Plasma-assisted on-surface assembly for electrocatalytic hydrogen production and other applications

Study level



This project is led by the Academician (Foreign Member) of the European Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Europe, Humboldt Prize winner (2020), and international pioneer and leader in Plasma Nanoscience Professor Kostya (Ken) Ostrikov and involves world-leading Professors across several fields of research, thus offering unsurpassed opportunity for PhD research and career development.

The project is at the forefront of plasma nanotechnology, surface and materials science, and electrocatalysis and aims to develop plasma-assisted on-surface nano-assembly of ultra-small, ideally single-atomic-site, catalysts for electrochemical hydrogen production and other applications. Our solution is based on minimising the use of atomic matter by the precise dosing and conversion of precursors into metallic clusters directly on the electrode surface, followed by ultra-fast cluster dispersion and stabilization of the resulting subnano-clusters and single atoms on defect-engineered surfaces, using high-throughput, energy-efficient customised plasma-assisted processes.

Research Activities

We offer up to four research projects for PhD students, three experimental (PhD1-PhD3) and one theoretical (PhD4).

PhD1’s project is on the development of plasma processes and study of plasma-surface interactions (Prof. Ostrikov as a primary supervisor)
PhD2 will study on-surface assembly supported by microanalysis (Prof. MacLeod as a primary supervisor)
PhD3’s study will be on the catalysts properties, under the primary supervision of Prof. O’Mullane.
PhD4 will focus on theoretical optimization of atomic structure and interfacing of the catalysts using ab initio DFT simulations. PhD4 will be co-supervised by Prof. Ostrikov and Prof. Du.


The expected outcomes of this multidisciplinary project are:
• New fundamental insights and mechanisms of synergistic action of plasmas and suitably prepared metal surfaces will bridge advanced materials formation at atomic-scales and digital industrial fabrication at macroscopic scales, thereby impacting physical, chemical, and materials sciences and engineering.
• This project will establish a novel, multi-purpose, high-throughput, digitally controlled plasma-assisted transformative platform technology for scalable production of advanced functional materials with atomic arrangements and nanostructures tuned for targeted applications.

Skills and experience

The applicants for each of the PhD projects (PhD1-PhD4) should have skills and experience relevant to the key areas of each project, for example:
PhD1: operation, design and diagnostics of atmospheric-pressure plasma sources and processes
PhD2: structural characterization, surface microanalysis and synthesis of advanced energy materials (e.g., catalysts and electrodes)
PhD3: electrocatalysis, electrochemistry, synthesis and characterization of advanced energy materials (e.g., catalysts and electrodes)
PhD4: Density Functional Theory (DFT) modelling of electronic and other properties of advanced materials, desirably in the area of energy materials (e.g., catalysts and electrodes)