PhD Studentship in Critical Metals

Applications are invited to a 3.5-year PhD studentship in close connection with UK FIRES, a 5-year EPSRC Programme Grant which aims to embed resource efficiency at the heart of the future UK industrial strategy.

The UK was the first major economy setting in law a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050. Yet, it is unlikely that this target could be met only with the deployment of negative carbon technologies or breakthrough technologies, which do not exist today. In our first output, the UK FIRES team produced the “Absolute Zero” report, exploring the challenge of delivering the UK zero emissions target with incremental changes to today’s technology.

Meeting the zero emissions target by 2050 will require the electrification of most energy uses and the deployment of infrastructure to provide the future requirements of zero-carbon electricity. These activities will need a wide range of critical metals (namely Mn, Co, Ni, and Cu), which are essential for example for the production of approximately 50 million batteries by 2050 for the British car fleet alone. But how rapidly could we produce the critical metals required? And what should we be doing to minimise energy, emissions and other environmental impacts associated with the production, use and disposal of these metals?

This PhD project will explore these questions and it has the following research objectives:

  1. Map the current flows of Mn, Co, Ni, and Cu, and identify their end-use products.
  2. Review the recent trends and prospects of changes in the requirements for any of these metals in the equipment and infrastructure needed to support the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
  3. Complement existing analyses by developing a dynamic systems model to reveal the pace of anticipated demand for critical metals and the availability of waste flows.
  4. Understand the role of recycling and identify opportunities for resource efficiency and valuation of waste streams.
  5. Explore the role of alternative mining sources, such as polymetallic nodules from the deep ocean, in enabling zero-carbon practices along supply chains.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a good 2.1 degree in an Engineering or related subject. Relevant industrial experience would be an advantage.

This 3.5-year studentship will cover UK/EU-level University fees and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 pa.

The successful applicant will start the PhD course on 5 January 2021.

To apply for this studentship, please apply through the University’s Graduate Admissions application portal not later than 16 September 2020. The application portal can be accessed at and there is a £65 fee for PhD applications.

Interviews will be held in the last two weeks of September.

If you would like an informal discussion about the position, please send your CV and a letter setting out your suitability to Allwood Office ([email protected]), but note that this does not constitute an application. We will not respond to enquiries sent by applicants who are ineligible for the funding.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

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