Photoelectrochemical selective organic oxidation using composite photocatalyst with multifunctional properties
Over the past decade, the transition to renewable clean energy has been increasingly viewed as crucial to meet the rising global energy demand in a sustainable manner. With Australia receiving the highest solar radiation per area globally, photoelectrocatalysis offers an opportunity to secure the direct conversion of solar energy into a usable form of chemical energy (i.e. H2). Despite the advantages of photoelectrochemical water splitting (i.e. H2 and O2 generation), the anodic water oxidation reaction continues to be the limiting step which restricts practical application. Considering the high amount of energy required for O2 production, the research focus needs to shift toward photoelectrochemical organic/biomass oxidation, to simultaneously drive reduction reactions (e.g. H2 generation or CO2 reduction) and produce other useful chemicals. Replacing water oxidation with the thermodynamically more feasible organic oxidation will both enable the degradation of organic waste products and improve the overall photoelectrochemical efficiency. In addition, proper control of organic oxidation product selectivity could potentially deliver the further benefit of value-added chemical production.
While many studies have focused on improving photocathode material properties for the reduction reaction, this study aims to design an active photoanode composite material to promote the selective photoelectrochemical organic oxidation reaction. The developed photocatalysts will be able to simultaneously harness light, electric field and magnetic field inputs to selectivity oxidize organic waste into desired chemical products and suppress carbon dioxide production. Combining semiconducting, ferroelectric and magnetic properties within the composite material will invoke flexibility to control the photoelectrochemical system.
The student will have the opportunity to work in the Particles and Catalysis Research Group (PartCat), at the School of Chemical Engineering, in collaboration with Prof. Nagarajan Valanoor and Dr. Judy Hart from the School of Material Science and Engineering. They will have access to well-equipped laboratories with comprehensive experimental facilities for photoelectrocatalysis research and will work in a multidisciplinary research environment and learn various functional skills.
The candidate should have a passion in pursuing research in renewable energy and, due to current international travel restrictions, preferably reside onshore.