Ph.D. position in Electrocatalytic CO Reduction in Non-Aqueous Solutions is available for a master’s degree student in Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Material Science at the DTU Physics, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark 2022


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General Info

Position: PhD
No. of Positions: 1
Research Field: , , ,
Deadline to Apply: Expired
Joining Date: Aug 01, 2022
Contract Period: 3 Years
Salary: According to standard norms

DTU Physics

Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark


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Qualification Details

It is essential that the successful candidate is highly ambitious as well as open minded.  The candidate must both be able to be a self-starter and work independently as well as work together as part of a team when relevant. The candidate should have a Master’s degree in Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Material Science or a similar field or will expect to have that degree within the immediate future.  The candidate should have extensive experimental experience working with heterogeneous catalytic reactions (thermal catalysis, electrocatalysis, or photocatalysis).

Responsibilities/Job Description

One of the most challenging areas in reducing global warming is producing sustainably derived carbon based materials for plastics, solvents, clothes, etc. For sustainability these products must be derived from CO2, which they will eventually degrade back into. While there are a variety of ways to convert CO2 to CO (e.g. biomass pyrolysis, low temp or high temperature CO2 electrolysis) proceeding beyond CO in an efficient manner is challenging.  CO electrolysis provides a promising approach with this approach being able to produce high value, high usage products such as ethylene (i.e. plastic precursor) and ethanol as well as about 14 other high value fine chemicals such as acetaldehyde and allyl alcohol. 

The problem currently with CO electrolysis is that it operates in an aqueous environment, and due to catalyst selectivity issues the much lower value hydrogen is produced as a significant side reaction.  To resolve this issue, this project will focus on operating in a non-aqueous environment.  This provides many new aspects to investigate such as solvent stability, ionic conductivity issues and electric field variations around the catalyst due to a different solvent. Additionally to convert CO to a product such as ethylene (C2H4), there needs to be a hydrogen source, so a small amount of water will need to be added to the non-aqueous solution to produce these species. Understanding how small amounts of water in a non-aqueous solvent effects catalysis will be the dominant part of this PhD study. 

In investigating this topic, the PhD candidate’s main tool would be electrochemical techniques such as cyclic voltammetry, chronoamperometry, and potentially impedance measurements.  All electrochemical devices are linked in-operando to either a gas chromatograph of mass spectrometer that the candidate will learn to operate and control. HPLC will typically be used for liquid products, but potentially NMR may also be used. Catalysts will typically produced via physical vapor deposition techniques (sputtering, CVD, or ALD) or via wet chemical techniques.  The catalysts morphology and electronic structure will be characterized via tools such as XPS, ISS, SEM, TEM, STM, and XRD. Surface enhanced FTIR may also be used if we feel this can give substantial insight into understanding the science. 

The project as a whole is fundamental in nature, thus the focus will be on understanding the science behind how non-aqueous solvents effect catalysis, and what opportunities this provides for us to increase selectivity towards CO reduction to hydrocarbons and away from water reduction to hydrogen. Given non-aquoues environments is a relatively unexplored space for CO electrolysis, this project does provide a very high opportunity to discover new products, mechanisms, or underlying scientific principles.

The project will take place in the Surface Science and Catalysis (SurfCat) at DTU Physics, but may collaborate with both partners within DTU and externally. A senior researcher from Topsoe Catalyst will also give oversight on the project.

How to Apply?

Application Method: Online Application
Ref. No.: -

Application Procedure

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online," fill in 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 - max one page)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma including official description of grading scale
  • Names and e-mail addresses or telephone numbers of 2-3 references.

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.

About the Employer:

Note or Other details

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 example in Mathematics, Physics and Informatics. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU's rules for the PhD education.   

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. A PhD position is for 3 years and the PhD thesis must be delivered during this period. The position start date is expected to be on 1 August 2022, but there is a small amount of flexibility on this date.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
For further information about the research at SurfCat at the Department of Physics at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) please inspect

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark

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Contact details

Should you have any queries regarding the positions, please contact Associate Professor Brian Seger, [email protected].  

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