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Postgraduate research project

Photoreactor modelling, design and fabrication

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

A PhD position is available as part of a new Centre of Excellence called Light and Electrochemical Activated Processes for Chemical Industries (LEAP). The intention of LEAP is to coordinate the University of Southampton’s distinctive strengths in photonic materials and chemistry to tackle the challenge of decarbonising the chemical industry. The initiative brings together academics from Chemistry, Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and the Zepler Institute that will improve our fundamental understanding of these complex processes and develop engineered solutions that can be applied at scale.


As we transition towards a net-zero carbon future, there is a need to make chemical transformations more efficient. Thermally controlled processes that are ubiquitous in the chemical industry have an inherent inefficiency, regardless of how well macroscopic heat management demands are controlled. Photo/electrochemical technologies – reactions that are driven by light or directly by electricity - represent an alternative approach to produce both commodity and fine chemicals that have the potential to be significantly more efficient.

Photocatalysis in particular represents a unique opportunity to efficiently transform free solar photons into a versatile form of ‘chemical energy’ that can be used for energy storage (e.g. maritime transportation, grid-energy storage) or the production of commodity chemicals (e.g. ammonia, methanol). This studentship project builds on our successful recent development of photocatalytic reactors using optical fibre technologies (e.g. ACS Photonics, 2020, 7, 714-722). Specifically, we will leverage the highly advanced and scalable photonics technologies developed at the Zepler Institute in order to precisely engineer photonic states coupled with optimal structuring and management of light with photocatalysts inside our state of the art reactor designs. This will require significant numerical simulation effort to guide experimental fabrication alongside in-depth optical characterization and optimisation.

This multifaceted project targets the development of an all-in-one photoreactor described using multi-phase chemical models to incorporate the kinetics of photocatalysts, reactant flow and photon behaviour. It is thus supported by a highly multidisciplinary team with expertise in photonic devices (Dr Pier Sazio) and modelling alongside material deposition (Dr Geoff Hyett), photocatalyst design and development (Dr Matt Potter, University of Bath) and multi-phase chemical models (Dr. Lindsay Armstrong) to realise these advanced systems. Our work is supported by major nanophotonics research grants from the EPSRC (£5.5M) and the European Research Council (€2.6M).

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