Saturday, 18 September 2010

New Zealand:Development of electrocatalytic anodes for Alkaline Water electrolysers (PhD project)


Funded project in the field of Chemical engineering, Materials Science, electrochemistry, Energy and Hydrogen


BE(Hons), BSc(Hons), ME, MSc (should have either a chemical engineering, physical chemistry or material science background)


Water electrolysis is a reliable method of producing high purity hydrogen suitable for use in fuel cells or other industrial processes. In order to improve the efficiency of water electrolysers, the cell voltage must be decreased towards the theoretical potential of 1.48 V (thermo-neutral potential). In this project we aim to achieve this by applying thin electrocatalytic layers to low-cost nickel foam substrates. The electrocatalytic layer will increase the electrolyser performance in several ways [1]:
1. Increased surface area (more reaction sites per unit geometric area)
2. Increase electrocatalytic activity (exchange current)
3. Improved reaction mechanism
4. Improved gas - electrode -electrolyte interface
These electrocatalytic layers will be deposited using several methods. The standard method to deposit the oxygen evolution electrocatalytic layer will be by thermal decomposition [2-3]. This method has been applied to many electrocatalysts with great success due to the ease and controllability of the preparation method [4]. The second approach to deposition the anode and cathode electrocatalytic layers will be by electrodeposition. Cobalt oxide layers prepared by this method have shown good activity for the oxygen evolution reaction [5] and we believe the surface area (and thus performance) can be enhanced even further by using a templated electrodeposition process [6] to create a nanostructured oxide layer. Both the thermal and templated electrodeposition method can be carried out at industrial scale easily and cheaply.
The electrodes will be investigated using electrochemical techniques, electron microscopy, and x-ray diffraction. The electrochemical techniques will include cyclic voltammetry, half-cell polarisation curves and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). EIS is particularly powerful as we can assess the performance, surface area, ohmic resistances and any mass transport behaviour at the electrocatalytic layers while the electrodes are operating under industrial conditions. The performance and electrochemical behaviour of the electrode will be examined in standard aqueous electrochemical cells and in pilot scale water electrolysers.

1. Zeng, K. and D. Zhang, Recent progress in alkaline water electrolysis for hydrogen production and applications. Progress in Energy and Combustion Science. In Press, Corrected Proof.
2. Singh, S.P., et al., Preparation of thin Co3O4 films on Ni and their electrocatalytic surface properties towards oxygen evolution. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 1996. 21(3): p. 171-178.
3. Battisti, A.D., et al., Preparation and characterization of oxide film electrodes. Can. J. Chem., 1997. 75: p. 1759-1765.
4. Trasatti, S. and G. Lodi, Oxygen and Chlorine Evolution Reactions on Conductive Metallic Oxide Anodes, in Electrodes of Conductive Metallic Oxides Part B. 1980, Elsevier scientific publishing company. p. 521.
5. Dinamani, M. and P.V. Kamath, Electrocatalysis of oxygen evolution at stainless steel anodes by electrosynthesized cobalt hydroxide coatings. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, 2000. 30(10): p. 1157-1161.
6. Elliott, J.M., et al., Platinum microelectrodes with unique high surface areas. Langmuir, 1999. 15(22): p. 7411-7415.

For more information or to apply for this project contact:
Dr Aaron Marshall (
Department of Chemical and Process Engineering
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
+64 3 364 2987 extn 4292

Amount $25,000 + fees per year
Tenure 3 years
Closing Dates Open Until Filled

Please note that applications forms are only available from approximately 8 weeks ahead of the closing date. For external scholarships, please refer to details on the External Web Site below.
External Email Address Dr Aaron Marshall

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