Thermoelectric (TE) materials can convert heat into electricity directly, via the Seebeck effect (V = -S•ΔT). One of the barriers for the widespread application of TE materials is its relative low conversion efficiency. To mitigate this, we have explored to use thermoelectric effect for catalyst promotion and discovered that catalyst activity could be increased by hundreds of times by a thermoelectric Seebeck voltage. This thermoelectrocatalysis effect is believed to be universal, and has since been demonstrated in a number of applications, such as the thermoelectric enhanced CO2 reduction by photovoltaic energy, and thermoelectric enhanced electrocatalysis through the reduced overpotential.

This project aims to develop a new type of composites consisted of thermoelectric and solid oxide electrolyte for the application of energy and environmental chemical reactions. Experimental and numerical modelling approaches will be employed to prepare and characterise composites with different thermoelectric and solid oxide electrolyte materials. The best performing composites will be used as catalyst promoter and catalysts for energy and environmental related important chemical reactions.

The project objectives will be to: 1) Modelling and analysis of the composite configurations; 2) Preparation and characterization of thermoelectric materials; 3) Preparation and characterization of composites of TE and solid oxide electrolytes (e.g. yttrium stabilized zirconia); 4) Testing of the composites as the promoter and catalyst for CO2 reduction to produce useful chemicals.

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, and biologists. 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 their career either in academia or industry in several 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
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSATM325

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