PhD position - Manufacturing process related structure and performance of fuel cell electrode

Context & Job description

Project Title: Investigation of manufacturing process related structure and performance of fuel cell electrode thanks to Neutron and X-Ray small angle scattering and imaging

Zero emission vehicles using hydrogen as a fuel and powered by a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell are now commercially available. However, their large-scale commercialization requires progress in performance, cost and durability, for which the electrode is the most limiting component. The later one is composed of random assembly of platinum based nanoparticles within a proton conducting polymer network. It is usually obtained from a slurry after solvent evaporation. Currently, research and development to improve the performance of the electrode and reduce the cost of manufacturing rely on a simple trial and error approach. The goal of this project is to obtain a deep knowledge on the relationships between ink composition, electrode structure, and electrode properties and performance.

The structural evolution of the ink during the drying process and the so-obtained electrode will be characterized using neutron and X-Ray scattering, as complementary tools to unravel the organization of the catalyst material and of the polymer. By correlating these results with Operando electrochemical, structural and imaging measurements, we aim at rationalizing the design of highly performing electrodes. This project involves partners having all the complementary skills necessary for this study. Furthermore the  industrial partner is a leader in the research, development and production of fuel cell cars.

Further information may be obtained from Lionel Porcar (porcar@ill.eu, tel +33 476 207 025) and from Arnaud Morin (arnaud.morin@cea.fr, +33 438 785 986).

Expected profile

  • Degree allowing enrollment for a PhD (such as MSc, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent) in chemical-physics, electrochemistry, materials science, or closely related science.
  • Knowledge, or experience, in colloid and polymer physics is required.
  • Background in Small Angle Scattering measurements and data analysis is highly desirable.
  • Background in electrochemistry, especially in fuel cell, would be appreciated.
  • Background, motivation and skills in experimentation is mandatory, and knowledge of data analyses using MatLab or Python is expected.
  • Manual skills and rigorous attention to detail are essential in this work environment.
  • Because this is an interdisciplinary project, curious, autonomous and open minded person able to learn new background and skills is wanted.
  • 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 enrollment, e.g. Grenoble Alpes University.

More details about the application procedure on www.innovaxn.eu/for-students/documents/

Working conditions

The successful candidate will be enrolled in the doctoral school of  University Grenoble Alpes (France) and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 4-month secondment at (Toyota Motors Europe, Belgium). Additional visits will be made to the CEA-LITEN (Grenoble, France) when needed. Furthermore, varied pedagogical training programs will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project.

More details on the InnovaXN programme on www.innovaxn.eu

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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