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Award details

AEM Water Electrolyser for Green Hydrogen Production from Renewable for Energy Storage. EMPS College Home fees Studentship, PhD in Renewable Energy (Engineering) Ref: 4389

About the award


Lead Supervisor: Prof Xiaohong Li, Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Falmouth Cornwall.

Co-supervisor:  Dr Asif Tahir, Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Falmouth, Cornwall


Department of Renewable Energy (Engineering), Penryn Campus, University of Exeter, Falmouth, Cornwall, 

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences  is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter. The studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. 

This College studentship is open to UK and Irish nationals, who if successful in their application will receive a full studentship including payment of university tution fees at the home fees rate.

Project Description:

With a carbon-constrained world now a certainty, hydrogen is expected to provide a central solution to our needs for a sustainable fuel for our future transport requirements and also an approach to large scale storage of energy. Conventionally, hydrogen is produced by large process plant which reforms hydrocarbons to hydrogen and up to 95% of hydrogen production come from this method. 

In contrast to this method, water electrolysis provides a clean route to hydrogen from water without the consumption of fossil fuel or the emission of CO2, but currently this only accounts a very small proportion of hydrogen production. If the electricity comes from renewable energy sources, water electrolysis becomes a truly green technology. Green hydrogen is such an important research field that the UK is set to be the world leader as stated in ‘The UK Hydrogen Strategy (2021)’. Low carbon hydrogen sector is the second point of the Prime Minister’s “Ten Points Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” in 2020, where £4 billion will be invested by 2030 and new jobs will be therefore created in the sector.

The proposed project research is focused on design and development of a novel anion exchange membrane (AEM) water electrolyser for green hydrogen production in high efficiency and cost-competitiveness. AEM water electrolysers open up the possibility of using non-precious metal catalysts and anode materials in alkali media, which can give lower overpotentials for oxygen evolution than in acid environments; together with cheaper cell components and lower energy consumption, it leads to the possibility of cheaper hydrogen production. The research work will be focused on ways (i) to prepare and characterise new catalysts for both oxygen evolution reaction and hydrogen evolution reaction; (ii) to optimise composition of the selected catalysts and, (iii) to design and 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 in the research field. You will have a plenty of opportunities getting in touch with industry experts because there are research projects undertaking in the group. On completion of the PhD program, you will become an expert with excellent skills that are transferable to battery and fuel cell technologies. 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.

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.

The project will be supervised by Prof Xiaohong Li and Dr Asif Tahir.

If you have any question, informal enquiries, or for more information about the project, please contact the primary supervisor Prof Xiaohong Li (

Entry requirements

This studentship is open to UK and Irish nationals, who if successful in their application will receive a full studentship including payment of university tution fees at the home fees rate.

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 Materials Science, Chemistry, Engineering or Applied Physics. Experience in material synthesis and engineering design is desirable..

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in 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.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”.

• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior project work 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.  Please see the entry requirements information above.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 24th January 2022.  Interviews will be held online on the week commencing 7th February 2022..

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email

Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor at


Application deadline:24th January 2022
Value:Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Team