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. 

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)

Supervisor: Janet Wong 

Deadline for applying: until post filled 

Applications are invited for a research studentship in the field of solid-liquid interfaces leading to the award of a PhD degree. 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 UK students standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609. Please check your suitability on the EPSRC website.

This project is part of a multidisciplinary project InFUSE whose goal is to study key material and fluid interfaces across a range of application areas with direct impact on the energy transition. Our aim is to create a step-change in the correlative characterisation of interfaces embedded in these systems under realistic environments. 

Temperature (and the extraction of heat) plays a very important role in the performance of machines. For example, increased temperature may reduce the viscosity of lubricants, which impacts on friction or wear of machines. It may also lead to increased rate of undesirable reactions, such as corrosion and surface degradation. Overheating also reduces components lives. In the context of EV, increased temperature reduces battery efficiency and poses safety risk. All these applications point to the importance of characterising interfacial thermal conductance at a solid-liquid interface, which is extremely challenging. 

In this experimental project, the PhD researcher will characterise the thermoconductance of solid-liquid interfaces in engineering fluids, including lubricants, coolants, and refrigerants. Specifically, the effects of additives, coatings and surface modifications will be investigated. To do so, the researcher will design a setup based on thermoreflectance measurements. Complementary techniques such as QCM, AFM, IR will also be employed. The potential of using thermoreflectance for acquiring film formation kinetics will also be explored.

This project will be based at Imperial College with significant interaction with the project partners, Thin Film Technology Laboratory, Diamond Light Source and Shell. The PhD researcher also will be a part of the Tribology Group. It offers a vibrant, multidisciplinary and multicultural working environment. Laboratories were recently refurbished and are well equipped with an extensive range of instrumentation and extensive computer facilities. 

You will be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirements for enrolment for the PhD degree at Imperial College London. 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. Chemical or Mechanical Engineering, Materials, Chemistry, Physics or a related field. You will have an enquiring, rigorous and hands-on approach to research, together with a strong intellect and disciplined work habits. An interest in experimental work and development is essential, as are good team-working, observational and communication skills. 

To find out more about research at Imperial College London in this area, please visit the website of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

For information on how to apply, please visit our website. For further details about this post, please contact Dr Janet Wong. Interested applicants should send an up-to-date curriculum vitae. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at Imperial College London in order for their qualifications to be addressed by College Registry. 

Closing date: until post filled

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

Supervisors: Prof Daniele Dini; Prof Fernando Bresme, Department of Chemistry, Dr Billy Wu, Dyson School of Design Engineering 

Home Department: Department of Mechanical 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 Mechanical 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 

A trend in electric vehicles is to combine the coolant loop from the motor with that of the lubricant used in the transmission or gearbox. This simplifies the cooling system and reduces the number of fluids required. This saves weight, complexity, and cost. There is a strong need to create new dielectric coolants that have very low viscosity coupled with high thermal performance using improved chemistries to meet the new needs of the industry. These solutions must also evolve and consider the new discoveries made in the new energy materials space. 

Understanding from a molecular viewpoint how the molecular composition of e-fluids, their additives/aggregates and affinity to surfaces, as well as adsorbed films, affect heat transfer and cooling for electric and hybrid powertrains and, consequently, battery thermal management, is key to be able to provide new disruptive solutions in this area. So far, no method is available to study the intrinsic link between surface/cooling fluids chemistry at the molecular level, topography heterogeneities and phase changes linked to heat exchanged across the interface. In some configurations, flow/shear gradients and two-phase nucleation physics, play a very important role and needs to be captured in small scale models. 

This project aims to develop a rigorous methodology that considers the fundamental multiscale nature of the problem and uses molecular dynamics (MD) simulations at the atomic scale to determine the heat transport properties of the interface (also when couple to forced fluid flow in single- and two-phase cooling scenarios), which in turn will lead to a much-improved capability to predict the performance of e-fluids (e.g. GTL fluids and esters) in different immersive cooling configurations/temperatures for the next generation of batteries. The results of the MD simulations will provide the necessary description in terms of boundary conditions and will guide the development of accurate coupled continuum models describing heat transfer in individual and multiple cells. The project can be extended to understanding the role that the best candidate cooling fluids can play in terms of their performance as a lubricant. Many other applications across InFUSE can benefit from the development of the proposed modelling framework. 

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

To find out eligibility for student funding, please visit the UKRI website.

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.

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

Supervisors: Prof Mary Ryan; Dr Michele (Shelly) Conroy, Department of Materials 

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 

Critical materials for future technologies are often highly complex and notoriously difficult to characterise by applying a single technique. The activity of these materials is controlled by their composition and structures on multiple length-scales, from the atomic to the macro-scale. They commonly involve low atomic weight, mobile elements (e.g. hydrogen, carbon, lithium) that are the most challenging to quantitatively characterise in their state of interest. This is true for materials found in batteries or relevant to the hydrogen economy and catalysis for new fuels for instance, as well as liquids or liquid-solid interfaces critical for lubrication, CCS and catalysis. Enabling precise characterisation of structure and composition from the micron up to a scale close to individual atoms will lead to understanding the physical and chemical processes that control how these materials perform during service and what controls their behaviour and / or limits their lifetime. Cryo-microscopy has a critical role to play there too, but brings a number of challenges.

In this project we will explore the use of cryo approaches for energy-relevant reactive systems (initially proposing catalytic materials) – and develop protocols, tools and analytical methods using model systems, building capability to fully representative real-world materials. A first major challenge in studying light elements in materials is the migration and damage of species during both preparation and characterisation, which can be even more prevalent when trying to maintain specimens in an environment close to that faced during service. A second major challenge is the need to collect information not only on the structure of property enhancing features of interest but also their composition and chemical state, as well as their activity, e.g. via in situ techniques, and wherever possible from not only the same material sample but the very same specimen analysed by different techniques and correlating the results. A third major challenge is in establishing bridges and convergence between the data streams originating from different microscopy and microanalysis techniques, which will be critical to make the most of cryo-enabled multi-microscopy approaches. 

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

To find out eligibility for student funding, please visit the UKRI website.