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PhD Studentship: Development of Smart Sniffer Device for Detection of Illicit Drugs, Homemade Explosives and Their Precursor Chemicals

Cranfield University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Shrivenham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Full tuition plus £15000 p.a. per 3 years.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 28th August 2019
Closes: 1st November 2019

This PhD opportunity is founded from Cranfield University through the “Mike Gibson’s PhD Studentship” award. Fully-funded studentship

Full-time Phd

Application deadline: 1st November 2019

Intake start date: 3rd February 2020

PhD supervisors: Eleftheria (Licia) Dossi – Cranfield University (UK)

Mogens Havsteen Jakobsen: DTU – Technical University of Denmark (DK)

UK/EU only

Duration of award: 3 Years 

Applications are invited for a three years PhD studentship funded by Cranfield University in Shrivenham through the “Mike Gibson’s PhD Studentship” award.

The PhD research will be developed at Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS) facilities in Shrivenham-UK and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) facilities in Lyngby (DK).

The successful applicant will join internationally recognised experimental groups working on chemistry, polymer chemistry and the development of innovative sensor technologies within Environmental and Security applications.

The threat level from international terrorism or individuals inspired by terror has steadily increased around the world. The use of homemade explosives (HMEs) and improvised explosives devices (IEDs) in terrorist acts, as well as the production and distribution of illegal drugs and narcotics with severe economic and social consequences are two of the most serious problems currently facing a secure and resilient society. Hence, the prevention of the development, production, stockpiling, transport and use of illicit materials is one of the most significant challenges for Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) such as police forces, security agencies as well as tax and customs border services. 

This leads to a demand for flexible, mobile and fast responsive equipment for the detection of illicit substances, explosives and drugs, and precursors for manufacturing of harmful chemicals. 

CDS in collaboration with the DTU have recently developed through an EU-FP7 programme, a prototype of portable sniffer and proved the concept of ability to detect vapours of illicit substances. /centres/centre-for-defence-chemistry  

The student will be in charge of the further development and optimisation of the handheld CRIM-TRACK sniffer to detect vapour traces of a wide range of threat substances with parts per trillion (ppt) sensitivity, in very short times (less than 5 minutes) and in a variety of scenarios. 

The PhD student will be involved in all detection phases described below, which will be developed/performed in CDS and DTU facilities. 

  • Identification and selection of new illicit responsive molecules (dyes) and understanding their key characteristics by using different analytical techniques, with the aim to tune the sensing parameters of the device.
  • Synthesis of new dyes for enhancement of the detection ability and development of sniffer microchips for different scenarios.
  • Testing experiments of detection capability with several illicit/analytes using the CRIM-TRACK prototypes, analysis and evaluation of detection data and validation experiments providing limits for false positive and false negative results.

Fully-funded studentship - Opportunities which are fully funded (e.g. covers all fees and stipend) PhD tuition fees (Home/EU, technical) for 3 years, PhD stipend for 3 years (£15K/y)  

The applicant should:

Have a MSc degree in chemistry

Be able to carry out independently organic synthesis and analytical chemistry

Proficient in MATLAB

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