Our PhD opportunities are listed below. Please note to be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria: 

• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or 

• Have settled status, or 

• Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or 

• Have indefinite leave to remain or enter 

The above residency requirements will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK and Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement.

PDRA posts will be recruited at various intervals over the next 5 years, at both Diamond and Imperial College London, 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. 

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.

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

Supervisors: Prof Finn Giuliani; Dr Katharina Marquart, Department of Materials; Dr Sam Krevor, Department of Earth Science and Engineering 

Home Department: Department of Materials 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 Materials 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: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) provides a very promising solution to sequester current CO2 production and allow critical process that are difficult to decarbonise to continue running into the future. Understanding the suitability of different rock types for CCS requires a detailed knowledge of among other things their mechanical properties both before and after CO2 injection. The mechanical properties of brittle materials are governed by their ability to dissipate energy which is often controlled by the properties of their interfaces. For example, weak interfaces can promote crack deflection and crack bridging mechanisms giving increased performance. These mechanisms have been studied and optimised in many structural ceramic systems however, in geological materials less work has been carried out. 

In this project we propose to both measure the distribution of interfaces and interface categories within different rock types and measure the mechanical the properties of individual key interfaces. In this project you will develop skills in micromechanics, high resolution electron microscopy included EBSD and synchrotron techniques at the Diamond Light Source, the UKs national synchrotron facility. This is a key partner in the project and will support the design of novel environments to study samples under operando conditions. This would give unique insight into the microstructure of candidate rock types. This could then potentially be extended to include samples that have been exposed to supercritical CO2. This could be particularly important in basalt rocks with their ability to mineralize CO2. This allows to cracks to fill with newly formed carbonates and silicates on relatively short timescales (~1-2 years). Yet the whole process of reaction driven cracking is not well understood. This is either regarded as beneficial for safety, by preventing leakage, or as detrimental as mineralization may seal fluid paths and thus reduce permeability. It should also be noted that these research techniques are quite general and a secondary program could be applied to completely different brittle material systems, such as the build-up of damage in battery materials leading to performance degradation. 

Informal enquiries about the post and the application process can be made to Prof Finn Giuliani by including a motivation letter and CV.