HDR Scholarship - Next generation high power energy storage: Development of anodes for prototype sodium-ion capacitors

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Next generation high power energy storage: Development of anodes for prototype sodium-ion capacitors'.

Project Supervisor


Institute for Frontier Materials


Melbourne Burwood Campus

Research topic

Hybrid supercapacitors are novel, promising devices which strive to combine attractive features of both batteries (energy density) and supercapacitor (high rate performance). The concept of a lithium-ion capacitor has not yet become a commercial reality due to the limited storage capacity of the capacitor electrode. Sodium-based systems offer more versatile electrode chemistries while surprisingly maintaining equal or superior rate performance to lithium-ion systems, they also offer potential for lower cost and enhanced safety compared to lithium-ion. This cotutelle project will bring together the sodium-ion materials expertise in state-of-the-art electrodes at Coventry University with the knowledge and experience in advanced electrolytes at Deakin University.

This project and scholarship are offered as part of a collaborative doctoral cotutelle program with the Coventry University, UK. The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by a team of leading researchers from Deakin University and Coventry University and will graduate with a jointly supervised doctoral degree from each institution. The program is for a duration of 3.5 years. It is anticipated that the PhD candidate will spend at least 1 year during the program at Coventry University, with the remainder of the program based at Deakin University.

The PhD scholar will have access to the world class research facilities of both universities and work under joint supervision of Dr Robert Kerr and A/Prof Alexander Roberts.

Deakin University has an extensive history of developing new ionic electrolytes based on ionic liquids, solids, and polymers for both lithium and sodium chemistries. Recent promising cell performances using hybrid organic-ionic solvents and their characterisation through NMR spectroscopy has opened the door to drastically improve the rate capability of ionic solvent-based electrolytes through considered materials design and understanding of the molecular interactions.

Coventry University has built a leading battery research program that is intimately engaged with sodium-ion battery industry partners in the EU and UK. Pilot-scale electrode production facilities along with sodium-ion battery expertise and knowledge of commercial electrode materials will see that this project brings together electrode and electrolyte systems that are at the leading edge of research and industry performance targets.

Project aim

In this project, new sodium-ion capacitors will be developed through the application of both hard carbon anode materials and also the development of new sodium titanate based anodes. Sodium titanates have much potential for application in sodium-ion capacitors, with a high ionic conductivity, but are generally hampered by a low particle electronic conductivity. The project will look to address this low conductivity through materials synthesis consideration via nanostructuring of primary particles to minimise electron transport distances, doping with elements such as niobium to increase electronic conductivity, and also through the development of hierarchical particle structures incorporating carbon nanotubes, graphene and the like during synthesis to yield highly conductive secondary particles.

Starting at the small scale and moving through to reel-to-reel coating, electrode development will focus on aqueous based processing routes, with the new materials developed complemented by commercially available hard carbon anodes and also activated carbon cathode materials. Starting with electrolytes as found in traditional sodium ion systems and later incorporating those developed at Deakin, the project will develop, characterise and understand the electrochemical performance in full devices, from coin cell through to 18650/21700 cylindrical cells, showcasing the potential of next-generation sodium-ion capacitors in commercially relevant prototypes.

Important dates

Expression of Interest to Deakin University and applications to Coventry University close 5 pm AEST Monday 31 August 2020.


This scholarship is supported by Coventry University and is available for a duration of 3 years.

  • Stipend of £15,000 per annum (2020 rate)
  • Tuition fee waiver at Coventry University
  • Return economy airfare to Deakin University to support residency period in Australia
  • Student visa and health insurance costs for period of residency at Deakin University in Australia

Deakin University will also provide a 4 year tuition fee waiver.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate  (domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship).
  • meet the PhD entry requirements of both Deakin University and Coventry university, including English language proficiency requirements
  • be enrolling full time
  • be able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia)

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page and Coventry’s research entry criteria page for further information.

How to apply

Expressions of Interest or applications are submitted to both institutions. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by a panel of academic staff from each institution.

Please apply using the Expression of Interest Form, available via the ‘How to Apply – research degrees’ page, prior to being invited by the Institute to lodge a formal HDR application to Deakin. The successful candidate will also be required to lodge a separate PhD application to Coventry University via the Coventry ‘Making an Application’ page.


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Robert Kerr

Dr Robert Kerr
Research Fellow (Electromaterials)
Email Robert Kerr
+61 3 924 45628