana Lukashuk (Johnson Matthey PLC) . This exciting PhD project takes advantage of Durham’s new lab-based operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) facility to look at the “birth, life and death” of metal-based catalysts of interest to industry. 

Developing novel catalyst products with improved performance requires comprehensive understanding of catalysts’ life cycles (i.e., preparation, activation, operation under normal and extreme conditions, deactivation, regeneration, and rejuvenation). This is difficult to infer from “pre-natal”/“post-mortem” data alone and can only be meaningfully achieved by studying catalysts under in situ/operando conditions in combination with detailed kinetic studies. 

This PhD project aims at the investigation of ‘’birth, life, and death’’ of metal-based catalysts that are of interest for several major industrial processes and are of relevance to the industrial partner Johnson Matthey. The investigation will take advantage of deploying newly available lab-based operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) capabilities that can provide information on the local structure, geometry, and oxidation state of metals, irrespective of a sample’s crystallinity. The structural alteration of the catalysts will be monitored during activation in hydrogen (i.e., ‘’birth of catalysts”) and during long-term stability and ageing tests (i.e., ‘’life and death’’ of catalysts) using a lab-based XAS instrument located here at Durham University. 

The PhD is funded through the EPSRC iCASE scheme and affords an existing opportunity to work in a collaboration between Durham University and Johnson Matthey The PhD student will further develop existing and new XAS cells in conjunction with the facility manager, Dr Monik Panchal, at Durham University, collect and interpret XAS data and correlate findings with catalytic performance. The student will be offered to spend time at Johnson Matthey (Billingham, UK) to undertake training on high temperature and high-pressure catalytic equipment to transfer knowledge to the PhD project. 

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