Zahid Hussain passes his viva!

Zahid Hussain

Congratulations to PGR Zahid Hussain, who has passed his viva. His thesis was titled ‘Metal-organic Framework (MOFs) Derived Nanocomposites: Synthesis and Applications in Photocatalysis’. During his time with the CDT, Zahid published 11 papers, plus an English-to-Urdu translation of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Zahid now works as a postdoctoral researcher at Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Zahid reflects on his experience of undertaking a PhD as part of the CDT:

I believe that life is a journey from nowhere to nowhere. The pleasure of living is in the process itself, and destinations only milestones leading us to the next journey. On this path, we meet all kinds of people. While some settle down on the way, others continue to live nomadic academic lives. As a foreign student, I identify myself with migratory birds, who leave behind many relationships, friendships, cultural and sensory experiences of material and non-material things, seeking better learning and living conditions. In the quest for knowledge and professional opportunities, the continuous struggle to assimilate into a new environment provides us with great learning opportunities, which broaden our mental horizons and deepen the understanding of life indeed.

The last 4 years of my life at the University of Exeter have been full of happenings, professionally and personally. I met some wonderful people, on-campus and off-campus. Many interactions turned into enduring friendships. First of all, I got a great sense of freedom in working with my PhD supervisors Dr Yongde Xia and Prof Yanqiu Zhu, which helped me to grow as an independent researcher. Also, my supportive colleagues and friendly environment of Functional Materials Laboratory (Lab 08) made the overall PhD experience very joyful and productive.

The doctoral training program (CDT) gave me the confidence to think independently and make my own research decisions. During this time, I developed some fruitful collaborations, especially with Dr Asif Tahir (Penryn campus), Prof. Roland Fischer (TU Munich), Prof. Freek Kapteijn (TU Delft, NL) and Prof. Ovidiu Ersen (University of Strasbourg, France). The work I did in these collaborations, greatly contributed to shaping my PhD project.

Along with the PhD, the last 4 years have been the most important time of my life. I married my partner Anna-Maria and became a parent of our lovely daughter Selma as if a sailboat navigating without a compass saw the shore and anchored. Countless moments of joy, peace and contentment, as well as many sleepless nights of childcare, frustrating days, lockdown months of Covid-19 and moving back and forth from Exeter to Munich, all made this time substantial.

We wish Zahid the best of luck with his future.

Zahid has co-authored the following publications:





Selected outreach activities

Zahid has translated a book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli from English to Urdu. It has recently published by the Mashal Books, LahorePakistan.

Zahid has presented at the following conferences:

  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Xia; Presentation: Bi-MOF derived nanocomposites_applications in photocatalysis, GWPore: Conference on Porous Materials for Energy, Environment and Healthcare Applications, U.K. February 2021. (2nd best presentation award) 
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: Making heterostructures with water: Role of temperature and water steam in MOF derived TiO2/CuOx/Cu/C nanocomposites, Euromof-20193rd International Conference on MOFs and Porous Polymers, Paris, France. October 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Presentation: MOF derived photocatalysts for high efficient solar-light-driven H2 evolution. MCEC 2019, Conference on Materials for Clean Energy, NPL, London, U.K.  April 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Presentation: MOF derived bimetal oxide/carbon composites: Synthesis and photocatalytic applications, 6th International Conference on Multifunctional, Hybrid and Nanomaterials, Sitges, Spain, March 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF derived TiO2/C nanocomposites for photocatalysis, ICS Winter School on Catalysis, Innovative Catalysis and Sustainability Scientific and Socio-Economic Aspects, Turin, Italy. January 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF derivatives for visible-light-driven photocatalytic applications, 41st Annual Meeting of the British Zeolite Association (BZA), Cumbria, Ambleside, U.K. July 2018.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: Black porous ZnO@C nanocomposites derived from MOF-5 for highly efficient photocatalytic application, RAMS-Recent Appointees in Materials Science, University of Exeter, U.K. September 2017.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF-5 derived ZnO/C nanocomposites for adsorption and photodegradation of organic pollutants, NIM Conference on Nanostructured Functional Materials for Sustainable Energy Provision, Munich, Germany. July 2017.

New Publication: An in situ investigation of the thermal decomposition of metal-organic framework NH2-MIL-125 (Ti)

Zahid Hussain

Congratulations to Zahid Hussain for his new paper, ‘An in situ investigation of the thermal decomposition of metal-organic framework NH2-MIL-125 (Ti)’ , recently published in Microporous and Mesoporous Materials.

Zahid explains the paper’s findings:

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are exceptionally porous and highly crystalline coordination polymers. Since the late 1990s, MOFs have been intensively investigated for a large variety of applications such as gas separation and storage, energy storage and conversion, batteries, fuel cells, optoelectronics, sensing, supercapacitors, drug delivery and catalysis. However, many key questions need to be answered to optimize the synthesis of these materials for industrial-scale applications. In this study, we present an in-situ investigation of thermal conversion of a titanium-based MOF, NH2-MIL-125(Ti) under an inert atmosphere. In situ thermal analysis of NH2-MIL-125(Ti) reveals the presence of 3 defined stages of thermal transformation in the following order: phase-pure, highly porous, and crystalline MOF → intermediate amorphous phase without accessible porosity → recrystallized porous phase. The three stages occur from room temperature till 300 °C, between 350 and 550 °C and above ∼550 °C respectively. The derived disc-like particles exhibit a 35% volume shrinkage compared to the pristine MOF precursor. Highly crystalline N and/or C self-doped TiO2 nanoparticles are homogeneously distributed in the porous carbon matrix. The original 3D tetragonal disc-like morphology of the NH2-MIL-125(Ti) remains preserved in derived N and/or C doped TiO2/C composites. This study will provide an in-depth understanding of the thermal conversion behaviour of MOFs to rationally select and design the derived composites for the relevant applications.

The crystalline structure of Ti-MOF, NH2-MIL-125(Ti) and mechanism of its thermal decomposition.



We would also like to congratulate Zahid on passing his viva, and wish him the best of luck for his future career.

New Publication: Bimetal-organic framework derived multi-heterostructured TiO2/CuxO/C nanocomposites with superior photocatalytic H2 generation performance

Congratulations to final year PGR Zahid Hussain for his new publication ‘Bimetal-organic framework derived multi-heterostructured TiO2/CuxO/C nanocomposites with superior photocatalytic H2 generation performance’, which was recently published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A (JMCA).

In this work, In-situ formation of p-n heterojunctions between TiO2 and CuxO in heteroatoms-doped carbon nanocomposites and their applications in photocatalytic H2 evolution were demonstrated. One-step pyrolysis of bimetal-organic-frameworks NH2-MIL-125(Ti/Cu) in water steam at 700 ºC forms phasejunction between nitrogen/carbon co-doped anatase and rutile TiO2, accompanied by the formation of CuxO heterostructures. Moreover, p-n heterojunction is also formed between TiO2/CuxO nanoparticles. These multi-heterostructures are embedded in N-containing and hydrophilic carboxyl functionalised carbon. The optimised TiO2/CuxO/C composites absorb more visible light and offer multiple pathways for photoinduced electrons and holes migration. Also, these nanocomposites provide increased active sites for photocatalytic reactions. Without loading expensive noble metals, TiO2/CuxO/C nanocomposites exhibited superior photocatalytic H2 generation activity of 3298 µmol gcat-1 h-1 under UV-Visible light, 40 times higher than commercial TiO2. This work offers a simple approach to fabricate novel photocatalytic nanocomposites for efficient H2 generation.

Zahid’s previous publications include a translation of Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” into Urdu and ‘Surface functionalized N-C-TiO2/C nanocomposites derived from metal-organic framework in water vapour for enhanced photocatalytic H2 generation’ , of which he was lead author, published in Journal of Energy Chemistry.

New Publication: Zahid Hussain translates “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” into Urdu

Final year PGR Zahid Hussain in partnership with Fasi Malik, University of California has translated Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” into Urdu. Their translation has just been published by Mashal Books, Lahore. Below, Zahid discusses his motivations and the importance of the book:

I am pleased to announce that our translation of Carlo Rovelli’s book “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” into Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) has been published by Mashal Books, Lahore. This work is a part of my outreach activities under CDT Metamaterials XM2 to promote science to inspire young students and also, the general public. The reason for translating this interesting book into Urdu is to introducing new scientific developments and concepts of physics in a simple and easy-to-understand language. Secondly, I find it very useful to promote such work to those curious readers who cannot access them in English. A short description of the book is given below:

The book provides a very brief overview of the most fascinating aspects of the great intellectual revolution that has occurred in physics in the twentieth century. In a very simple language, Carlo Rovelli explains to us that the image of the world our ancestors carried with them in prehistoric times, was challenged by the Greek philosophers. Later on, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton’s scientific contributions caused a paradigm shift in our perception of the reality. Afterwards, in the wake of the 20th century, the birth of Quantum mechanics and Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity provided us with a new understanding of the physical world we live in. Now, we know that either it’s a world of very small objects (at the atomic scale) or the world of bigger objects which we can see with our eyes, the reality is quantized. Everything, known in this material universe and even all the fundamental forces of nature interact with matter through the particles. The most fascinating aspect of this simple book is that it leaves the reader with this conclusion that science shows us how to better understand the world and also reveals to us that just how vast is the extent of what is still not known.

Zahid began his translation in 2018, with three chapters published online, so this is the culmination of years of dedication. Congratulations to Zahid for this great achievement.

New Publication: ‘Surface functionalized N-C-TiO2/C nanocomposites derived from metal-organic framework in water vapour for enhanced photocatalytic H2 generation’

Congratulations to PGR Zahid Hussain, who is lead author of the paper  ‘Surface functionalized N-C-TiO2/C nanocomposites derived from metal-organic framework in water vapour for enhanced photocatalytic H2 generation’, published in the Journal of Energy Chemistry.

Zahid’s previous publications include ‘MOF Derived Porous ZnO/C Nanocomposites for Efficient Dye Photodegradation’
published in ACS Applied Energy Materials, and ‘Structural, optical, electronic and magnetic properties of multiphase ZnO/Zn(OH)2/ZnO2 nanocomposites and hexagonal prism shaped ZnO nanoparticles synthesized by pulse laser ablation in Heptanes’  published in Elsevier Materials Chemistry and Physics.


In this work, we have successfully demonstrated that nitrogen/carbon co-doped (anatase and rutile) TiO2 phase junction nanoparticles, homogeneously distributed in N and carboxyl group functionalized porous carbon matrix can be synthesized via simple one-step pyrolysis of titanium-based metal-organic framework (Ti-MOFs), NH2-MIL-125(Ti). Introducing water vapour at high temperature during the pyrolysis of NH2-MIL-125(Ti) results in the functionalization of the carbon matrix with carboxyl groups as well as the creation of additional localized oxygen-rich N like interstitial/intraband states above the valence band of polymorphic TiO2 nanoparticles that further narrowed the energy bandgap. The derived N-C-TiO2/C phase junction composites retain the disc-like tetragonal morphologies and textural properties inherited from the NH2-MIL-125(Ti) precursor. Without loading any noble metal co-catalyst such as Pt, Au, Pd, the sample N–C-TiO2/CArW exhibits very promising photocatalytic H2 generation from water splitting.