PhD scholarship in Electrocatalyst Development for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel cells and Electrolyzers - DTU Energy


Do you crave to study electrocatalysis and contribute to developing fuel cells and electrolyzers for a sustainable future? Do you enjoy working in an international dynamic setting and wish to participate in an EU-funded project and have the opportunity to collaborate with partners from nine research institutions across Europe? This PhD position is for you.

Hydrogen has emerged as a clean, flexible energy carrier for use as industrial feedstock, in generating power and heat, and in transportation. Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, specifically natural gas. A more sustainable approach for the production and application of hydrogen relies on the deployment of electrolysis and fuel cell technologies, due to their high efficiency and lower environmental footprint. As a part of an EU-funded project, this PhD project aims to develop advanced catalysts for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Fuel cells and Electrolyzers.

At DTU Energy, we have been carrying out R&D in sustainable energy conversion technologies, including PEM fuel cells and electrolyzers, for many decades and we are among the world’s leaders in research and development in this area. We have excellent facilities and competencies to carry out research from fundamental studies of electrochemical materials to the fabrication of lab-scale components and devices. In preparation for this Phd project, we have recently developed several cutting-edge experimental devices and equipment, including, e.g. a high-temperature synthesis setup for solid-state chemical processes, thermogravimetric analysis – mass spectrometry (TG-MS) for in-situ investigation of synthesis mechanisms, and a variety of devices for operando studies of catalyst structures under operating conditions

Responsibilities and qualifications The focus of this PhD project is to develop advanced oxygen reduction and evolution catalysts for PEM fuel cells and electrolyzers, aiming for significantly improved activity and durability over the state-of-the-art catalysts and, at the same time, greatly reduced usage of critical raw materials. Design of the catalyst structures and synthesis pathways will be based on deep insights into the active site structures investigated by both experimental and theoretical approaches, and into degradation mechanisms of the active sites probed by multiple operando techniques and tested at single cell level, which will be carried out in close collaboration with project partners.      

 Your primary tasks include:

  • Employ different methods (including but not limited to solid-state chemical processes, liquid-chemistry approaches, and autonomous and high throughput synthesis techniques) to synthesize catalysts with aimed structures
  • Characterize the bulk and surface structures of the catalysts using various spectroscopic and microscopic techniques such as XRD, Raman, TEM, and XPS.
  • Evaluate the performance of the catalysts using a variety of electrochemical techniques
  • Employ (and optimize the design of) an operando electrochemical device to study the evolution/degradation of catalyst structures under operating conditions
  • Collaborate with research groups on theoretical modeling to design the optimum catalytic active sites
  • Collaborate with research groups on cell testing to optimize the pore structures of the catalyst layers

Qualified applicants must have:

  • a master’s degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, physics, or similar is required
  • Be excellent at establishing an overview and taking responsibility
  • Ability to work independently, to plan and carry out complicated tasks.
  • Good communication skills in English, both written and spoken.

It is beneficial if you have taken courses or carried out studies on

  • Electrochemistry, electrochemical engineering, electrocatalysis, or similar
  • Synthesis of nanomaterials using liquid chemistry or solid-state chemical processes
  • Characterization techniques such as XRD, Raman, IR, TEM, XPS
  • Setup design using CAD software such as Solidwork or similar

You must have a two-year master’s degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master’s degree.

Approval and Enrolment The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU’s rules for the PhD education.

Assessment The assessment of the applicants will be made by Assistant Professor Yang Hu ( +45 52651275), Senior Scientist Christodoulos Chatzichristodoulou (, and Head of Section Johan Hjelm (

We offer DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information Further information may be obtained from Assistant Professor Yang Hu or Head of Section Johan Hjelm.

You can read more about the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage at

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark. Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 31 March 2023 (Danish time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link “Apply now”, fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale
  • (Optional) Documents showing relevant competencies and experience

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master’s degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

The Department of Energy Conversion and Storage is focused on education, research, and development within functional materials and their application in sustainable energy technologies. In a sustainable energy system a large part of the energy will be supplied by fluctuating sources such as solar and wind power. This makes it critically important to be able to convert and store the energy as needed. The researchers in the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage work on technologies and materials for direct conversion and subsequent storage of different forms of energy.

Technology for people DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear mission to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That mission lives on today. DTU has 13,400 students and 5,800 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.