Our PhD opportunities are listed below.

PDRA posts will be recruited at various intervals over the next 5 years, at both Diamond and Imperial College, our next recruitment round will be in the summer of 2022. 

PhD Opportunities

Understanding Materials Interfaces in Systems for the Energy Transition

PhD Positions Available - Understanding Materials Interfaces in Systems for the Energy Transition

We welcome applications from candidates for October 2022 entry to join the multidisciplinary project InFUSE whose aim is to study key material and fluid interfaces across a range of application areas with direct impact on the energy transition. Examples of such systems include: geomaterials (for CO2 and H2 storage), energy materials (catalysis, batteries, materials for hydrogen); next generation lubricants and fluids (e-fluids). Our aim is to create a step-change in the correlative characterisation of interfaces embedded in these systems under realistic environments. Both experimental and numerical projects are available – making use of laboratory- and synchrotron-based experimentation as well as multi-physics and multi-scale modelling strategies. The projects will be based at Imperial College with significant interaction with the project partners Diamond Light Source and Shell.

Applications are invited for seven Ph.D. studentships in the Departments of Chemical Engineering (CE), Earth Science and Engineering (ESE), Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Materials (MT). The following seven research topics are proposed:

  1. Chemical Transport and Adsorption in Hierarchical Porous Solids (CE)
  2. Minimal surfaces in porous materials: wettability design for optimal flow performance (ESE)
  3. Mineralisation Processes for CO2 Storage (ESE)
  4. Monitoring thermal conductance of solid-liquid interface in engineering fluids (ME)
  5. Molecular understanding of near-surface thermal gradients in cooling fluids to improve battery lifetime and thermal management (ME)
  6. Understanding the type, distribution and mechanical properties of interfaces in geological systems (MT)
  7. Correlative operando and cryo-techniques for visualising structure and chemistry in nanoscale systems (MT)

To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting in October 2022 and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609. Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours or a high 2:1 degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in any relevant engineering or science subject. Successful candidates will be expected to submit publications to refereed journals and to present their findings at major international conferences and to the sponsors.  Funding is through the project InFUSE (Interface with the future: underpinning science to support the energy transition), funded by the EPSRC and Shell.

Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College application procedure.  Please apply to the Department associated with the chosen project.

To apply, please visit our 'How to Apply' webpage.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to Bhavna Patel.

Start Date: October 2022

We are an Athena SWAN Silver Award holders and Stonewall Diversity Champions. Imperial College London is a Two Ticks Employer and is working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people. UCL holds a race equality bronze award. 

Chemical Transport and Adsorption in Hierarchical Porous Solids (CE)

Supervisors: Dr Ronny Pini, Prof Camille Petit, Department of Chemical Engineering; Prof Martin Blunt, Department of Earth Science and Engineering 

Home Department: Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus) 

Funding and Deadline: To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC1. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting in October 2022 and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609. Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours or a high 2:1 degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering, another branch of engineering or a related science. Funding is through the project InFUSE (Interface with the future: underpinning science to support the energy transition), funded by the EPSRC and Shell. 

Project summary: The rational design of porous solids that perform under reaction conditions remains a very attractive prospect in materials research. In gas separations applications, the continued search for novel formulations with improved separation factors aims at enabling transformative step changes beyond classic adsorbents. The processing of the adsorbent into its macroscopic technical form (e.g., pellets, monoliths) is a critical element in this endeavour and offers opportunities for radical innovations. These shaped adsorbent formulations feature spatial variations in chemical composition and include multimodal porous structures made of interconnected pores with vastly different sizes. Elucidating the equilibrium and kinetic adsorption parameters of these systems remains therefore very difficult. One experimental challenge is in probing the concentrations of both gas and adsorbed species at the required spatial and temporal resolution, requiring approaches where complementary data are acquired (e.g., imaging with diffraction) concurrently. 

The project aims to develop and test an experimental workflow to characterise gas transport in microporous solids and correlate it to changes in the solid framework resulting from gas adsorption. Recent achievements in synchrotron-based experimentation provide unprecedented opportunities in this area – enabling the quasi-simultaneous acquisition of x-ray tomograms (for imaging) and diffraction patterns on the microscale within the same sample at the same location. The Diamond Light Source – the UKs national synchrotron facility – is a key partner in the project and will support the design of novel environments to study samples under operando conditions. We will consider both classic and novel adsorbent formulations. The obtained imagery will be used alongside numerical tools to link pore-scale observations to the continuum scale. The ability to monitor the functioning of technical porous solids by means of operando synchrotron experiments will enable creating a direct link between material structure and performance, disclosing new opportunities for the rational design of the materials themselves. The core application considered here is gas separations, but these developments will apply to other processes utilising hierarchical porous solids, such reactive transport in rocks or battery electrodes. 

Informal enquiries about the post and the application process can be made to Dr Ronny Pini by including a motivation letter and CV.

Check if you are eligible for student funding from the UKRI.

Minimal surfaces in porous materials: wettability design for optimal flow performance (ESE)

Supervisors: Prof Martin Blunt; Dr Branko Bijeljic, Department of Earth Science and Engineering; Prof Jerry Heng, Department of Chemical Engineering. 

Home Department: Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus) 

Funding and Deadline: To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC1. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting in October 2022 and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609. Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours or a high 2:1 degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in any relevant engineering or science subject. Funding is through the project InFUSE (Interface with the future: underpinning science to support the energy transition), funded by the EPSRC and Shell. 

Project summary: Minimal surfaces with zero total curvature are found naturally in emulsions, soap films and holly leaves; they have been a subject of mathematical and scientific fascination for centuries. Topologically, phases on either side of the surface are well-connected. Porous media whose internal surface is a minimal surface ensure good connectivity of both the pore space and the solid skeleton and have been used to manufacture artificial bone (the solid is strong, while the pore space allows blood vessels to grow and perfuse the structure) and catalysis. 

Recent research has Imperial has discovered that minimal surfaces exist between two fluid phases within mixed-wet porous rocks. This was associated with efficient fluid displacement and recovery. We have also seen minimal surfaces between gas and water in fibrous gas diffusion layers (used in fuel cells) with a mix of hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces, which again explains their favourable performance. 

In this PhD project, you will explore the conditions under which minimal surfaces form in multiphase flow, apply this to a variety of natural and manufactured systems, including rocks, soils and fibrous materials, and, finally, propose a design of the structure and wetting properties of the solid (controlled by surface chemistry) to optimize multiphase flow for a range of applications, from agriculture to electrochemical devices. There is the opportunity to transform the design and performance of a wide range of devices, including fuel cells, electrolysers and catalysis, as well as provide insight into efficient fertiliser dispersal in agriculture. 

You will apply lab-based and synchrotron multi-scale X-ray imaging to determine pore structure and multiphase fluid configurations, including accurate measurements of interfacial curvature. This will be complemented by sub-micron imaging at a synchrotron to explore surface properties and wettability. You will study both fluid configurations using time-resolved imaging and chemical changes in designed materials where a mixed-wet state is controlled through wettability changes on displacement. This will be complemented by direct finite element simulation of multiphase flow at the micron to mm scale. You will work in a large active research group working on various aspects of flow in porous media. You will be expected to publish your work in the open literature. 

Informal enquiries about the post and the application process can be made to Prof. Martin Blunt by including a motivation letter and CV. For further information on the research group with recent papers and presentations visit the Earth Science and Engineering website.

Check if you are eligible for student funding from the UKRI.

Mineralisation Processes for CO2 Storage (ESE)

Supervisors: Dr Sam Krevor; Professor Martin Trusler, Department of Chemical Engineering; Professor Mary Ryan, Department of Materials; Steffen Berg, Shell; Sharif Ahmed, Diamond Light Source

Home Department: Department of Earth Science and Engineering

Funding and Deadline: To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609. Funding is through the project InFUSE, funded by the EPSRC and Shell.

Please contact Dr Sam Krevor or any of the above-listed supervisors if you are interested in applying for the position.

Application submissions must be made through Imperial College website. Applications received before January 31st 2022 will receive the highest priority for consideration.

Project Description: The importance of carbon capture and storage in the mitigation of climate changes arises from the potential capacity for the injection of large volumes of COinto suitable subsurface geologic formations, or the fixation of COinto solid mineral carbonates. Fluid-rock interactions involving the dissolution or precipitation of solid minerals are central to the flow and trapping of CO2. The reaction of COwith mafic and ultramafic rock formations can lead to permanent sequestration in the form of carbonate minerals. Understanding of these processes has been limited, however, by difficulties in observing reaction progress in situ of the complex pore-structure of rocks in which they occur.

New laboratory experimental and X-ray imaging “Digital Rock” capabilities now permit the imaging of mineralogical and chemical properties of rock-fluid systems while undergoing reaction. The capabilities of the DIAD beamline at the Diamond Light Source Synchrotron open up new opportunities in the combined observation of reaction processes at high time resolution, their impact on pore morphology, the feedback into the hydrological properties of porous rocks, and ultimately, their role in controlling systems central to COstorage. In this project the researcher will make use of these tools, combined with advanced image analysis techniques, to further our understanding of COmineralisation processes.

We welcome applications from candidates for October 2022 entry to join the multidisciplinary project InFUSE whose aim is to study key material and fluid interfaces across a range of application areas with direct impact on the energy transition. Examples of such systems include: geomaterials (for COand Hstorage), energy materials (catalysis, batteries, materials for hydrogen); next generation lubricants and fluids (e-fluids). Our aim is to create a step-change in the correlative characterisation of interfaces embedded in these systems under realistic environments

Ideally, you will hold, or be expected to achieve, a Master’s degree or a 4-year undergraduate degree at 2:1 level (or above) in a relevant subject, e.g. Material Science, Mechanical, or Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences or a related discipline. 

Relevant references:

Krevor, S., Blunt, M. J., Trusler, J. P. M., & Simone, S. D. S. (2019). An introduction to subsurface COstorage. Carbon capture and storage. (https://doi.org/10.1039/9781788012744-00238)

Lai, P., Moulton, K., & Krevor, S. (2015). Pore-scale heterogeneity in the mineral distribution and reactive surface area of porous rocks. Chemical Geology411, 260-273.

Snæbjörnsdóttir, S. Ó., Sigfússon, B., Marieni, C., Goldberg, D., Gislason, S. R., & Oelkers, E. H. (2020). Carbon dioxide storage through mineral carbonation. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment1(2), 90-102.

Monitoring thermal conductance of solid-liquid interface in engineering fluids (ME)

The details for this project will be added soon.

Molecular understanding of near-surface thermal gradients in cooling fluids to improve battery lifetime and thermal management (ME)

The details for this project will be added soon.

Understanding the type, distribution and mechanical properties of interfaces in geological systems (MT)

The details for this project will be added soon.

Correlative operando and cryo-techniques for visualising structure and chemistry in nanoscale systems (MT)

The details for this project will be added soon.