University of Exeter funding: Novel AEM Water Electrolyser Cell

Engineering Design and Catalyst of Novel AEM Water Electrolyser Cell for Green Hydrogen Production for Energy Storage, Renewable Energy – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3810

About the award


Lead Supervisor

Professor Xiaohong Li, Renewable Energy Group, University of Exeter.

Additional Supervisor

Dr Senthilarasu Sundaram, Renewable Energy Group, University of Exeter.

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in February 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in Renewable Energy Group in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Location: Renewable Energy Group, Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Cornwall.


Project Description

We are seeking applications from enthusiastic graduates for a three and half year PhD studentship to develop a novel anion exchange membrane (AEM) water electrolyser cell for green hydrogen production. The project will be based in the Penryn Campus of the University of Exeter, which is a young and very beautiful campus, offering very latest academic, research and residential facilities.

Water electrolysis provides a clean route to hydrogen from water without the consumption of fossil fuel or the emission of CO2, in which, the proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolysers have a substantial improvement of conversion efficiency and are commercially available. However, until now they only offer expensive hydrogen because of its heavy dependence on precious metals as catalysts and using expensive membranes.
This project therefore aims to develop an AEM water electrolyser cell for hydrogen production in high efficiency and cost-competiveness. The research activity will be built on the research group’s previous work: the first research task is to optimize the selected catalysts, the second task is to investigate the suitable materials including membranes for the cell, the third task is to construct an AEM water electrolyser cell with a desired performance.

You will research into a field, in which, the research group is in a pioneer position. You will have a plenty of opportunities getting in touch with industry experts because there are research projects currently undertaking in the group, for example EPSRC, EU Interreg, and H2020 projects. Upon your PhD completion, you will become an expert in design and engineering of water electrolyser cell. You will have acquired a range of technical skills that are highly valued by practitioners. You will have access to advanced characterization facilities within the college in the university.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in February 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in Material Science, Chemistry, Engineering or Applied Physics.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several 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)
  • Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 10 January 2020.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Penryn Campus the week commencing 20 January 2020.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor, Prof Xiaohong Li (email:


Application deadline:10th January 2020
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions