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PhD Studentship: Exploring Low-dimensional Quantum Magnetism in Exotic New 2D Materials

University of Birmingham - School of Physics and Astronomy

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Please see details below
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th November 2023
Closes: 15th February 2024

Experimental low-temperature physics focussed on lab-based crystal synthesis & characterisation and neutron scattering experiments at international facilities to study the details of magnetic structures.

2D materials are the future. Graphene was just the beginning, and the possibilities before us now are endless. Our group aims to identify new unstudied new 2D materials, synthesise them and understand the full range of their properties. This means subjecting crystals of interesting new compounds to ultra-high pressures and magnetic fields, all at temperatures orders of magnitude below those of interstellar space and studying their magnetic, structural and electrical properties.

As a student, you will experience all parts of this wide endeavour: synthesis of single crystals, basic characterisation using commercial measurement apparatus, more advanced characterisation using pressure cells and cryogenic equipment developed in-house, and visits to large-scale facilities for measurements such as neutron and X-ray diffraction that cannot be done in the laboratory. This range of experience will give you flexibility and independence in a future research career, whether within the academic system or outside. You will gain experience in laboratory skills, hands-on design and manufacture of components, advanced data analysis and programming skills. You will work as part of a cohesive friendly team and as a part of the wider condensed matter group here at Birmingham, with a close-knit structure and exposure to other groups and ideas.

This project aims to investigate the fundamentals of quantum magnetism in the (Transition-Metal)PS₃ family of 2D crystals. The programme will be to:

  • Grow a series of compounds of carefully-controlled chemical composition in our 2-zone furnaces.
  • Characterize each with in-house X-ray, magnetisation and electrical conductivity measurements.
  • Make trips to measure their magnetic structure at external neutron scattering facilities. This will primarily be at the ILL research nuclear reactor in the South of France.
  • Analyse these complex data to unpack the microscopic details of the magnetism, and model the resulting configurations and their dynamics.

As well as the intrinsic compounds, we will engineer magnetically frustrated lattices by mixing the metal atoms on the 2D honeycomb lattice – for instance a 50:50 mix of Fe and Co atoms in Fe₀.₅Co₀.₅PS₃ will have half its spins wanting to order along the axis pointing out of the crystal planes (Fe) and half within the plane (Co).

As the project matures, we will build on these results to then add in the effect of applied hydrostatic pressure from opposed-diamond-anvil pressure cells to push the magnetic states from being 2D in nature towards 3D. We know from our previous research that this is the route to forming new unconventional superconducting phases in these materials – the question to answer is what role, ancillary or adversary, does any exotic magnetic order play in forming this state?

Please email Dr Matt Coak at m.j.coak@bham.ac.uk to arrange a discussion.

Funding Details

A limited number of ESPRC-funded positions are available from the UoB. Strong candidates will be put forward and can expect a high chance of being funded if UK domestic. International funding is less typically awarded, but certainly worth pursuing for exceptional candidates. Independently-funded candidates are also welcome, and would not need to undergo this additional selection process. Please write to the address above for any clarification or if unsure.

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