Future-forming interdisciplinary research

‘Big Picture’ explorations of the chemistry of future battery technologies


Fully Funded PhD studentship (3 year) in Chemistry Department

In Brief:

  • Topic:‘Big Picture’ explorations of the chemistry of future battery technologies
  • Closing Date:April 27th, for October 1st start
  • Eligibility:UK and EU Students
  • Funding:Annual tax-free stipend of £14,296 (which will increment yearly)
  • Hours:Full Time


The Leverhulme Centre for Material Social Futures

Lancaster University’s Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre in Material Social Futures is a major new strategic collaborative partnership between two of the university’s recently formed research Institutes – the Institute for Social Futures and the Material Science Institute. Based in the Chemistry Department you will be part of a growing team of PhDs who will examine how to create more sustainable and socially beneficial futures, and who will be trained to engage in diverse aspects of materials discovery and the analysis of social and economic structures to achieve these ends. In short, the goal of PhDs in Material Social Futures will be to help produce futures that people want and the world needs.

Lancaster University is one of the top 10 universities in the UK. The Chemistry Department was ranked 10th in the UK for world-leading research in the most recent research excellence framework exercise (REF2014).  The project will benefit from full access to the state-of-the-art facilities of Lancaster’s Materials Science Institute (http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/materials-science-institute/) and in Chemistry (http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chemistry/).

We are committed to the Athena SWAN Charter, which recognises and celebrates good employment practice undertaken to address gender equality in higher education and research.”


We live in a world where energy demand continues to expand. Individuals and institutions do not just use more, they consume it in ever more diverse ways; and whilst there might be a willingness to be more sensitive to sustainability energy solutions, the increase in demand outstrips the pace with which new, more sustainable sources can be developed. This is particularly the case with battery technologies. Here, it is not just replacing traditional Li-ion designs with more energy efficient and less costly manufacturing solutions that is being sought, but trying to map the relationship between new battery design and the energy requirements of different technological contexts of use. In the case of computer systems particularly, there is potentially intimate relationship between innovative battery design and innovation in software architecture and hardware. The two need to go hand in hand.

This project

It is in light of this connection that this project aims to develop new cathode materials for Li-ion batteries that not utilise only sustainable and ethically sourced elements but whose design takes into account the diverse energy demands that different computational architectures and systems create. Accordingly, while the project’s primary goal will be to explore materials that are cobalt free yet offer equivalent performance to existing battery materials (based on the nickel, manganese, cobalt (NMC) model),  the project will also entail working closely with a team of researchers in computer science (and other disciplines) who are seeking to see how demand for energy can be shaped by other, ‘bigger picture’ considerations. High power density is readily achieved via cobalt free lithium iron phosphate chemistry, for example, but portable computer devices require enhanced energy density instead, i.e. high capacity and longer power duration. Hence, the development of battery technologies might factor these considerations into their iterative development.

The materials synthesis and fundamental electrochemistry of new sustainable metal-ion batteries will be studied using existing state-of-the-art equipment available in the Chemistry Department. In addition, the student will participate in various collaborative activities with other PhDs in the Material Social Futures training centre and will be assisted by ‘corresponding’ supervisors in the School of Computing and Communication.

Further Details

  • Cover full payment of academic fees (at the standard RCUK rate);
  • A Maintenance Stipend (£14,777 pa);
  • Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) for reimbursement of research-related expenses including – but not limited to – conference attendance, training courses and equipment of at least £800 pa. Additional research costs (such as entailed in lab work) will be supported as appropriate;
  • Access to a range of training and development provided by the Material Social Futures PhD Programme, the Chemistry Department, the Faculty of Science and Technology, the Institute for Social Futures and Lancaster University;
  • The Material Social Futures PhD programme will offer internships (including international placements) in the second and or third year of training.



Candidates should have a 1st class degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Engineering or a closely related discipline with an interest in energy storage technologies. Excellent synthetic skills and good knowledge of diffraction, electrochemical, microscopic and spectroscopic techniques is desired, as well as previous hands-on experience in the synthesis and characterisation of battery materials.


Application details

Please apply online via the University Postgraduate Admissions Portal at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/how-to-apply-for-postgraduate-study/ with:

  • A CV (2 pages maximum)
  • Cover letter
  • University grade transcripts (where available)


You should clearly state on your application that you are applying for a funded PhD opportunity on      “ ‘Big Picture’ explorations of the chemistry of future battery technologies ”.


Contact Us

We very much welcome informal queries about this opportunity, which should be directed to Dr. Nuria Tapia-Ruiz (n.tapiaruiz@lancaster.ac.uk) and/or Dr. Kathryn Toghill (k.toghill@lancaster.ac.uk).



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