Theoretical Modelling of Novel Multilayer Two-Dimensional Materials for Battery Applications - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2937

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. Steven Hepplestone
Prof. Monica Cranciun

Streatham Campus, Exeter 

Project Description
This 3.5 year funded PhD studentship is to carry out a theoretical project in quantum physics exploring the role of two-dimensional materials as components to make the next generation of batteries.  Currently, battery technologies means that we have electric cars which have a maximum range of nearly 200 miles before their batteries need recharging.  In an ideal world we need this number to be 300 or 400 miles per trip, but to do this, we need better batteries which can store significantly higher amounts of energy per kilogram.  Current solutions involve graphite and graphene as the anode, but further evolutions of materials are needed to create new battery based technologies. 

Two dimensional (2D) systems can be layered like paper, but the stacking different types of sheets can result in some unusual properties.  This arises due to a van der waals force between layers which helps stabilised phases of matter which would normally be unstable.  This potential solution allows one to consider developing better batteries by stacking different 2D materials together.   Using combinations of different 2D materials, with outer layers of graphene for stability, it is intended to explore the potential of these atomically structured systems for intercalating ions and their hence there potential for creating batteries with higher levels of energy storage than currently available.

Experimentally, whilst feasible, exploring all the potential combinations of two-dimensional systems suitable for sandwiching between graphene layers is difficult, both due to fabrication issues and characterisation issues.    Theoretically, however, it is a more feasible challenge.  Systems such as phosphorene, silicene and the transitional metal dichalogenides, all present potentially interesting options with varying amounts of surface area and charge absorption within each unit cell, leading potentially to higher energy storage densities.  In this study, we intend to systematically explore the many options available and how intercalation of ions changes their resultant properties and what their potential as a battery anode is.

This project will be a theoretical physics project which is part computational and part analytical.  The student will be studying various different two dimensional materials sandwiched between graphene layers, and the effects of intercalating different ions on these structures.  Experience with theoretical physics, computational physics, physical chemistry, computational chemistry and/or material science is highly desired. 

The student will need to be able to program to a reasonable level (indicated by module scores) and also able to perform analytic theory.  Initial training will be provided in density functional theory and its application, before the project is extended using analytic theory in subsequent years. During the course of this project, several opportunities to present research findings at a national and international level conferences, allowing the student to travel abroad with typical destinations involving Europe and the United States.  The project is also likely to attract involvement with industry, facilitating further travel opportunities.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Physics, Engineering or Material Science.  Experience in material physics, energy and advanced mathematics 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.