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PhD Students


We offer unique training for a new cadre of future-facing interdisciplinary researchers.

Material Social Futures PhDs

This project explores the use of thermoelectric coatings for heat recovery as electrical energy in thermoelectric coatings . (link Sophie’s story from RS SSE)

Beth Murdock (Drs. Kas Toghill and N. Tapia Ruiz)

Cobalt has been a key element in the fabrication of rechargeable Li-ion batteries, since the original Li-ion battery commercialized by Sony in 1991. Yet, in the ‘tumultuous Copper Belt’ in the DRC, practices in cobalt mines are indifferent to human rights, with thousands of children under 10 being exploited by child labour. Recent calls to major users and suppliers of cobalt-based products for them to sign a declaration supporting the Responsible Raw Materials Initiative (RRMI) have only gone so far; despite the signatures of Apple, Googe and Sony (amongst others) many mines remain unregulated. What is required is a replacement material to cobalt for batteries. This project starting October 2019, focuses on the science of replacement of Co in cathode materials in rechargeable batteries.

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Damien Borowiec; PhD is looking at the relationship between energy use and computational processing. Cloud computer farms consume nearly 7% of the worlds energy, yet computer scientists do not make energy a central concern of their research. Damien is investigating how the energy used in some processing task can be a factor in the design of that task as well as a concern made visible to users of computer power. The thesis, in computer science, is part of the energy theme in the MSF.

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Christina's PhD is in the area of human-computer interaction (HCI) and focuses on building automation in non-domestic environments. The goal is to understand the energy saving potential of such automation and how it is limited by social implications. For this research, Christina is using the Energy Information System at Lancaster University.

Christina's interests include algorithmic social justice, energy data visualization and energy literacy. She is part of the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Material Social Futures.

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Improving light harvesting in silicon through alkyl and chromophore direct attachment

The development of photovoltaics (PV) has been spurred by the drive for the production for electrical energy from clean, or low carbon, technologies.

Silicon cells make up 90% of the world’s solar cell production. Due to their poor absorption of sunlight, silicon cells are typically around 200-300 µm thick. These cells are expensive as they require a high grade of purity (parts per billion) and have a high-energy cost to manufacture.

To counteract this problem, we propose a new type of solar cell based on metallic-organic complexes and an ultra-thin silicon substrate in order to reduce the thickness of silicon cells by two orders of magnitude.

However, the fabrication of these metal complexes and the coating of these have an inherent energy cost, and therefore carbon footprint.

This project evaluates the potential gains of improved efficiency (light harvesting) in silicon-based solar cells vs. the “cost” in terms (i) of the additional embodied energy of the coating and (ii) sustainability of the materials employed.

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