Synchrotron X-ray Studies of Energy Materials

Reference number: PPPR062


The principal focus of this PhD project is to apply advanced X-ray methodologies to the study of materials relevant to energy technologies, in particular on materials with electrochemical applications. Electrochemistry deals with reactions that involve transfer of electrical charge at interfaces between an electrode and a chemical species in solution. Materials such as metal-oxides and bimetallic components play a major role in many different electrochemical applications, including electrolysis, electrocatalysis and energy storage. The project will help to establish structure-stability-reactivity relationships of metal electrodes and their oxides, which are of high importance to catalytic applications. Elucidating the role of the individual elements and the resulting structure and distribution of electrons for activity and stability will help to design in the future more widely functional materials from a rational design approach.

This project is linked to the XMaS facility in Grenoble where placements will take place and experiments will be conducted. The XMaS synchrotron beamline facility has recently been awarded a £9M grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the period 2024-2029 to further studies into the atomic structure, electronic structure and chemical properties of materials at varying length scales, utilising advanced sample environments to allow the materials to be studied under realistic operational conditions. XMaS ( is located in Grenoble, France, at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). It works with over 90 active research groups, representing several hundred researchers, and embraces a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines under the generic theme of materials science, cutting across research themes in physics, chemistry, biosciences, healthcare, engineering, and energy. The XMaS facility delivers bright X-ray beam with an extended operational energy range to higher X-ray energies thereby enabling new activities in materials research, particularly in terms of operando experiments. The X-ray methodologies are complemented by other techniques, for example, in the upcoming year a Raman spectrometer will be incorporated into the beamline.

Training in all aspects of the project will be provided with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure in the University. The student will acquire skills in materials processing, electrochemical methodologies and in the application of synchrotron X-ray radiation for the study of material structure. The experimental work will include laboratory-based characterisation by electrochemical methods and X-ray methods. This PhD studentship will be centred around experiments performed at the XMaS beamline (and possibly also at other beamlines at the ESRF and at other SR sources-Diamond Light Source and Advanced Photon Source). The focus of the experiments will be to exploit synchrotron radiation (SR) for the study of materials related to energy applications. In particular the experiments will focus on in-situ X-ray studies to probe structure-function relationships in materials such as thin film organic semiconductors and electrocatalysts for water splitting and other electrochemical processes. The student will acquire skills in materials processing and in the application of SR for the study of materials.

The Condensed Matter Physics group and the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy provide an internationally leading research and training environment for PhD students in the fields of Surface & Interface Science, Electrochemistry and Surface Processing.

When applying for this project, please be sure to quote the application reference: PPPR062


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

This position is directly funded by the University of Liverpool. The position will start in October 2024 and is funded for 3.5 years at the standard UK Research Council rate, which includes a living allowance  (for information,  the stipend for the academic year 2023 to 2024 is £18,622) and covers tuition fees.