The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) plays a key role in many energy conversion and storage technologies, including metal–air batteries and fuel cells. The most severe bottleneck that prevents fuel cells from reaching the market lies in the slow rate of the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) of the platinum (Pt) catalyst in the cathode. Furthermore, the high cost of the platinum catalysts is another major hurdle to the commercialization of fuel cells.
Therefore, numerous efforts have been devoted to reduce or replace the Pt-based catalysts. In particular, the search for new nonprecious-metal catalysts (NPMCs) with high activity and practical durability for ORRs has been one of the most active fields in materials chemistry.
In this project the student will undertake a systematic study to surface engineer various forms of graphene nanosheets and nanodots  in order to improve their electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). This will be achieved through controlled doping and growth of no-noble metal nanostructures on these graphenes. A systematic experimental approach will be developed to link the electronic structure with the catalytic activity of the new materials and evaluate the oxygen reduction reaction mechanism for highly-efficient, low-cost energy conversion in fuel cells.
The structure and morphology of the new materials will be investigated XPS, Raman, XRD, TGA and High Resolution TEM. The electrocatalytic activity will be studied by cyclic voltammetry, Rotating Ring Disc Electrode, Chronoamperometry, Impendance spectroscopy and will be compared with commercial Pt/C catalysts.
The result of this effort will be an electrocatalyst suitable for use in the fuel cells envisioned for next generation vehicles as well as fixed fuel cells for commercial power generation.
Applications are welcome from graduates of Engineering, Physics, Chemistry/Electrochemistry or Materials Science
 N. Shang, P. Papakonstantinou, S. Sharma, G. Lubarsky, M. Li, D. W. McNeill, A.J. Quinn, W. Zhou and R. Blackley, “Controllable selective exfoliation of high-quality graphene nanosheets and nanodots by ionic liquid assisted grinding” Chemical Communications, 48 2012, 1877 – 1879.
 Z. Yang, Z. Yao, G. Li, G. Fang, H. Nie, Z. Liu, X. Zhou, X. Chen, and S. Huang , “Recent progress in graphene based nanomaterials as advanced electrocatalysts towards oxygen reduction reaction", Nanoscale 2013 DOI: 10.1039/C2NR33839D
Further details: Prof. Papakonstantinou, Carbon based Nanomaterials group (firstname.lastname@example.org)
First Supervisor: Papakonstantinou, P Prof
Second Supervisor: Davis, J Prof
Collaboration: This project does not involve collaboration with another establishment
In this project the student will undertake a systematic study to surface engineer various forms of graphene nanosheets and nanodots  in order to improve their electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). This will be achieved through controlled doping and growth of no-noble metal nanostructures on these graphenes.