More than 95% of industrial chemical processes use catalyst, and catalyst promoters improve the activity, selectivity and life-time of a catalyst. In previous works we have used thermoelectric materials as a catalyst support and promoter, and found that catalytic activity is increased by several tens to hundreds of times by a Seebeck voltage, and called this thermoelectric promotion of catalysis. Theoretical analysis of the underlying mechanism indicates this is an universal phenomenon. Indeed this effect has been demonstrated in different catalytic chemical reactions, such as the reduction of CO2 to produce useful chemical CO.

This project aims to develop porous surface for the thermoelectric materials, to be used as a supporter and promoter of catalysts. Numerical modelling and a number of experimental techniques will be employed to the analysis, preparation and characterisation of porous thermoelectric materials. The promotional effect of the porous thermoelectric materials will be tested in catalytic reactions important to energy and environmental concern.

The project objectives will be to: 1) Preparation and characterization of thermoelectric materials; 2) Preparation and characterization of porous thermoelectric materials; 3) Effect of porosity to thermoelectric property; 4) Effect of porous TE support on catalytic activity.

The candidate will be based at the Surface Engineering and Manufacturing Centre, which provides state-of-the-art equipment for the manufacture, analysis and characterisation of materials, either as coatings or nano-particulates. The Centre also houses a biosensors/sensors laboratory comprising of optical, acoustic and several electrochemical sensing platforms.

This is a self-funded PhD open to UK, EU and international applicants.

This project is part of the effort to develop a novel technology which can combine thermoelectric energy harvesting and catalytic chemical reaction, so that those difficult chemical processes can be carried out with better efficiency and at lower cost.

The candidate will work in a multidisciplinary environment consisting of material chemists, engineers, physicists, biologists and clinicians. During the PhD, the candidate will gain the invaluable experience of working at the intersection of several research fields with the challenges and opportunities that this represents. On addition, this self-funded PhD project includes the ability to participate in industry-led research initiatives and access to the Cranfield Doctoral Training Network.

At the end of the PhD, the candidate will have become a well-rounded independent scientist with the possibility to progress his/her career either in academia or industry in several research areas from material chemistry and physics, engineering, and sustainable energy and environment.

At a glance

  • Application deadline01 Sep 2023
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start dateAs soon as possible
  • Duration of award3 years full time or 6 years part time
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSATM323

Entry requirements

Candidates should have a minimum of an upper second (2:1) honours degree (or equivalent) preferably in one of the following disciplines: Material science/Physics/Chemistry/ Nanotechnology or related fields. Candidates with a MSc degree in these disciplines will be desirable.


Self-funded PhD opportunity open to UK, EU and international students.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship please complete the online application form.

For further information please contact
Dr Zhaorong Huang