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 large number of individuals are paramount. This PhD project will be part of a team in Imperial’s Department of Materials working on chip-based virus particle sensors, which can be fabricated in large quantities by wafer-scale transfer of CVD-graphene on silicon wafers and wafer-scale 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 has been successfully demonstrated for the detection of exosomes, and we can extrapolate from our results that sensitivities below 1 x 104 particle/mL can be achieved [1,2]. Graphene virus detectors have a high potential to overcome the drawbacks of real time PCR (slow laboratory tests, high false negatives) and of antigen/antibody lateral flow immunoassays (delay between infection and antibody expression, high dependence on individuals) by fast and direct virus detection through a compact battery-powered test kit for the purely electrical read-out of disposable chips (one chip per swab sample) with expected incubation time of a few minutes. Beyond medical point of care applications, these devices have the potential to be used in airport checkpoints and extended to other than COVID 19 viruses.

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

[2] Ramadan, S et al., “Carbon quantum dot (CQDs) enhanced graphene field effect transistors for ultrasensitive detection of exosomes”, to be published

Supervisor: Prof Norbert Klein and Prof Deeph S Chana


Start date: October 2020
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.

1st of September 2020

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

PhD in green electrochemical ammonia synthesis

Department/Faculty: Department of Materials, Faculty of Engineering
Campus: White City (with some work in South Kensington)
Duration: 42 Months, starting in January 2021

Supervisor: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials)
Co-supervisors: Prof Magda Titirici and Prof. Jason Hallett (Chemical Engineering)

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 electrolyte and develop new electrolyte formulations that enable efficient nitrogen reduction.  It will involve (a) testing H2 evolution and N2 reduction in new electrolytes (b) measuring the products using NMR and a novel on-chip electrochemical mass spectrometry method (c) infrared absorption spectroscopy to probe reactive intermediates. The project will draw inspiration from battery science and enzymatic nitrogen fixation.

The studentship 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 at Further information on the area of research can be found at Applicants should have a Master’s degree or (equivalent) with First Class or Upper Second Class in Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Chemistry.

The project will last 3.5 years. For EU/UK students, it will cover tuition fees plus the standard maintenance stipend of £17,285, per annuum. This amount will increase every year with inflation. International students from outside the EU or the UK would have to cover the difference in tuition fees.

Applicants should submit the electronic application form, submitting a CV, transcripts, a cover letter and the information of two referees through College application portal; . The prospectus, entry requirements and application form (under ‘how to apply’) are available at: 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 at

Closing date: 3 August 2020

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