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Fully-funded (Home/EU Rate) PhD Studentship (Fixed-term)

University of Cambridge - Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, West Cambridge

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cambridge
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Fully-Funded
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th April 2020
Closes: 30th June 2020
Reference: LJ21986

PhD Studentship:  Towards Sustainable Plasmon-Enhanced Catalysis: Synthesis and Characterization of Earth-Abundant Plasmonic Nanoparticles

Supervisor: Dr Emilie Ringe

Sponsor: ERC

Industries creating inorganic, organic, and agricultural chemicals use a staggering 4.2% of the worldwide delivered energy, mainly from unsustainable fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the sun provides energy that could be utilized to power photochemical reactions sustainably and cleanly. Recent advances revealing how localized surface plasmon resonances (LSPRs), light-driven electron oscillations in metal nanoparticles, can concentrate light at the molecular scale made the dream of efficient photochemistry one step closer [1-3]. However, plasmonic materials are almost exclusively constructed from the rare and unsustainable metals Ag and Au. But there is hope: several of the few metals predicted to sustain LSPRs and become potential alternatives to Ag and Au are amongst the most abundant, i.e. sustainable, elements on Earth (Al, Mg, Na, K). Last year, we have published the first report on the plasmonic properties of colloidally synthesized Mg nanoparticles [4] and envision a plethora of discoveries and applications for this exciting new material.

The goal of this project is to unravel and control the fundamental plasmonic properties of magnesium nanoparticles and decorated nanoparticles. As this is a completely new tool in the plasmonics toolbox, questions to answer range from very fundamental (how do we control particle shape?) to very applied (how does the plasmon-enhanced reaction rate vary with decoration by a platinum-group metal?).

A background in materials science, chemistry, experimental physics or closely related disciplines is required, however previous experience on plasmonic nanostructures is not. The student selected for this project will be trained on air-free chemical techniques, optical spectroscopy, and electron microscopy, and join a growing interdisciplinary group.  Applicants should have (or expect to be awarded) an upper second or first class UK honours degree at the level of MSci, MEng (or overseas equivalents) and should be eligible for 'home rate' fees.

  1. DF Swearer, RK Leary, R Newell, S Yazdi, H Robatjazi, Y Zhang, D Renard, P Nordlander, PA Midgley, NJ Halas, E Ringe, "Transition Metal Decorated Aluminum Nanocrystals" ACS Nano (2017), 11, 10281 2. DF Swearer, H Zhao, L Zhou, C Zhang, H Robatjazi, JM Martinez, CM Krauter, S Yazdi, MJ McClain, E Ringe, E Carter, P Nordlander, NJ Halas, "Heterometallic Antenna-Reactors Complexes for Photocatalysis", PNAS (2016), 113, 8916 3. P Christopher, H Xin, S Linic, "Visible-light-enhanced Catalytic Oxidation Reactions on Plasmonic Silver Nanostructures", Nat. Chem (2011), 3, 467 4. JS Biggins, S Yazdi, E Ringe, "Magnesium Nanoparticle Plasmonics" Nano Lett. (2018) 18, 3752

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance. 

For more information about this studentship contact Emilie Ringe (

The on-line application system is available at

Further information on the application process is available from Rosie Ward (

Please quote reference LJ21986 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

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

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