Sustainable synthesis of methanol

Start date

1 October 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

UKRI and/or University of Surrey

Funding information

We are offering the UKRI standard stipend (currently £18,622 per year) with an additional bursary of £1,700 per year for full 3.5 years for exceptional candidates. In addition, a research, training and support grant of £3,000 over the project is also offered. Full home or overseas tuition fees (as applicable) will be covered.


​​Meeting the net-zero commitment on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 means significantly cutting back on emissions by 2035. However, currently, ~80% of our energy supply is dependent on fossil fuels which by default means additional emissions. There is a wide range of technologies that can help us achieve decarbonisation of our energy supply and reach net zero. Using renewable hydrogen to convert emitted CO2, for the sustainable synthesis of chemicals, such as methanol, could result in a ~ 90% drop in CO2 emissions. And this could be possible using existing infrastructure. 

​Indeed, methanol is currently used as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source. It can be blended with gasoline to be used in existing road vehicles, or can be used as a substitute for gasoline or diesel in flex-fuel vehicles and dedicated methanol-fuelled vehicles. However, the lack of robust and active catalysts that convert CO2 to methanol selectively are currently hindering its wide commercial deployment. This project proposes a new way of controllably producing such catalysts, using a method called exsolution. In this, instead of depositing the catalytically active sites on the surface of the materials, they emerge on the surface from within following a carefully designed pre-treatment. This allows to spatially and chemically control them, while also provide them with stability against agglomeration and poisoning. 

​The studentship is part of an EPSRC funded project, aimed towards the design and preparation of Cu-X catalysts via the exsolution method that will allow us to successfully convert a CO2 to methanol. This will also ultimately enable a step-change in our progress towards our 2050 net-zero goals. 

Eligibility criteria

Open to both UK and international candidates.

Up to 30% of our UKRI-funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees. Find out more about eligibility.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme.

​​We are looking for a highly motivated candidate who holds a master degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Materials Science, or a closely-related discipline. The candidate should be a good team player and can engage in collaboration with good oral and written communication skills. Previous experience in catalysis and materials’ design is desirable but not necessary. 

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Chemical and Process Engineering Research PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal, you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Kelly Kousi
08 BC 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689472

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