PhD/CDT research projects
In the Department of Materials, we have a range of exciting PhD/CDT opportunities available in our different research groups. We have listed our available opportunities below.
Rational Design of Sodium Ion Batteries
Supervisors: Prof Mary Ryan and Prof Milo Shaffer (as part of a research team involving Prof Magda Titrici, Dr Ajit Panesar and Dr Ifan Stephens
Start date: As soon as possible
Duration: 3.5 years
Entry requirements: Applicants should have a keen engagement and solid background in materials processing and characterisation and a demonstrated interest in electrochemical energy storage. Experience of air-sensitive chemistry, electrochemical characterisation and advanced characterisation will be an advantage. Applications are invited from candidates with (or who expect to gain) a first-class honours degree or an equivalent degree in Chemistry, Materials, Engineering or a related discipline.
Funding: Funding is available for UK citizens and EU citizens who have resided in the UK for the past three years. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609.
Closing date for applications: Open until filled
PhD Industrial Studentship in “In situ Evaluation and Nanoscale Design of Battery Electrodes for Optimized Performance and Lifetime”
Project summary: Applications are invited for a Ph.D. studentship focused on nanoscale battery anode design within the Chemistry and Materials Departments at Imperial College London. Whilst the project will have a fundamental focus, it will contribute to the wider development of energy storage systems. As part of a collaboration with a major international industrial partner, the research will target the development of sodium ion battery systems for grid storage to support the implementation of renewable energies.
The project will focus on fabrication and detailed assessment of optimized architectures for electrodes in sodium ion batteries, based on numerical simulations carried out as part of the wider project. In particular, the PhD program will develop and implement advanced operando characterization tools, based on X-ray, Raman and electron microscopy. It will exploit state-of-the-art equipment available at Imperial, including a brand new suite of atomic resolution instruments specified for electrochemical device studies, and in situ cells available as part of a collaboration with the Diamond Light Source national Facility.
Queries: Informal enquiries and requests for additional information for this post: Professor Mary Ryan or Prof Milo Shaffer.
Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to John Murrell.
Committed to equality and valuing diversity. We are also an Athena Bronze SWAN Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Ticks Employer.
Creation and Characterisation of Spin Defects for Quantum Technology
Supervisors: Professor Neil Alford and Dr Daan Arroo
Start date: October 2022
Duration: 3.5 Years
Entry requirements: 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, Physics or a related discipline.
Funding: The studentship is for 3.5 years and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609.
Eligibility: Applicants must be ‘UK Residents' as defined by the EPSRC.
Spin defects such as the nitrogen vacancy centre (NVC) in diamond behave as isolated spins in a host crystal that have many useful properties for developing quantum technologies, including long coherence times and spin-dependent intersystem crossing and photoluminescence that allow their spin state to be optically controlled and read out. Their quantum state can further be controlled through microwave pulses, making spin defects a promising platform for applications such as quantum computers, masers, quantum memory and quantum sensing.In 2018, the Maser Research Group at Imperial used NVCs to demonstrate the first solid-state maser (the microwave analogue of a laser) capable of running continuously at room temperature (Breeze et al., Nature 555, 493-496 (2018)).
Applications are sought for a PhD student to join the group in a collaboration with the University of Manchester and the University of Leeds as part of the NAME EPSRC Programme Grant. Through this collaboration we have access to a state-of-the-art ion implantation system which will be used to introduce spin defects into diamonds and other materials (such as silicon carbide and hexagonal boron nitride) in a controlled fashion. The PhD project will involve working with this tool to create previously unstudied spin defects and characterising these defects using a purpose-built confocal microscope. The most promising spin-defect materials will then be exploited to develop new quantum technologies such as novel masers, spin-qubit quantum memories and nodes for a quantum network.
The project will ideally suit an applicant with an interest in quantum technology and a combination of strong experimental and computational skills.
Techniques and equipment used:
Optically-detected magnetic resonance (ODMR), electron paramagnetic resonance, optical microscopy and spectroscopy (photoluminescence, Raman, birefringence), microwave engineering.
Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College application procedure. Please apply to the Department of Materials.
Informal enquiries and requests for additional information for these posts can be made to Dr Daan Arroo
To apply, please go to the application portal.
Queries: Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to Dr Annalisa Neri.
Graphene sensor platform for COVID 19 detection in checkpoints
Supervisors: Prof Norbert Klein and Prof Deep Chana
Start date: October 2021
Funding: Fees and bursary for 3 years (tax-free bursary of 17609 in 2021/22)
Eligibility: Open UK students only
Project summary: 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.
 Kwong Hong Tsang, D et al., Scientific Reports 2019, 9, (1), 13946.
 Ramadan, S et al., “Carbon quantum dot (CQDs) enhanced graphene field effect transistors for ultrasensitive detection of exosomes”, to be published
On the synthesis of two-dimensional (2D) Janus materials for quantum technologies
Supervisors: Dr Cecilia Mattevi
Start date: TBC
Duration: 36 months
Funding: Tuition fees at the home rate plus a stipend of £17,609 per annum
Applications are invited for a Ph.D. studentship focused on the synthesis of two-dimensional (2D) Janus materials within the Materials Department at Imperial College London. The project has a fundamental focus, in developing new synthesis strategies to achieve “two faces” (Janus) materials which are an emerging class of materials for quantum technologies. This is part of a collaborative effort with KAUST.
Atomically thin transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are attracting enormous attention as promising materials for different applications ranging from flexible electronics to electrocatalysis, electrochemical actuators, energy storage devices, topological electronic devices and quantum technologies. The project will focus on the synthesis of not yet achieved 2D Janus TMDs via different methods, including colloidal synthesis and chemical vapour deposition. The materials properties will be characterized. The materials composition choice will be based on the first-principles and molecular dynamics simulation results obtained by the project partner based at KAUST.
Part of this PhD will be also the use and the development of advanced characterization tools, based on Raman, advanced electron microscopy and surface sensitive techniques (LEIS and SIMS) and the establishing of an in-operando characterization tool during the synthesis. State-of-the-art equipment available in Materials Dpt at Imperial will be utilized in this project. Applicants should have a keen engagement and solid background in materials chemistry and characterisation. Applications are invited from candidates with (or who expect to gain) a first-class honours degree or an equivalent degree in Chemistry, Materials, Physics, Engineering or a related discipline.
The studentship is for 3 years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609.
Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College application procedure.
PhD in enzyme inspired green ammonia synthesis on carbon materials
Supervisors: Dr Ifan Stephens (Materials), Prof. Magda Titirici (Chemical Engineering) and Prof. Sheetal Handa (bp)
Start date: October 2022
Funding: Tuition fees at the home rate plus a stipend of £17,609 per annum
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. Should the process be efficient enough, it could 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.
Conversely, in nature, the nitrogenase enzyme catalyses N2 reduction at a reasonable efficiency improvement (Westhead, O, …. Stephens, I.E.L. et al, Science 2021). It has an active site consisting of two adjacent Fe atoms at its centre. However, nitrogenase has a prohibitively large footprint, 1000 times greater than a metal atom. We aim to emulate the activity of nitrogenase on a solid electrode, taking advantage of the much higher density of active sites.
For the current studentship, we propose to synthesise, test and characterise nitrogenase-inspired metal-doped carbons as catalysts for N2 reduction. They will contain dimers of Fe, Re, Mo or W at the active site, coordinated to sulfur or nitrogen. 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 be funded by an industrial case studentship, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and bp through the bp International Centre for Advanced Materials (ICAM-online.org). You will interact with a diverse and dynamic group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers studying this reaction.
Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Ifan Stephens. Further information on the area of research can be found at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/i.stephens. 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.
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.
Please contact Dr Annalisa Neri, for further information on how to apply and Dr Ifan Stephens for more information about the project.
Closing date: 10 January 2022 or earlier if the position is filled.
Committed to equality and valuing diversity, we are also an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, a Disability Confident Employer and are working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people. The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. Click here for more information.
Robocasting entropy stabilised ultra-high temperature ceramic composites for hypersonic applications
Supervisors: Professor Luc Vandeperre
Start date: As soon as possible.
Duration: 4 years (48 months)
Entry requirements: Applications are invited from candidates with a good upper-second or first-class honours degree in Materials or related Engineering areas. 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.
Funding: 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.
Eligibility: UK students who fulfil the requirements for UKRI studentships.
Project summary: 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 in the Department of Materials. The student will also receive training at Dstl for a period of approximately 15 weeks, spread over the PhD.
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.
Understanding Materials Interfaces in Systems for the Energy Transition
Supervisors: Dr Ronny Pini (CE), Prof Daniele Dini (ME) and Prof Mary Ryan (Materials).
Start date: October 2022
For further details, please, find the full PhD opportunity description here.