Position in proton conducting ceramics for electrochemical hydrogen production and separation

Supervisor: Dr. Luca Mastropasqua

Contact: luca.mastropasqua@wisc.edu




The HERD Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison invites applications for a funded graduate student position to investigate proton conducting ceramic electrochemical cells for water splitting (i.e., hydrogen production) and hydrogen separation. This project involves the study of proton conducting ceramic electrolyzers and electrochemical membranes for hydrogen separation operating at temperature <600°C. The project will be primarily experimental in nature, with the goal of manufacturing and testing the electrochemical performance of single cells and stacks. Custom electrochemical and system models will be developed to support the experimental design and data analysis. The work will be carried out in close collaboration with national and international academic and industrial partners, part of a research consortium involved in the project.

More specifically, the work will focus on:

  • Developing novel electrode-supported ceramic structures to achieve mechanically resistant and high surface area assemblies
  • Scaling-up cell structures to achieve larger area cells and stack operation
  • Testing and characterizing the performance of cells and stacks in the laboratory
  • Developing models to reproduce the electrochemical performance of proton conducting cells
  • Discovering novel thermodynamic and electrochemical cycles for efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production and separation

The student will help build an interdisciplinary and dynamic team of researchers focusing on electrochemical energy conversion systems, hydrogen and electro-fuels, and industrial decarbonization. The student will have the possibility of interacting with national and international research groups, national labs and private companies. While pursuing their independent research projects, the candidate will gain exposure to professional networking events and invaluable grant writing experience. The candidate will also be expected to communicate research findings via peer-reviewed journal publications, presentations at national and international conferences, social media, and traditional news channels to increase the impact of their research.

Research Motivation

Conventional high temperature electrolysis (650-900°C) uses oxygen anion (O2-) conducting dense ceramic membranes, e.g., yttria stabilized zirconia (YrZrO – YSZ), scandia stabilized zirconia (ScZrO – ScSZ), or Lanthanum strontium gallium magnesium oxides (LSGM). Contrary to oxygen conducting ceramics, protonic conducting ceramics (Barium Zirconates (BaZrO3) or Cerates (BaCeO3) with various dopants) transport hydrogen ions (H+) through a dense ceramic layer, which can operate at lower temperatures (400-650°C). Such cells can produce pure, moisture-free, pressurized hydrogen, enabling a simplification of the balance of plant compared to conventional solid oxide electrolysis systems, hence a reduction in the overall capital and operating costs. For these reasons, proton conducting electrochemical cells present untapped opportunities for hydrogen generation, and separation, as well as for electrochemical conversion and manufacturing.


Preferred qualifications:

  • Passionate about scientific research, sustainability, and energy
  • A degree in Chemical Engineering, Material Science, Mechanical Engineering, Energy Engineering
  • Experience with electrochemistry, ceramic cells manufacturing and testing
  • Experience with imaging characterization methods (XRD, SEM-EDS, XRF, XPS, Raman AFM, etc.)
  • Have laboratory experience, or be comfortable in designing experimental methodologies, collecting, and analyzing data
  • Have experience with developing numerical simulation codes using diverse programming languages (e.g., Python, Matlab, R, C++, Fortran)
  • Willing and excited to work in teams
  • Comfortable public speaker to disseminate their research and communicate progress to their peers
  • Excellent writer of scientific reports and peer-reviewed journal publications
  • Excellent organizational and interpersonal skills
  • Adept at learning new technology and/or software
  • Ability to creatively solve problems and work independently and proactively

Tuitions and Stipend

The selected applicant will be appointed as a Graduate Research Assistant with a stipend in the range $29,000-$32,000 per year plus health benefits and tuition remission.

How to Apply

Interested students should submit an application to the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program at the UW-Madison Graduate School. Prior to applying, interested students are strongly advised to e-mail Dr. Luca Mastropasqua at luca.mastropasqua@wisc.edu with the following information: 1) a CV, 2) a one-page personal statement describing your scientific interests and career objectives, 3) unofficial transcripts, and 4) contact information of three references. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Before applying to the UW-Madison Graduate School, please learn more about the application process, funding, requirements in the Guide 2022-23 Mechanical Engineering Ph.D.

University and Community

The University of Wisconsin–Madison (Founded: 1848) is a public land-grant university and major research institution. Our students, staff, and faculty engage in a world-class education while solving real-world problems. With public service — or as we call it, the Wisconsin Idea — as our guiding principle, we are creating a better future for everyone. UW-Madison has been ranked 38th overall and 10th among public institutions (both in three-way ties) in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-23 rankings of best colleges. Total student enrollment is 48,000 of which approximately 14,000 are graduate and professional students, and there are over 24,232 between faculty and staff.

UW-Madison has a strong culture of collaboration across fields, and the selected graduate student will interact with researchers from diverse fields, including chemical engineering, material science, and environmental engineering. UW-Madison is an exciting place to learn and conduct research! The city of Madison ranks as one of the most attractive places in the U.S. to live and work.

For information about the campus and city, please see link.

Lake Mendota and Picnic Point on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus are pictured in a sunset aerial view during autumn on Oct. 13, 2016. The photograph was made from a helicopter looking west. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

UW-Madison is an Equal Employment, Equal Access Employer committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce. We promote excellence through diversity and encourage all qualified individuals to apply.

Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background-people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.

For more information on diversity and inclusion on campus, please visit: diversity.wisc.edu

If you need to request an accommodation because of a disability, you can find information about how to make a request at the following website:https://employeedisabilities.wisc.edu/disability-accommodation-information-for-applicants/

COVID-19 considerations

UW-Madison continues to follow necessary health and safety protocols to protect our campus from COVID-19. All employees remain subject to the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-5086.

Please visit https://covidresponse.wisc.edu/ for the most up-to-date information.