Smart Chromic Windows for Energy Storage/Conversion Applications - Engineering - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2895

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Professor Yanqiu Zhu
Dr Yongde Xia

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description

Driven by the practical needs for smaller and smarter from industries, nanomaterials research is now progressing from fundamental investigations to advanced nanodevice development. The shrinking of size and in particular the specifically controlled geometry of nanomaterials exhibit extremely unusual and important properties far better than their bulk counterparts. Further doping to permanently modify the composition will lead to very useful nanomaterials that are suitable for nanodevice development. 

This 3.5 year fully funded PhD project aims to develop smart chromic nanodevices using doped ultrafine WO3 nanowires. Academic collaboration with overseas university and industry collaboration with Qioptiq will enrich the research experience of the researcher. Chromic property is an interesting reversible colour change character of materials, upon external conditions changed such as temperature, pressure, applied voltage, gas atmosphere etc. Via intelligent colour changes from opaque to transparent, the smart window can regulate the temperature and transmittance of a device and/or environment, so that allow it to achieve maximum efficiency and extended service life. They can also detect the environmental change, to act as smart sensors. Chromic smart windows are very important for energy saving and environmental protection. Example application areas are in sustainable intelligent buildings to regulate the room temperature, display panels to counter screen dazzling, airspace (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) to tune the light transmittance, and solar-thermal devices to protect overheating, etc.  

The successful candidate will endeavour to tackle three aspects of the challenge: (1) identify new ways to make WO3 nanowires thin films, including PVD and thermal spray coating. (2) gain in-depth understandings of the colour centre after doping and to explicitly explain the chromic mechanism, (3) achieve the right dopant level and to optimise the chromic performance. During tackling these challenges, in-depth understanding of the roles of dopant in the colour centre, effect of the process parameters on the crystallinity and geometry of the nanowire thin films will be gained, by using XPS, Raman, HRTEM and other advanced characterisation tools. Advanced skills for smart window fabrication will also be acquired during the project period. 

Three months’ overseas research experience will also be gained while carrying out smart window device performance assessment in our academic collaborator’s laboratory in Shanghai. Further experience to work with industry collaborators (Qioptiq) to test the smart window prototypes will boost the research capacity of the researcher and the final impact of the project.   

Entry Requirements
Candidates with a MSc degree (or equivalent) in materials, electrochemistry and solid state physics are encouraged to apply. You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Materials, Chemistry and Physics.

Candidates with research experience in nanoscience and nanotechnology, particularly with nanodevice fabrication skills are desirable. Also, research experience in Nanomaterials synthesis and nanodevice construction is desirable.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.