UK/EU PhD Studentship on Advanced NMR Techniques for the Quantitative Evaluation of Functionalised Nanoscale Silica

University of Cambridge - Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

A fully funded 3.5 year iCASE studentship is available to work with Dr Mick Mantle (Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, University of Cambridge) and Dr Alan Taylor (Industrial supervisor, The Welding Institute (TWI), Granta Park Cambridge)). The project will start on 16th January 2018. Due to funding regulations, this studentship is only available to UK and EU nationals. Students must meet the eligibility criteria at: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/

The aim of this Ph.D. is to investigate and develop nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods to quantify and characterise novel functionalised nanoscale oxides with a specific focus on silica. Such materials represent potential novel additives for emerging metamaterials such as self-renewing, erosion resistant and anti-icing composite materials for use in extreme environments (high erosion and very low temperature). The objectives are two-fold: (1) to synthetize and characterise functional additives according to design rules established by TWI and in accordance with TWI background IP; (2) To develop advanced magic angle spinning (MAS) solid and diffusion/relaxation nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to quantify the structure-function relationships of the new materials. The silica nanoparticles will be functionalised with at least one type of ligand which may possess structural hierarchies that are able to confer hydrophobicity and erosion resistance to a bulk resin without adversely affecting the intrinsic properties of the bulk whilst bringing about a step change in the efficacy of the performance of the composites made with these resins.

The project will start with the controlled synthesis of silica nano-particles via the well-known sol-gel technique St¿ber process. The range of diameters of the spheres produced will vary and a combination of sizes to form the so-called 'raspberry-like-structures' will be also investigated. Advanced NMR techniques will then be developed (particularly 1H, 13C & 29Si Magic Angle Spinning (MAS) NMR) to characterise the extent and efficiency of both intra- and extra- particle (surface) functionalisation. In addition, pulsed field gradient (PFG) diffusion NMR and T1-T2 relaxometry will be used to gain fundamental insights of the porous silica nano-particles. For example, PFG-NMR tracks the diffusive signature of probe molecules and thus can be used to probe structural changes of the internal pore space following the functionalisation process; T1-T2 relaxometry will provide key metrics regarding the strength of interaction of probe molecules with the surface of the functionalised silicas developed in this project. Other analytical methods that are expected to be used include: TGA and DSC (calorimetry) and SEM (micro-structure). The combined results from NMR and other analytical techniques will be analysed to provide key performance indicators/descriptors of different functionalised silica's, thereby providing a scientifically driven approach to designing and optimising the functionalisation process.

Applicants should have a First Class (or a high 2:1) degree in a relevant discipline. Whilst this project is based in Cambridge the successful student will also spend time working in TWI based at Granta Park, Cambridge.

To apply, please send the following to recruitment@ceb.cam.ac.uk by 17:00 on Monday 8th September 2017:

1) Include the vacancy reference number, NQ12929, in the subject line of your email 2) A detailed curriculum vitae 3) Transcripts and/or degree certificates that include numerical details of grades obtained in relevant examinations/courses.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South East England