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Peter Bruce

Professor Peter G Bruce FRS
Wolfson Chair

Department of Materials
University of Oxford
Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3PH

Tel: +44 1865 612760 (Room 271.10.09)
Tel: +44 1865 273777 (reception)
Fax: +44 1865 273789 (general fax)

Research Group website

Summary of Interests

My primary research interests are in the fields of solid state chemistry and electrochemistry; particularly solid state ionics, which embraces ionically conducting solids and intercalation compounds. I am interested in the fundamental science of ionically conducting solids (ceramic and polymeric materials) and intercalation compounds, in the synthesis of new materials with new properties or combinations of properties, in understanding these properties and in exploring their applications in new devices, especially energy storage devices such as rechargeable lithium batteries. Although ionically conducting solids represent the starting point for much of our research, we have extended our interests well beyond the confines of this subject alone.

Projects Available

Three projects on the materials chemistry and electrochemistry of lithium-air, lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries, and Li-ion solid electrolytes
Prof Peter G Bruce (Wolfson Chair in Materials, Departments of Materials and Chemistry)

1. The materials chemistry and electrochemistry of the lithium-air battery
Energy storage represents one of the major scientific challenges of our time. Pioneering work in Oxford in the 1980s led to the introduction of the lithium-ion battery and the subsequent portable electronics revolution (ipad, mobile phone). Storing electrons is key to a step change in electric vehicles and the storage of electricity from renewable sources.

Theoretically the Li-air battery can store more energy than any other device, as such it could revolutionise energy storage. The challenge is to understand the materials chemistry and electrochemistry of the Li-air battery and by advancing the science unlock the door leading to a practical device. The Li-air battery consists of a lithium metal negative electrode and a porous positive electrode, separated by an organic electrolyte. On discharge, at the positive electrode, O2 is reduced to O22- forming solid Li2O2, which is oxidised on subsequent charging. The project will involve understanding the electrochemistry of O2 reduction in Li+ containing organic electrolytes to form Li2O2 and its reversal on charging. While O2 reduction in aqueous media has been studied exhaustively for many decades, much less is known about the process in aprotic solvents.

The project will use a range of electrochemical, spectroscopic (Raman, FTIR, XPS, in situ mass spec.) and microscopic (AFM, TEM) methods to determine the mechanism of O2 reduction (presence and nature of intermediates e.g. superoxide,) and its kinetics. Our aim is not to build devices but to understand the underlying science. We seek highly qualified, ambitious, imaginative, hard-working and self-motivated candidates. Further details may be obtained by contacting simultaneously Dr Lee Johnson and me at: Lee and

2. Polymer and ceramic Li-ion conducting electrolytes - the challenges
Replacing the flammable liquid electrolytes, used in current Li-ion batteries, with solid polymers or ceramics would transform safety and make the all-solid-state Li-ion battery a reality. There is worldwide interest in this topic. The project can focus on either polymer or ceramic Li-ion conducting solid electrolytes depending on the interests of the student. The work will involve the discovery, synthesis and understanding of solid polymer or ceramic electrolytes, but will also include the investigation of the interfaces between these electrolytes and typical solid anodes and cathodes used in Li-ion batteries. The interfaces are as significant a problem as is finding new electrolytes with high conductivity. A range of techniques to synthesise and characterise the solid electrolytes, including X-ray and neutron diffraction, electron microscopy, NMR, Raman and IR spectroscopy, X-ray tomography, as well as several electrochemical techniques will be employed. We seek highly qualified, ambitious, imaginative, hard-working and self-motivated candidates. Further details may be obtained by contacting

3. The materials chemistry and electrochemistry of lithium and sodium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries have revolutiosnised portable electronics and are now used in electric vehicles. However new generations are required for future applications in transport and storing electricity from renewable sources (wind, wave, solar). Such advances are vital to mitigating climate change. Sodium is more abundant than lithium and so attractive especially for applications on the electricity grid. Lithium and sodium ion batteries both consist of intercalation compounds as the negative and positive electrodes. The charge and discharge involves shuttling Li+ or Na+ ions between the two intercalation hosts (electrodes) across the electrolyte. In the case of Li-ion batteries currently the most common technology is still graphite (anode) and LiCoO2 (cathode). However, the development of increased energy storage in Li ion systems drives research to discover new materials. In the case of Na-ion batteries whilst the principles are analogous to that of the Li-ion battery, as yet there are no preferred candidates as electrodes, which provides excellent motivation for further work.

The project will involve synthesising and characterising a number of Na/Li containing transition metal oxides. This will utilise synthesis methods such as sol-gel, hydrothermal and solid state, characterisation will involve X-ray and Neutron diffraction, solid state NMR, XPS, FTIR, TEM and SEM. Additionally it is important to understand the processes at the interfaces between the intercalation oxides and the organic electrolyte. For such the interfacial studies FTIR, Raman, in situ mass spec and XPS will be the main techniques. We seek highly qualified, ambitious, imaginative, hard-working and self-motivated candidates. Further details may be obtained by contacting simultaneously Dr Matthew Roberts and me at, and


Also see homepages: Peter Bruce

Operando Tomographic Characterisation of Electrochemical Energy Storage Devices
Peter Bruce, James Marrow

Electrochemical energy storage devices such as lithium ion batteries have recently facilitated a revolution in mobile electronics and communications technologies. In order to use batteries for electromobility and grid storage of renewable energy, more energy dense, safer and larger scale devices need to be developed.

During use of such electrochemical energy storage devices, the cyclic transport of ions can develop gradients of composition and stress, which may interact with each other and can create damage. This often leads to a decreased cycling efficiency, shortening the device’s lifetime. Relying solely on external analysis of the performance characteristics and post mortem destructive characterisation of the microstructure has its limitations. To add to these methods, you will design novel operando experiments (i.e. during operation) that will achieve three-dimensional observations of the microstructure within an energy storage device via both high resolution computed X-ray tomography and NMR imaging (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance). These two imaging modes provide complementary structural and chemical information with which the aim is to understand and improve present-day energy storage technology.  The project will also explore the potential to achieve a quantitative understanding of the internal strain and stress through in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction and digital volume correlation analysis of the three-dimensional images.  

This project is most suited to graduates with a physics, materials science or engineering background.

Also see homepages: Peter Bruce James Marrow

Also see a full listing of New projects available within the Department of Materials.