Student inspecting machinery


Graphene sensor platform for COVID 19 detection in checkpoints

Graphene sensor platform for COVID 19 detection in checkpoints
Project details How to apply 

In order to mitigate the spread of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, fast, accurate, sensitive and easy-to-use methods for testing a large number of individuals are paramount. The experimental work for this PhD project will be performed as a member of an interdisciplinary research team within Imperial’s Department of Materials Professor Norbert Klein, whose current research activities are concentrated on chip-based biosensors, which potentially can be fabricated in large quantities by wafer-scaled transfer of CVD-graphene on silicon wafers and wafer-scaled device fabrication by standard photolithography processes. Direct sensing of virus particles is realized through nanoparticle-enhanced graphene surfaces functionalized with specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and quantitative electrical detection based on the electric field effect in graphene. Our approach, which has been originally developed for the detection of exosomes [1], has already been successfully tested for the detection of COVID-19 spike proteins. It is expected that this technology will outperform standard PCR methods for COVID-19 detection [2].

The student will receive extensive training in device microfabrication techniques including photolithography and thin film deposition, but also techniques for biofunctionalization, advanced electrical characterization, atomic force microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy. A good understanding of materials-related topics in Physics and Chemistry is important, but we also accept applicants with Electrical or Chemical/Bioengineering background. The project is aiming to bring this technology forward to real-world applications, which may include pilot studies in medical points-of-care or airport passenger checkpoints.

The project is fully funded, but based on the nature of funding restricted to home student applicants. Due to exceptional circumstances, we accept any starting date from now to January 2021. For further information, you may contact the supervisor Prof Norbert Klein.

[1]  Kwong Hong Tsang, D et al., Scientific Reports 2019, 9, (1), 13946

[2] see our recent review article in “Biosensors and Bioelectronics”.

Supervisor: Prof Norbert Klein and Prof Deeph S Chana


Start date: January 2021
36 months 
Position available: 

A 3 year fully-funded PhD studentship in the Department of Materials at Imperial College London is open to UK students.

15th of December 2020

>> To apply, please, send your CV, transcripts and research proposal to Prof Norbert Klein, together with two references, before the deadline
PhD Project

Additive manufacturing of tough metamaterials

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering
Duration: 36 months
Supervisors: Dr Florian Bouville 
Deadline to apply: May 2021

Brittleness limits the design and lifetime of some polymeric, metallic, and almost all ceramic materials in both structural and functional engineering applications, from the design of plane engine turbine blades to the newest solid-state electrolyte in batteries. This brittleness is intrinsically present in material composition that cannot plastically deform and make them sensitive to any defect introduced during their fabrication or usage.

Metamaterial, by definition, uses architecturation to overcome intrinsic material limitation. Among all the possible architectures we could invent, a structure with interlocking elements is predicted to be the most capable of making tough samples from brittle composition. Interlocking mechanism is in theory extremely effective at diffusing damages because it allows elements to slide but at the same time creates local crack-blocking compressive stresses in response to macroscopic crack-opening tensile stresses. Now the real challenge is to develop processes capable of programming interlocking in the microstructure at the micron and nano scale independently of the composition.

The role of the PhD candidate will be to use digital light processing (DLP) additive manufacturing technique to fabricate metamaterials with rationally design microstructure to delay and slow-down crack propagation. This PhD position is part of a 5-years ERC Starting grant awarded to make small Scale interlocking mechanism for Strong and Tough mEtamatErials (SSTEEL) a reality.

The candidate will learn during this PhD light-based additive manufacturing technique, science of colloids, ceramic processing, sintering techniques, structural characterisations, and fracture mechanics along with strong transferrable skills in scientific methods, problem solving, and scientific results communications.

We are seeking applications from excellent, motivated and curious UK or EU candidates with a minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) first degree in Materials Science, Chemistry or Applied Physics for a three-year PhD studentship. The project will be based in the Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics ( and the Department of Materials at Imperial College London. This three-year studentship will provide full ‘home rate’ fees plus the standard maintenance stipend to UK and EU students (currently a tax free anual stipend of £17,285).

Applications will be processed as received. For questions or further details regarding the project, please contact Dr Florian Bouville,

For questions regarding the admissions process, please contact Dr Alba Matas Adams. Formal applications can be completed online: but only after informal enquiries, while information about the Department can be found at

Biomimetic control of ovarian follicle development: combining multi-scale soft biomaterials with biochemical interactions


Biomimetic control of ovarian follicle development: combining multi-scale soft biomaterials with biochemical interactions


  • Dr Iain Dunlop
  • Professor Kate Hardy
  • Professor Stephen Franks

This is a position through the CDT in Chemical Biology: Innovation in Life Sciences:


Ovarian bioengineering is emerging as a new interdisciplinary field. Recent advances show that eggs, and their encapsulating follicle structures, are directed in their development by their physical and biomechanical microenvironments, in addition to traditional ideas of hormonal control. New work by our labs reveals a complex multiscale biomechanical environment inside the ovary (

The student will apply these insights to create new in vitro culture systems, structured over micro- to nano-lengthscales, that mimic the ovary interior. These will combine soft biomaterials chemistry with microfluidic fabrication and biochemical approaches to cell-stimulation. This technology platform will be used to investigate the systems biology of the ovary, aiming for an integrated physical/biochemical understanding. This has implications for fertility, since dysregulation of follicle development is a major driver of female infertility, e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). The project will fit a student with a Chemistry, Materials, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering or Physics background and a strong interest in interdisciplinary research.


Designing printable alloys for additive manufacturing

Supervisor: Dr Minh Son Pham

Duration:36 months

Application deadline: 31st of March 2021

Additive manufacturing (AM) is expected to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. However, fabricating reliable and high performance metals by AM still remains one of the biggest challenges in AM of metallic alloys. Most of alloys made by AM have higher strength, but lower ductility compared to those made by other processes. One of main reasons is because existing alloys currently used in AM were initially designed for other processes (e.g., casting, rolling, etc), not for AM that induces microstructures so much different to those in other processes. Therefore, there is an increasing call to design new alloys that are tailored for AM to help unlocking the full potential of additive manufacturing. In this study, the student will assess the printability of existing Ti, Ni and Fe-based alloys by evaluating their thermodynamics properties, then use a machine learning software Scikit-learn to accelerate the search and discovery of new printable alloys. The student will subsequently validate the machine learning prediction by printing selected compositions and provide feedback to improve the learning capability.

Funding and Eligibility

A DTP PhD studentship for home students. The studentship includes fees and a stipend of £17,609 per annum for eligible UK home students for the duration of 3.5 years. Outstanding overseas students sponsored by other funding schemes are welcomed to apply. Applicants should have a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in the materials, mechanical engineering or a relevant subject at the equivalent of a UK First or Upper Second Class. We strongly encourage applications from under-represented groups. Applicants should have strong knowledge in one or more of: 3D printing, physical metallurgy, mechanical testing and programming skills in Python/Matlab. Good teamwork and communication skills are essential.

 How to apply:

The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available at:

For further details of the posts, please contact Dr Minh-Son (Son) Pham at, phone: +44 20 7594 9529.  Applicants should send a CV and covering letter and will be required to complete an electronic application form. It is expected that the studentship will begin by 1 October 2021.



Supervisor: Dr. Minh-Son Pham

Electrocatalysis of green ammonia synthesis

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering
Campus: White City (with some work in South Kensington)
Duration: 42 Months, starting in October 2021
Start date: October 2021
Supervisor: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials)
Co-supervisors: Prof. Mary Ryan (Materials) and Prof. Magda Titirici (Chemical Engineering)
Applications: Open to all (UK, EU and overseas students)
Application deadline: 10 January 2021

Current ammonia synthesis, via the Haber Bosch process, produces >1% of global CO2 emissions, due to its reliance on methane derived H2. There is a burgeoning interest in electrochemical N2 reduction to NH3 at room temperature and under ambient pressures. Should it be powered by renewable energy, it would enable sustainable NH3 production, revolutionising the fertiliser industry. Should the process be efficient enough, it would even provide a means of producing a CO2-free energy-dense sustainable fuel.

Experiments, thus far, have only been able to produce trace amounts. Given that NH3 is ubiquitous in most laboratory environments, it is highly challenging to distinguish spurious contamination from true N2 reduction. To this end, Dr Ifan Stephens, and colleagues developed a protocol to verify N2 reduction is possible, using isotopic labelling (Andersen, S.Z. … Stephens, I.E.L et al, Nature 2020). Using the protocol, they provided the first quantitative proof that N2 electroreduction is possible under ambient conditions, using non-aqueous electrolytes. Even so, the electricity-to-ammonia efficiency is only ~3%: there is ample room for improvement.

The aim of this project is to elucidate the role of the catalyst material (i.e. the electrocatalyst) and electrolyte and develop new systems that enable efficient nitrogen reduction.  It will involve (a) catalyst synthesis and characterisation (b) testing H2 evolution and N2 reduction (c) measuring the products using a novel on-chip electrochemical mass spectrometry method. The project will draw inspiration from battery science and enzymatic nitrogen fixation.

The studentship can funded by a Doctoral Training Partnership from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It constitutes part of a wider project, “NitroScission” funded by the European Research Council. You will interact with a diverse and dynamic group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. We encourage informal enquiries to be made to Dr. Ifan Stephens. Further information on the area of research can be found at Dr Ifan Stephen's webpage. Applicants should have a Master’s degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry.  We encourage applications from under-represented groups.

The project will last for 3.5 years. This is open to UK students and it will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annum. This amount will increase every year with inflation. International students from outside the UK are also invited to apply,  and if appointed, it will cover full tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annum.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV, transcripts, a cover letter and the information of two referees through the College application portal. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available on our Postgraduate Study pages. Please contact Alba Maria Matas Adams for further information on how to apply and Dr Ifan Stephens for more information about the project. Information about the Department can be found on our Departmental homepage

Probing proton transport in solid oxide energy conversion and storage systems

Supervisors: Professor Stephen Skinner
Duration: 36 months
Funding:  The position will cover home fees only. 
Closing date: 15/02/2021
Deadline for applications: 31/03/2021

You will join the Spectroscopy and Scientific Computing teams at the ILL and work with co-supervisors at Imperial College London and Ceres Power Ltd.

The aim of the PhD project is to develop our understanding of the ion dynamics within materials used in electrochemical devices including electrolysers and fuel cells, in which ions diffuse through oxide ceramics. Using a quasi-elastic neutron scattering (QENS) technique combined with isotopic labelling we will investigate the mobility of protons through a crystallographic lattice, in fluorite type materials. Having demonstrated the ability of the technique in these well-developed phases, we will move on to explore novel new proton conducting oxides such as the recently discovered hexagonal perovskites. 

As QENS probes the local hopping in the materials we will complement these measurements with total scattering studies that will allow local structure to be correlated with ion dynamics. Each of these materials will be made under a wide range of conditions of pO2 and temperature that will provide inputs into the mechanistic understanding of commercial electrochemical devices. Interpretation of these data will be aided by the use of ab initio computational methods.

The successful candidate will be enrolled as a PhD student of Imperial College London and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 3-month secondment at Ceres Power Ltd (United Kingdom). Additional visits totalling no more than 3 months may be made to Imperial College London when needed. Furthermore, a varied pedagogical training programme will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project.

View the job description and apply.

Robocasting entropy stabilised ultra-high temperature ceramic composites for hypersonic applications

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering
Duration: 48 months. 
Eligibility: UK students only
Supervisor: Professor Luc Vandeperre

Hypersonic flight (>Mach 4) requires materials that can withstand high temperatures (>2000 °C) in harsh, oxidative, environments for a range of components. The list of materials that can withstand such temperatures is extremely short and therefore there has been intensive research in using ultra-high temperature ceramics, a class of ceramics with melting points above 3000 °C. Good progress has been made, but due to their relatively high coefficient of thermal expansion and high values for Young modulus, their thermal shock resistance remains a worry. The proposed study, in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, will therefore investigate the production of composites with an ultra-high temperature ceramic as a matrix in order to improve the thermal shock resistance of these materials. A second concept to be investigated is the design of the thermal conductivity of these materials by a graded matrix composition so that the heat flow can be directed away from the tips and sharp edges being heated by the aerodynamic shock while minimising the heat flow to the fuselage of the airplane. The PhD student will both produce the materials and as well as characterising their thermo-mechanical properties from room temperature to elevated temperatures. While experience with ceramic processing is a plus, the student can be trained and will be embedded in the Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics at the Department of Materials ( The student will also receive training at Dstl ( for a period of approximately 15 weeks, spread over the PhD.

Applicants should have an interest in processing and materials characterisation and should possess good analytical and practical skills. An aptitude for experimental research work is desirable. Applications are invited from candidates with a good upper-second or first-class honours degree in Materials or related Engineering areas.

The rules on who is eligible are strict and cannot be changed. Only UK nationals, who fulfil the requirements for UKRI studentships, are eligible. The studentship is for four years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend at the UKRI level (£17285 in 2020/2021)+ a £1500 top up per year.

Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College application process ( ). Informal enquiries and requests for additional information for this post can be made to: Prof Vandeperre via e-mail:

Should you have any queries regarding the application process please contact:
Alba Matas Adams by e-mail:

Committed to equality and valuing diversity. The Department of Materials has an Athena Silver SWAN Award, Imperial is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Tick Employer.


Using atomic-scale analysis to advance understanding of the solid-electrolyte interface in batteries

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering
Campus: South Kensington
Duration: 42 Months, starting as soon as possible
Supervisor: Dr Baptiste Gault (Materials)
Co-supervisors: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials) and Dr Katharina Marquardt (Materials)
Applications: Open to UK/EU students.
Deadline: 10 January 2021

Despite over 40 years of development, there are numerous open questions regarding the evolution of the microstructure of lithium-ion batteries over the course of their life in service, particularly pertaining to the solid-electrolyte interface (SEI). Wang et al. (Nature chemistry, 2019, 11, 789) reminded the community that the SEI is “the most important but least understood (component) in rechargeable Li-ion batteries”. This lack of detailed understanding of the SEI hinders efficient new developments to enhance durability, safety and more powerful Li-ion batteries. The arrival of a new cryo-enabled, world-unique suite of instruments at Imperial College London, offers a new opportunity to investigate the formation of the SEI from the electrolyte decomposition, and its evolution during operation, in particular understanding mechanical failures during the charge/discharge cycles. Samples from various parts of the SEI will be investigated by a combination of cryo-focused-ion beam, cryo-electron microscopy and atom robe tomography in order to obtain the structure and composition of the SEI to the battery behaviour, we hope to pave the way for designing better batteries.

This will be one of the first projects using a brand new facility bridging atom probe tomography, cryo-focused-ion beam milling and cryo-transmission electron microscopy, all dedicated to the physical sciences. The project will be under to co-supervision of Dr Ifan Stephens whose expertise lies in the interplay of the microstructure and the performance of energy materials; Dr Katharina Marquardt with expertise in the application of advanced TEM-techniques to characterise complex microstructures, in particular oxides and use electron spectroscopy for investigating the local composition; and Dr Baptiste Gault, world-expert in atom probe tomography. The newly appointed Dr Conroy has world-unique expertise in the use of cryo-TEM for battery materials will also provide support on the transmission-electron microscopy side.

The project will last for 3.5 years. This is open to UK and EU students and it will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annum. This amount will increase every year with inflation.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV, transcripts, a cover letter and the information of two referees through the College application portal. The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available on our Postgraduate Study pages. Please contact Alba Maria Matas Adams for further information on how to apply and Dr Baptiste Gault for more information about the project. Information about the Department can be found on our Departmental homepage