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PhD studentship: Understanding the role of promoters in heterogeneous catalysis

Functional, Inorganic, Materials & Supramolecular Chemistry

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Friday 16 August 2019
Reference:  1167119EB

PhD Supervisor: Dr Peter Wells                            

Proposed Start Date: September 2019

Location: University of Southampton / Research Complex at Harwell

PhD Description:

Catalysts play a crucial role in our current way of life; they increase the availability of food through nitrogen fixation, via the Haber-Bosch process, as well as playing a key role in the petrochemicals industry, amongst many other applications. As society moves towards more sustainable technologies, catalysts will play a vital role in enabling these emerging industries.

Promoters are additives to catalysts which either enhance performance, suppress unwanted side reactions (this might also be called selective poisoning), or stabilise structure/surface area.  Current industrial technologies use promoters across many applications, e.g. pollution control catalysts, fuel cells, and catalysts for the chemical industry.Often the role of promoters in catalysts is poorly understood, not least because they are added in such low levels and can be difficult to locate using traditional analysis methods. In collaboration with Johnson Matthey (, a global science and chemicals company, this project will examine the role of promoters in catalysts for chemical synthesis, developing methods to locate the promoters and relate their performance and function to preparation methods. 

Throughout the course of the project the successful applicant will get first-hand experience of catalyst preparation, materials characterisation, and catalytic activity testing. This will be coupled with exposure to state-of-the-art techniques facilitated by modern synchrotron radiation sources, e.g. Diamond Light Source ( 

This project is a unique opportunity to be at the frontier of materials characterisation and demonstrate how it can impact on future technologies; funding is for 4 years and requires applicants to have, or soon to obtain, at least an upper second class degree in Chemistry or relevant disciplines. Funding will cover fees and stipend at current research council rates.

Eligibility criteria can be found on the EPSRC website -

Applications for an PhD in Chemistry should be submitted online at

Please place Dr Peter Wells in the field for proposed supervisor/project

General enquiries should be made  Any queries on the application process should be made to

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified


The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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