Postgraduate research opportunities

Embedded optical sensors for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells

This project aims to develop embedded optical fibre sensors for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells to characterise catalyst degradation mechanisms under realistic operating conditions.

Number of places



3 March 2021


3 years


Students applying should have (or expect to achieve) a high 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant Engineering/science discipline, and must be highly motivated to undertake multidisciplinary research. 

Project Details

Catalyst durability is currently one of the biggest challenges limiting widespread commercialization of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). The high surface-area carbon catalyst support materials are susceptible to corrosion under various operating regimes. Characterising the mechanisms of this degradation currently requires a suite of measurement techniques designed to replicate the operating conditions in a real fuel cell, but these can never be completely accurate. There is growing interest in using in situ methods to measure various key parameters in a representative operating device.

This project will develop a technique to embed optical fibres in a PEM fuel cell to carry out optical spectroscopic measurements in order to characterise carbon support materials during real operating conditions, observing the chemical corrosion mechanisms that take place during accelerated stress testing, which is known to lead to catalyst degradation. This will enable the development of novel catalysts and operating strategies resulting in improved durability and longer lifetimes of commercial devices.

In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.


Funding Details

This PhD project is awaiting funding outcome and is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with their own funding, or those applying to funding sources. However, excellent candidates will be eligible to be considered for a University scholarship.

Contact us

James Weir Building, 75 Montrose Street, Glasgow, G1 1XJ

How to apply

Apply for this project here – please quote the project title in your application.

During the application you'll be asked for the following information and evidence uploaded to the application:

  • your full contact details
  • transcripts and certificates of all degrees
  • proof of English language proficiency if you are not from a majority English-speaking country as recognised by UKVI
  • two references, one of which must be academic. Please see our guidance on referees
  • funding or scholarship information
  • international students must declare any previous UK study

By filling these details out as fully as possible, you'll avoid any delay to your application being processed by the University.

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