PhD position - Probing proton transport in solid oxide energy conversion and storage systems

Context & Job description

You will join the Spectroscopy and Scientific Computing teams at the ILL and work with co-supervisors at Imperial College London and Ceres Power Ltd. The aim of the PhD project is to develop our understanding of the ion dynamics within materials used in electrochemical devices including electrolysers and fuel cells, in which ions diffuse through oxide ceramics. Using a quasi-elastic neutron scattering (QENS) technique combined with isotopic labelling we will investigate the mobility of protons through a crystallographic lattice, in fluorite type materials. Having demonstrated the ability of the technique in these well-developed phases, we will move on to explore novel new proton conducting oxides such as the recently discovered hexagonal perovskites.  As QENS probes the local hopping in the materials we will complement these measurements with total scattering studies that will allow local structure to be correlated with ion dynamics. Each of these materials will be made under a wide range of conditions of pO2 and temperature that will provide inputs into the mechanistic understanding of commercial electrochemical devices. Interpretation of these data will be aided by the use of ab initio computational methods.

Further information may be obtained from Miguel Angel Gonzalez (tel.: +33 (0)4 76 20 71 66, email:, Markus Appel (email: and from Stephen Skinner (+44 (0)20 75946782, email:

Expected profile

  • Degree allowing enrolment for a PhD (such as 2:1 or higher in an undergraduate degree, MSc, MEng, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent) in physics, materials science, chemistry or closely related science
  • A background in experimentation is desirable, and knowledge of ionic transport and electrochemical devices would be advantage
  • Any experience of scattering techniques (light, X-ray and/or neutrons) would be an advantage
  • Some basic knowledge of python (or other computer language) would also be welcome
  • Proficiency in English (A proof of upper-intermediate level would be advantageous and can be provided in the application. Applicants originating from native-English-speaking countries can apply without the need for proof of level. An official degree conducted in English will be also accepted as a proof; Students without proof upper-intermediate level may still apply and their level of English will be checked during the interview).
  • Compliance with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie mobility rule: candidates may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than twelve months in the three years immediately before the date of recruitment.
  • At the date of recruitment, early-stage researchers must be in the first four years of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • Candidates must satisfy eligibility criteria according to the partner university requirements for PhD enrolment.

More details about the application procedure on

Working conditions

The successful candidate will be enrolled as a PhD student of Imperial College London and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 3-month secondment at Ceres Power Ltd (United Kingdom). Additional visits totaling no more than 3 months may be made to Imperial College London when needed. Furthermore, a varied pedagogical training programme will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project.

More details on the InnovaXN programme on

Company description

InnovaXN is a Horizon 2020 MSCA COFUND programme providing an opportunity for 40 industrial companies to work with 40 PhD students, performing advanced research and exploiting the unique characterisation techniques of the ESRF and ILL. Through collaborations with industry, innovation will be the central theme of the programme. This will provide a unique cross academic-industry science setting, secondment opportunities and society-relevant research, training the future key researchers able to tackle major research and societal challenges.

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