Nanoscale Engineering of Semiconductor Heterostructures for Solar Fuel Device - Renewable Energy - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2898

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.

Dr Asif Ali Tahir
Dr Xiaohong Li
Dr Steven Hepplestone

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

Project Description

Clean energy and sustainable environment are grand challenges that the world is facing, and transportable and storable fuels (chemical fuel) from renewable resources can make a vital contribution to address these challenges. Chemical fuels (solar Fuel) such as hydrogen produced from renewable resources (water and sunlight) and chemicals such as methanol, ethanol, methane and syngas by photoreduction of CO2 back to fuel can make solar energy highly distributable, from small to large scale applications. Currently most developed renewable energy sources are based on electricity generation and cannot fulfil energy transportation and storage demand. Therefore, the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels as a vital future energy carrier is the main challenge and scientific advancement is required to provide clean energy and environment to the world.

An ideal technology for solar-to-chemical energy conversion process is artificial photosynthesis (AP), which aims to emulate natural photosynthesis using man made materials. However, it remains a significant challenge to construct an efficient AP device capable of producing solar fuels at a scale and cost that can compete with fossil fuels.

The proposed project focusses on fundamental science and technology of semiconductor band structure engineering at the nanoscale. The concept of semiconductor heterostructure nanoarchitectures is a step forward from traditional approaches used in this field. The proposed project is focused on the development of single particle heterostructure nanoarchitectures to carry out both water oxidation (O2 evolution) and reduction (H2 evolution) reactions simultaneously. 

The project will focus on designing new class of perovskite Ferrite (ABO3) Heterostructure nanomaterials by combine computational simulation and experimental fabrication of novel materials. The project also aims to investigate one dimensional (1D) heating strategy (instead of traditional furnace heating) to control the nano-architectures (nanorods, nanotubes and nanowires) during fabrication. The principle strategy for surface and interface engineering at nanoscale is to control precisely the architecture and composition of heterostructure photocatalysts by hybridizing the fabrication techniques between wet chemistry, spray pyrolysis and chemical vapour deposition.  The combination of three unique strategies computational design of novel material, integrated fabrication strategy and innovative control on texture by 1D heating will assure the successful outcome of this project. The multidisciplinary project is not confined to a specific system, but aims to address common challenges in semiconductor design, nanostructure controlled fabrication, band structure tuning and modification which will open new opportunities for candidate in the fields of CO2 reduction, photovoltaics, sensors, photocatalysis and thermoelectrics.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Chemistry, Physics, Renewable Energy, Material science, nanotechnology, chemical engineering, semiconductors. Experience in computational 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.