PhD studentship (x3)

Location:

Canterbury


Project summary: EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership 3 year PhD Studentships – 3 positions 

The School Physical Sciences at the university of Kent produces innovative and interdisciplinary research across a broad and diverse range of topics that has applications in a number of industries including medicine and security. We are well equipped with state-of-the-art software and experimental laboratory facilities.

Our dynamic research community has numerous collaborative links with colleagues in other universities and research institutions, both in the UK and overseas. The research effort is led by four groups: Applied Optics, Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Forensic Imaging and Functional Materials.

For this year’s studentships we are inviting applications from candidates interested in undertaking research from a range of projects from across our research groups:

PhD in Physics. Experimental Condensed Matter Physics – Magnetism, Superconductivity and Novel Quantum Phenomena

Supervisor: Dr. Emma Pugh (E.Pugh@kent.ac.uk)

The study of the border of magnetism is of great interest due to the possibility of unconventional superconductivity, non-Fermi liquid behaviour and other exotic phenomena near quantum critical points. The effects are both theoretically significant and of practical importance. A number of materials will be studied using a variety of techniques such as resistivity, ac-susceptibility and X-ray synchrotron and neutron radiation methods at high pressures, low temperatures and high magnetic fields in order to understand these ordered systems and to discover new states not seen before. In addition the project will take advantage of the developments enabled from the recent funding of an EPSRC New Horizons grant which will create a new type of experimental probe for magnetism in quantum matter.

PhD in Chemistry. Novel Materials based on Nanocrystalline Oxide Doping of Glasses

Supervisor: Prof. A. Corrias (a.corrias@kent.ac.uk) and Dr. G. Mountjoy (g.mountjoy@kent.ac.uk)

This PhD project in Chemistry aims to combine properties normally found separately in glasses and in nanoparticles. In particular, glasses doped with superparamagnetic nanoparticles are needed for important applications of magnetic hypothermia cancer therapy, and glass fibres responding to external magnetic fields for sensing or manipulation. Superparamagnetic nanoparticles of iron oxides will be made using colloidal synthesis, then coated with silica using the sol-gel method, and finally doped into borosilicate glasses by melt-quenching. Advanced characterisation methods will be used to optimise these materials, including thermal analysis, x-ray diffraction, magnetometry, and x-ray absorption spectroscopy.

PhD in Chemistry. Polyanionic Cathode Materials for Energy Storage

Supervisor: Dr. M. Alfredsson (M.L.Alfredsson@kent.ac.uk)

Current research on cathode materials in Li-ion batteries is to a large degree focused on nickel manganese oxides, with a variable content of cobalt (Co) to achieve voltages above 4V. However, from an environmental aspect Co is an unwanted element. Hence, research in our group focusses on alternative materials replacing Co-based cathode materials, using, for example, polyanionic materials.
Commercially LiFePO4 is the most common polyanionic cathode material used in portable electronics as well as in the automotive industry. The aim of this project is to study novel polyanionic materials as research showed that these materials demonstrate a higher capacity than the theoretical one, linked to re-arrangement of the electron distribution in the polyanion structure as the battery cycles. This opens up doors to novel materials without the presence of cobalt. Polyanionic cathode materials are also researched for applications in sodium- ion batteries.

The project aims to study the electron distribution in these materials as a function of Li/Na content, using a variety of experimental techniques, including X-ray Raman Scattering (XRS), soft X-ray Absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and other similar techniques available on national synchrotron facilities. You will also train in materials synthesises, as well as assembling and electrochemical characterisation of batteries. If suitable, the project will use atomistic models to interpret the experimental data.

PhD in Chemistry. Functional Molecular Materials

Supervisor: Dr. H. Shepherd (h.shepherd@kent.ac.uk)

This project will develop methods for the fabrication of molecular thin films capable of covering large surface areas. They will be constructed from switchable molecular materials that can change their colour and structural properties in response to changing temperature, pressure, light irradiation etc. These thin films will be patterned using a low-power laser to form metasurfaces that can be easily erased and re-written. These metasurfaces will be used to modulate electromagnetic radiation, enabling control over the deflection, reflection and transmission of these waves. The project will involve development of new synthetic techniques for synthesis of molecular materials that could be easily scaled up for industrial application. There will also be a significant element of characterisation of these films using spectroscopy and microscopy, diffraction, magnetometry and thermal analysis. Proof-of-concept devices will be fabricated and demonstration of their ability to interact with radiation will be demonstrated.

PhD in Chemistry. Understanding and Designing Responsive Lubricants for Electric Cars and Medical Implants

Supervisor: Dr. Rob Barker (R.Barker@kent.ac.uk)

Lubricants are everywhere from the human body to the inside of moving vehicles, but while significant advances in the last 40 years have been made into measuring the forces in these nano-confined lubricating materials, there is yet to be a way to probe the structure of such materials when they are doing their job under confinement and shear. The scope of this PhD project will be to develop new tools to provide sub-nanometer structural understanding of confined and sheared lubricating films. These tools will be used in collaboration with industrial partners to explore the structure-function relationship of two emerging classes of lubricants: (1) Electro-responsive ionic liquid lubricants; (2) Bio-inspired mucin based lubricants. The technology developed during this project will be used to inform the design of new lubricants to help improve the green credentials of the moving vehicles by reducing emissions and to understand and harness the power of biological lubricants for better, longer lasting joint replacements in the future.

Please note that there are three positions available for the School of Physical Sciences – across applicants from all of the aforementioned list of projects. There will be an internal competition and the quality of the applicants will play a role in the final decision of the School.

Any enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Admissions Co-ordinator (studypgnats@kent.ac.uk). For more information about the School of Physical Sciences and our Research groups please visit our School pages.

Deadline 22 January 2021, 12 noon GMT

Criteria

  • The University of Kent invites applications for a full-time PhD studentship commencing in September 2021.
  • We are looking for excellent students with a good Honours degree (First or 2i), preferably an MChem, MPhys, MSci or a Master’s degree at Merit or Distinction in a relevant subject, or equivalent.
  • Successful candidates will demonstrate academic excellence and outstanding research potential.
  • Open to UK, EU and International students.

Further details

The University of Kent is pleased to offer three fully funded EPSRC studentships starting in September 2021. The studentships cover home tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant, which is £15,285 for 2020/21 (2021/22 rate to be announced). Open to Home and Overseas (including EU) students. If you are applying as an overseas student (this includes EU nationals), Kent will waive the difference between the Home and Oversea fees.

UK residential conditions:

  • Be a UK National (meeting UKRI residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirement) or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

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