Designing cost-effective materials for photocatalytic water treatment

Lead Supervisor: Dr Natalia Martsinovich, Chemistry
Co-supervisor(s): Prof Siddharth Patwardhan, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Deadline: Monday 26th March 2018

Project Description
Water pollution from industry, farming and human sanitation is an acute problem. Biological and organic pollutants, in particular polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pose severe problems. A practical solution to water treatment is photocatalysis, which breaks down molecular pollutants rather than extracting them from water, hence is very effective.

Using a combination of experimental and modelling approaches, we propose (i) developing a novel cheap and sustainable method to produce TiO2 photocatalysts and (ii) improving the efficiency of TiO2 photocatalysts for breakdown of aromatic pollutants. The former will be achieved by using bioinspired methods for the synthesis of TiO2, and the latter by designing molecular surface modifiers to enhance the binding of aromatic pollutants, prior to photocatalytic destruction.

The objectives are:
– To develop a sustainable method for the synthesis of porous TiO2 photocatalysts by learning from biological mineralisation.

– To design surface modifier molecules to enhance the adsorption of aromatic pollutants, using computational methods

– To evaluate the pollutant adsorption and breakdown on the engineered photocatalysts.

You will carry out a combination of computational studies (modelling the binding between modifier-TiO2 and pollutant-modifier to identify strongly bound systems, using density-functional theory and force field calculations) and experiments (preparation of porous TiO2 particles, adsorption of surface modifier molecules, measurements of rates of photocatalytic degradation of pollutants), to achieve efficient breakdown of pollutants.

The project will be coordinated by two supervisors with expertise in the theoretical (Dr Natalia Martsinovich) and experimental (Prof Siddharth Patwardhan) aspects of the research. You will join the vibrant PhD communities in the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

This project is funded by the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. In addition to research work, you will participate in the Grantham Scholars PhD training programme, which has been designed to help you develop awareness of sustainability and learn to engage with industry, the media and policy-makers to promote sustainability and environment matters.

Keywords: Photocatalyst, pollution, molecular modelling, green synthesis
Subject areas: Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Materials Science, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Materials Science, Physical Chemistry

Funding notes
This four-year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,627 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year.  Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,336.  Applications should be received and complete by Monday 26th March 2018.

What to include in the application
Your application for this studentship should be accompanied by a CV and a 200 word supporting statement. Your statement should outline your aspirations and motivation for studying in the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. You should also outline any relevant experience and interests that you have in sustainability issues.

Please select ‘Standard PhD’ and the department of this project’s lead supervisor. Fill in the title of your desired project and the name(s) of the supervisors. The starting date of the PhD will be the start of the next academic year – 1 Oct 2018. The ‘Funding stage’ on the form will be ‘project studentship’.