Projects Available

This page gives details of all projects currently on offer for research towards a DPhil in Materials Science at the Department of Materials, University of Oxford.

Please note some of these projects are being updated and those shown can be taken as a quide as to what is available. It is hoped the changes to the website will be completed by the end of this month.

Admissions - Open Application Cycle with a deadline of 30 August 2014

Important information for Applicants


When completing the Oxford application form, under the 'Supporting Materials' section entitled 'statement of purpose/research proposal', you must list in order of preference up to five preferred research topics/supervisors selected from those advertised on this website. In addition you should include a short statement (up to 400 words) to outline your research interests and indicate the rationale behind your choice of projects. We do not require a research proposal.

If you wish to learn more about a specific project you may e-mail the relevant supervisor.

The website describes available projects in two categories, 'funded projects (subject to contract)' and 'other projects'. Generally the projects do not have specific deadlines, as we intend to consider applicants within the University of Oxford's Graduate Admissions standard application fields. Some of the descriptions on this website are of projects that carry earmarked funding and in these cases the eligibility of home, EU and overseas applicants is indicated. For guidance on your status as a home, EU or overseas/international student, please see


Until the middle of March applications will be considered in three fields, as advertised in the Oxford University Graduate Studies Prospectus. Deadlines for the receipt of fully completed applications and references are: 22 November 2013, 24 January 2014 and 14 March 2014. Applications received after 14 March will be considered on an individual basis and may be submitted at at any time. Overseas or scholarship applicants are strongly advised to apply in the November field and home/EU applicants in the January field. In addition, project studentships with specific closing dates may be advertised on our website.

Details of how to apply are found at

Before submitting an application you are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of Materials' Graduate Studies Secretary ( for advice and assistance.


Please note that funding and places may be exhausted after the first two application cycles: applications received after 24 January 2014 will be considered only if places and/or funded projects remain unfilled. We expect to make a small number of offers, to outstanding candidates, following evaluation of the November applications. The remaining good candidates from November will be considered automatically in January, along with the new applicants for that deadline, and we normally expect to offer the majority of available places following evaluation of the January applications.

The Department of Materials strongly advises applicants for scholarships to apply in the first application field (application deadline 22 November 2013), although those who apply in the second field (application deadline 24 January 2014), will also be considered.

One or two EPSRC DTA studentships may be offered to world-class applicants (those of similar quality to successful Clarendon Scholarship applicants) following evaluation of the November applications, but we normally expect to award the majority following evaluation of the January applications. Prior to final ranking, interviews will be held for all short-listed applicants from the November and January gathered fields who are eligible for DTA awards. We do not assign Departmental DTA studentships to specific projects unless this is advertised in advance on our website. Overall there are many more projects advertised in the 'other project' category than the number of DTA studentships we have available. Hence, in a given year, some of the 'other projects' may be designated as ineligible for DTA funding. These projects are marked with the symbol §. Normally the most able and suitable applicants, as judged against our Graduate Admissions Criteria, are offered the awards; normally subject to a limitation of no more than one DTA studentship per supervisor per year.

UK applications
EU applications
Overseas applications

Further details may be obtained from the secretary to the Director of Graduate Studies:
Mrs Marion Beckett: tel: 01865 (2)83226; fax: 01865 273789;


Important information

Projects in this section carry their own funding (subject to contract with the sponsor), so finance in the form of a stipend and payment of fees is available to the successful candidate. However, eligibility for funding is in some cases restricted by the applicant's country of legal residence: below and in the detailed description of funded projects we use the term 'citizen' in respect of this country.

For projects marked *: full funding is available only to UK citizens, although EU citizens are eligible to have their fees paid if they can provide their living costs from another source.

For projects marked **: applicants should in general be citizens of either a member state of the European Union or an Associated State (except the United Kingdom) or have resided in the European Union for several years. UK citizens are eligible only if they have been resident outside the EU Member or Associated States for several years. Precise details of eligibility vary from project to project; more information is included as part of the detailed project description.

For projects marked ***: the funding is available to all applicants, but the fees are only covered at the home/EU rate. Therefore, overseas students would have to provide the difference between home/EU and overseas student fees from some other source such as a scholarship or personal funds. For students who commence their studies in October 2013 this difference is expected to be in the region of £42,000 over three years. Please see for a statement of the actual fees.

3 funded projects available at present.

*/** Characterisation of Crack Growth Effects in Nickel-Based Superalloys
( R C Reed, P Bagot and M Moody)

An atomic clock based on endohedral fullerenes
( E A Laird / G A D Briggs / J Mol)

An electric field sensor based on a single donor in silicon
( J Mol / E A Laird / G A D Briggs)

New projects are added from time-to-time, so please review the list regularly.

OTHER PROJECTS - listed by supervisor, in alphabetical order

These projects do not have earmarked funding, but are available to students who win scholarships (including EPSRC DTA studentships) or have their own funding.


Dr David Armstrong (

Professor Hazel Assender (

Dr Paul Bagot (

Professor Harish Bhaskaran (

Professor Andrew Briggs (

Professor Martin Castell (

Professor Jan Czernuszka (

Dr. Philip D Edmondson (

Dr Steve Fitzgerald (

Professor Marina Galano (

Professor Patrick Grant FREng FIMMM (

Professor Nicole Grobert (

Professor Chris Grovenor, FIMMM, FIP (

Professor Angus Kirkland (

Dr Edward Laird (

Professor Sergio Lozano-Perez (

Professor James Marrow (

Dr Jan Mol (

Professor Michael Moody (

Professor Peter Nellist (

Dr Rebecca Nicholls (

Professor Keyna O'Reilly (

Dr Adam Papworth (

Dr Kyriakos Porfyrakis (

Prof Roger Reed (

Professor Steve Roberts M.A., PhD. (

Miss Stephanie Simmons (

Professor Jason Smith (

Dr Susannah Speller (

Professor Richard Todd (

Professor Jamie Warner (

Professor Andrew Watt (

Professor Angus Wilkinson (

Professor Peter R Wilshaw (

Professor Jonathan Yates (

(return to top of list of other project titles listed by supervisor)

Other Projects - listed by primary research area

Ceramics and Composites

Characterisation of Materials

Computational Materials Modelling

Device Materials (including semiconductors)

Energy Materials


Polymers and Biomaterials

Processing and Manufacturing

Quantum Information Processing

Structural and Nuclear Materials

(return to list of other project titles listed by research area)

FUNDED PROJECTS - full details, listed by title

Eligibility for some projects is restricted and these are marked with asterisks. For further details of these restrictions, please see the introductory section on funded projects earlier in these web pages on 'New DPhil Projects Available'.

*/** Characterisation of Crack Growth Effects in Nickel-Based Superalloys
R C Reed, P Bagot and M Moody

Nickel-based superalloys are used widely for high performance applications, e.g. the gas turbines used for aeroengines and power generation. Elevated temperature strength and fatigue resistance are required, often in the presence of oxidative and corrosive environments.

In this project, elevated temperature fatigue crack propagation will be studied under conditions where its rate can be accelerated by extended periods of crack opening, the so-called dwell effect. Forms of damage to be considered will include crack-tip oxidation, grain boundary oxygen diffusion and creep deformation. High resolution characterisation studies – atom probe tomography and electron microscopy – will be used. These techniques will be augmented by theoretical analysis and computer-based modelling.

One studentships is available for the project, which will be sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Rolls-Royce plc. It is available to a citizen of the United Kingdom, or a suitably qualified student from the European Union.

Applications will be considered as and when they are received and this position will be filled as soon as possible, but the latest date for considering applications will be 20 August 2014. These 3.5 year studentships will provide full fees and maintenance for a citizen of the UK or a citizen of the EU who has spent the previous three years (or more) in the UK undertaking undergraduate study (the stipend is expected to be £15,500 per year, tax free).

Any questions concerning the project can be addressed to Professor Roger Reed ( or Dr Michael Moody ( General enquiries on how to apply can be made by e mail to You must complete the standard Oxford University Application for Graduate Studies and further information and an electronic copy of the application form can be found at

Also see homepages: Paul Bagot Michael Moody Roger Reed

An atomic clock based on endohedral fullerenes
E A Laird / G A D Briggs / J Mol

Endohedral fullerenes are nature's atom traps, in which a single atom is confined inside a C60 cage. Because of the protection of this cage, the spin coherence times are very long. We want to use the spin precession in these molecules as the frequency reference for a stable, portable clock. The goal of the project would be to study the 'clock transitions' where the magnetic moment vanishes and the linewidths become extremely narrow. The project would involve building a radio-frequency setup to perform NMR-type measurements flexibly and precisely, performing a radio-frequency analogue of coherent population trapping, and investigating the robustness of the spin transitions against external perturbation. This is an opportunity to develop a completely new type of atomic clock in a condensed-matter system. This project comes with full funding for EU residents and will begin preferably on 6 October 2014.

Also see homepages: Edward Laird

An electric field sensor based on a single donor in silicon
J Mol / E A Laird / G A D Briggs

FET technology has advanced to the point where measuring single-donor transport is now possible. These devices show behaviour analogous to quantum dots, including quantized levels and Coulomb blockade. Because the confinement is so strong, the charging energies are much larger than in typical quantum dots, so these effects can persist up to room temperature. This leads to a large transconductance that we want to exploit for electric field sensing. This project would involve many techniques from quantum transport, such as low-noise electrical measurements, reflectometry, and quantum capacitance, but in a new regime at room temperature. This project comes with full funding for EU residents and will begin preferably on 6 October 2014.

Also see homepages: Edward Laird

(return to list of funded project titles)

OTHER PROJECTS - full details, listed by title

105 projects

Nanomechanical Systems (NEMS) based on Carbon
H. Bhaskaran

Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are systems where a tiny mechanical element is fabricated to add certain functionality to a device or a system. These systems are functional not only because they occupy less space, but more so because they can perform functions that larger devices cannot or carry out certain tasks with greater precision and efficiency. Our group is seeking DPhil students to carry on this work starting from October 2014. The focus will be on using non-traditional materials, especially amorphous carbon, in NEMS devices. We will also seek to study fundamental aspects of materials science, which will help us create even better devices in future.

An incoming DPhil student will have significant advantages: our experimental capability in this area is now set-up, and we have some of the most advanced instrumentation in the field. Our group has several individuals who can informally work with the student, so the student will not feel lost in their first few months.

Your Profile:
Your profile will be one of a highly motivated undergraduate (evidenced by previous stints in Research laboratories), first class honors degree (or equivalent) earning undergraduate in Physics, Materials, Engineering or a closely related field with a deep desire to carry out independent experimental research. You must like working on hands-on laboratory experiments and have the desire to try out many novel ideas. Evidence (via references) of initiative and ability to work collaboratively would be a plus, as this is an experimental project.

Also see homepages: Harish Bhaskaran

A carbon nanotube quantum computer
Dr E. A. Laird and Professor G. A. D. Briggs

A computer based on the quantum states of single electrons has the potential to be exponentially more powerful for some tasks than existing classical computers. Creating such a computer is an extremely difficult challenge, because quantum states usually decohere rapidly due to interactions with their environment. One leading approach is to use the spin states of an electron in a semiconductor. Carbon nanotubes are a particularly attractive material for this purpose, because nuclear spins, which cause decoherence in some other semiconductors, can be virtually eliminated. In this project, you will create a proof-of-principle two-bit quantum computer in an isotopically purified carbon nanotube. Very recently, a single-qubit gate was demonstrated in a nanotube quantum dot. You will extend this work by using a radio-frequency measurement setup for high-fidelity qubit readout and implementing a two-qubit gate in a pair of quantum dots. The goal is to demonstrate simple quantum algorithms in a carbon nanotube device. This project will involve training in nanofabrication, as well as low- and high-frequency electronics at millikelvin temperatures.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs

A unified mathematical approach to stress states in inhomogenous domains
Dr Steve Fitzgerald (Materials), Prof David Hills (Engineering Science)

Although dislocations in most real materials operate in three dimensions, two-dimensional modelling has proved to be a successful and useful endeavour for several reasons. Conditions close to effectively-2D plane strain or plane stress are found in many important engineering applications, and the improved mathematical tractability can allow analytical solutions in certain cases, providing valuable insight lacked by purely numerical approaches. Furthermore, given the great computational complexity of 3D dislocation dynamics, 2D simulations have a far greater scope in terms of the length- and time-scales that can be treated. Dislocations also have widespread application in engineering, where they may be used as kernels in representations of cracks and slip along contact interfaces.

Of particular interest is the stress field generated by a dislocation in a finite or inhomogenous domain. Image stresses due to free surfaces or other boundaries complicate the stress state, and analytical solutions are available only for a few idealized cases. This project aims to apply mathematical methods from the theory of harmonic functions and conformal transformations to significantly extend and generalize the range of available analytical solutions. Potential applications are wide, and include various unsolved problems in contact mechanics, where partial slip is very effectively represented by a glide dislocation array, and it is easy to separate out the effects of slip and separation.  This procedure is exceptionally helpful when studying contact subject to fretting for example, and also the phenomenon of frictional shakedown, where cyclic slip gives way to adhesion because of self-generated interfacial shear tractions.

Also see homepages: Steven Fitzgerald

Applications of aberration-corrected high resolution electron microscopy
A Kirkland

The department has installed one of the world’s few electron microscopes with aberration correctors in both the condenser (probe-forming) and objective (image forming) lenses and with a unique monochromated electron source. This instrument is capable of recording images with 70pm resolution. Several projects are available that will develop experimental, theoretical and computational techniques for exploiting aberration corrected imaging. Possible materials candidates for experimental and theoretical studies include complex oxide ceramics, surfaces, nanocatalysts and carbon nanotubes.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Atomic structure and secondary electron emission
Professor Martin Castell

The most popular method for image creation in the scanning electron microscope (SEM) is to use the secondary electron signal. Until recently it was assumed that secondary electrons are emitted isotropically i.e. with no particular preferred direction, but we now know that the atomic structure of the surface does in fact play a role. This DPhil project is concerned with correlating secondary electron emission using an ultra high vacuum SEM with atomic structure imaged in a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). Both these techniques are located on the same world-leading instrument in Oxford. The powerful combination of signals will provide a hitherto unexplored path into some very fundamental aspects of nanoscale surface structure. There is also the likelyhood that the experiments will be further expanded through the use of the PEEM instument at the Diamond synchrotron.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Biomimetic Energy Storage Devices
Dr Andrew Watt

Melanins are macromolecules found throughout the biosphere. Eumelanin is found in skin pigment and act as a photoprotectant and has been implicated in the development of deadly malignant melanoma. This project will seek to understand the optoelectronic properties of melanin using materials science techniques and fabricate supercapacitor structures using squid ink courtesy of the Japanese fishing industry. The project will involve, fabrication of melanin composite films, fabrication of supercapacitor devices, measurement of impedance and electrochemical properties and some physicochemical characterization eg XRD, SEM, XPS, TEM.

Also see homepages:

Carbon-based quantum devices characterised electrically and by imaging
Dr E. A. Laird, Dr J. H. Warner and Professor G. A. D. Briggs

Carbon nanomaterials are attractive materials for electronic devices, especially for quantum computers using the spin of single electrons. One challenge in realising these applications is that the detailed device structure cannot be fully controlled during fabrication. The aim of this project is to characterize the same devices both through electrical measurements and by high-resolution electron microscopy, with the aim of understanding the electronic properties in terms of the atomic structure.

The goal of project will be to determine how the bandstructure and spin-orbit coupling of carbon nanotubes depend on the atomic structure – in particular on the chirality, which describes how the carbon atoms are aligned. Through aberration-corrected high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (AC-HRTEM), it is possible to measure the chiral indices of individual nanotubes, but so far this has not been performed on nanotubes integrated into electronic devices. You will combine these two kinds of measurement by incorporating a TEM window into existing fabrication technology for ultra-low-disorder nanotubes. You will then make electrical measurements of selected devices in a dilution refrigerator, with the aim of correlating the measured spin-orbit coupling to the previously determined chirality and comparing with existing theoretical predictions.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird Jamie Warner

Charge sensitive imaging
A Kirkland

“If one knew the positions of all the electrons in a material, there would be no need to find where the nuclei are”. Traditional electron microscopy determines the nuclei positions and we are now aiming to develop methods for locating the electrons. This will revolutionise the study of almost all materials and will provide a new level of structural information for comparison with theoretical models. This project will aim to establish new methods using oxides and low dimensional materials including Graphene as test materials using aberration TEM with advanced image simulation incorporating Density Functional Theory.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Chiral networks and the origin of life
Professor Martin Castell

In this project 2D molecular networks are synthesized through self-assembly on metal and oxide surfaces. Scanning tunnelling microscopy is used to investigate their ordering. In particular, methods will be studied that influence the chirality (handedness) of the molecular arrangements. Examples of this are networks that consist of DNA and RNA nucleobases such as adenine and uracil. These experiments are motivated by the question of what gives rise to a particular chirality in biomolecules such as DNA and amino acids, and as such are relevant to the origin of life.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Coupling molecular spins to valley-spin qubits in carbon nanotubes
Professor G. A. D. Briggs, Dr J. H. Warner, Dr K. Porfyrakis and Dr E. A. Laird

Carbon-based quantum technologies require the ability to transfer quantum information from one form to another. Valley-spin qubits (so called because of the hybridisation between electron spin states and the valleys in the band structure of the nanotube) enable single states to be manipulated and measured in electron dipole spin resonance, but the coherence times are not long enough for scaleable quantum computing. Molecular qubits are known from ensemble experiments to have useful quantum coherence times, but to exploit these in useful devices we must have ways to measure them individually. By attaching molecules to the nanotube, and transferring quantum states between the nanotube and the molecule, it should be possible to exploit the best of each. The storage time can be increased a further thousandfold by using molecular nuclear spins as a further resource.

Successful development of this scheme will require nanofabrication of the devices, attachment of the spin-bearing molecules, microscopy of the resulting structures, and magnetic resonance at cryogenic temperatures. This project will involve training in nanofabrication, together with electron microscopy and low-temperature electronic measurements. Aspects of the project will be undertaken in collaboration with other members of the laboratory. The goal will be to show that quantum information can be effectively transferred between the nanotube device and the spin states of the attached molecules. This will be achieved by entangling quantum mechanically the molecular spin with an electron spin on the nanotube, and measuring the molecular spin state through its effect on the electron.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird Kyriakos Porfyrakis Jamie Warner

Coupling valley-spin qubits in nanotubes by superconducting cavities
Professor G. A. D. Briggs, Dr E. A. Laird and Dr P. J. Leek*

Carbon-based quantum technologies will use electron spin states in nanotubes as a fundamental resource. A single electron in a confined region (sometimes referred to as a quantum dot) in a nanotube can form a valley-spin qubit, through the interaction between the valleys in the band structure and the spin of the electron. The spin-orbit coupling provides a means of linking the qubit to an external system via an electric dipole.

Quantum technologies will demand the ability to transfer quantum information from one device to another. The magnetic dipole moment of a single electron spin is too weak for this purpose, but by converting it to an electric dipole moment the coupling can be significantly increased. Superconducting cavities, fabricated either in the form of on-chip resonators or as a 3-D box, provide the means to couple two nanotube quantum devices together, or to couple a nanotube device to collective spin states as a quantum information register. The goal of this project will be to learn how to couple a valley-spin qubit to a superconducting cavity, and then to show how that will useful for scalable quantum technologies.

* Department of Physics

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird

Defect engineering to increase the efficiency of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells
Prof P R Wilshaw

§ Silicon solar cells account for over 90% of the solar cell market and this market has averaged a growth of around 30% for the last 10 years. Most of the silicon used for solar cells comes in the form of multi-crystalline wafers sliced from ingots of cast silicon. This material contains relatively high concentrations of metallic impurities, dislocations and grain boundaries, all of which enhance electron-hole recombination and hence reduce solar cell efficiency. This project aims to develop a range of novel ideas originating from the Semiconductor Group in Oxford. Ideas being developed include the use of low temperature processes to clean-up the material ("gettering") and removing defects from the material in other novel ways. The research relies on a wide range of experimental techniques, including basic electrical characterisation (IV, CV etc), electron beam induced current (EBIC), quasi-steady state photoconductance decay (QSS-PCD), deep-level transient spectroscopy (DLTS),  cathodoluminescence (CL) and possibly transmission electron microscopy (TEM).  The research is performed in collaboration with leading suppliers of silicon to the photovoltaic industry and will involve some work in a semiconductor clean room.

Also see homepages: Peter Wilshaw

Deposition of organic an inorganic layers on polymer substrates by roll-to-roll coating in vacuum
H E Assender

§ The project will make use of our state-of-the art roll-to-roll polymer web coater to deposit under vacuum acrylate or other organic layers on polymer substrates, followed by evaporation or magnetron sputtering deposition of thin film inorganic layers such as metals or oxides. The resulting materials will then be characterized using a suite of methods. Possible applications include optical coatings, gas barrier films (often for electronics applications), or polymer electronics.

Also see homepages: Hazel Assender

Development of aluminium matrix nanocomposites for high temperature applications
M Galano / F. Audebert

This project  is based on the development of Aluminium Matrix Complex Nanocomposties (AlMCNCs) with combinations of reinforcement strategies at the nanoscale that offer unique properties to target specific applications with an enhancement of combined properties i.e. increase thermal stability, ductility at forging temperature, and higher strength and Young’s modulus in higher performance applications. New materials will be used as nanoreinforcements for improving Young’s modulus and strength of nanoquasicrystalline alloys (NQX). Small Al-particles will be used as a plasticizer for improving the ductility of NQX alloys at forging temperature. These combinations of reinforcement strategies at the nanoscale will create unique complex nanocomposites with a unique combination of properties. Thus, a detailed study on the processing and the mechanisms responsible for microstructural stability and mechanical properties is required to develop these new Al matrix complex nanocomposites and to provide a platform for a disruptive knowledge for designing the right material for each application. Several aspects will be developed within the project: (i)Investigation the different processing routes that lead to obtaining AlMCNCs in bulk shape for industrial applications. (ii)Development of bulk AlMCNCs with different combinations of exciting mechanical properties for producing high industrial impact. (iii)Testing of the new AlMCNCs in real applicationsThe project makes use of processing, microstructural characterisation facilities and expertise and draws on the latest alloy developments within the research group that offer genuine prospects for industrially useful nanomaterials. This project will be within an already running EPSRC/RAEng project that is working on the development of bulk nanostructured alloy alloys and will run with the collaboration of several industrial partners representing a range of interests to pull through developed know-how.

Also see homepages: Marina Galano

Development of metal-metal matrix nanocomposites for hight strength applications
M Galano / F. Audebert

This project is based on the development of Metal Matrix Complex Nanofibril composites using new materials as reinforcements for improving Young’s modulus and strength of nanofibril alloys.  A combination of experimental and simulation studies will be carried out to help understanding of the optimum metal-metal combination, phase fractions, and processing conditions for obtaining the finest nanoparticles and nanofibers size
Several aspects will be developed within the project some of them with help of industrial and academic collaborators:
(i)    Investigation of the different processing routes
(ii)    Development of bulk Metal-Metal Matrix Complex composites with different combinations of exciting mechanical properties for producing high industrial impact.
(iii)    Modelling of the strengthening and deformation mechanisms at the nanoscale in order to predict the mechanical properties of the different composites types.
The project makes use of processing, microstructural characterisation facilities and expertise and draws on the latest alloy developments within the research group that offer genuine prospects for industrially useful nanomaterials. Strong industrial support is already in place for different aspects of the project in particular a company specializing in processing simulations will be carrying out the modelling for the different nanocomposites developed.

Also see homepages: Marina Galano

Development of novel wet chemical techniques towards dedicated nanoparticles manufacturing
Dr. F. Dillon, Professor N. Grobert

Nanomaterials' properties are highly depended on their atomic structure and composition. This project will focus on the synthesis of dedicated nanoparticles defined properties. The student will investigate the influence of various parameters on particle size, shape, concentration and composition. Experiments will involve wet-chemical techniques in conjunction with state-of-the-art electron microscopy techniques. This project is essential to the group and will be an integral part of the ongoing research activities. It will be carried out in close collaboration with Dr K Moh, Prof E Arzt (Leibniz Institute for New Materials Saarbruecken, Germany), and industrial partners.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

Direct electron beam lithography of graphene
J H Warner

Graphene holds a lot of promise for electronic applications. In order to be an effective semiconductor in transistors it is desirable for the width of graphene channels to be sub-10nm. This project will focus on fabricating sub-10nm features in graphene using the novel concept of direct electron beam lithography. Electron beam irradiation will be used to directly sputter carbon atoms from graphene with the aim of fabricating structures for nanoelectronic devices. Graphene structures such as nanoribbons will be produced and implemented in field effect transistors. This will involve fabricating graphene nanoelectronic devices that are compatible with high resolution transmission electron microscopy. Parameters that enable control over the graphene sputtering process will be elucidated. Atomic structure will be gained by aberration-corrected HRTEM and correlated with the electronic device properties.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Dislocation-based modelling of Crack-Microstructure Interactions
Prof Angus J Wilkinson

This project will continue to develop and apply computer simulation methods based on using dislocation dipoles to represent cracks and the associated localised plastic flow fields. An array of edge dislocation can represent the mode I opening (Burgers vector normal to the crack) and mode II shearing (Burgers vector along the crack). Previous work within the group began simulating multiply deflected and branched crack paths that are typical in IGSCC and lead to extensive crack-crack interactions and complicated variations in the local driving force for crack advancement (K). This project will aim to incorporate the effects of pre-existing residual stress variations on the crack propagation so as to simulate the technologically important cold work effects on micro-structurally short cracks.

Also see homepages: Angus Wilkinson

Engineering excitons in semiconductor nanocrystals
Dr Jason Smith and Dr Andrew Watt

The ability to grow heterostructured semiconductor nanocrystals using wet chemical techniques opens up a plethora of new possibilities for engineering their optical and electrical properties. For instance (i) in type II heterostructures, the electron and hole that form the ‘exciton’ are separated spatially, so that optical gain can be generated; and (ii) alloyed structures have recently been grown in which luminescence blinking is absent – a discovery that may hold the key to developing nanocrystal-based LEDs, sensors, and even quantum optical devices. The aim of this project will be to investigate the excitonic behaviour of heterostructured and alloyed nanocrystals. In particular, low temperature spectroscopy of single nanocrystals will be used to gain information free from inhomogeneous and thermal broadening. Experimental results will be compared with theory developed in-house. Applicants interested in the synthesis of alloyed and heterostructured nanocrystals will also be considered.

Also see homepages: Jason Smith Andrew Watt

Epitaxial oxide nanocrystals
Professor Martin Castell

Very small crystals, nanocrystals, of one type of oxide can be grown onto another oxide substrate. The shape, structure, and electrical / optical properties of these nanocrystals is influenced by the strain that builds up between the substrate and the nanocrystal. The idea is to grow an oxide of one type onto a different oxide substrate that has a slight lattice mismatch. The strain that builds up in the oxide nanocrystals will then affect the electronic properties such as the bandgap. This is called strain engineering, and has been carried out for many years in the semiconductor industry with e.g. germanium on silicon systems. In this project the scope of strain engineering will be expanded into the realm of oxide materials. We have some exciting preliminary data of Mn3O4 and TiO2 nanocrystals on SrTiO3 substrates that show the feasability of the proposed work.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Experimentally-Validated Modelling of Damage in Ceramic Matrix Composites
Prof. James Marrow

Ceramic matrix composites are candidate materials for high temperature fuel cladding in Generation IV gas-cooled nuclear reactor concepts, and have been proposed for accident-tolerant fuel cladding for light water reactors. They also have applications in other extreme high temperature environments. Our goal is to predict the influence of microstructure on ceramic composite integrity. It is critical that predictive models are founded on data obtained in representative conditions. Such studies inevitably require small test specimens for which the length scale of the composite microstructure is significant compared to the sample size; this introduces heterogeneity and scatter into the data that we aim to understand via image-based modeling. Our current aim is to demonstrate that small-specimen studies of damage development can reliably inform predictive models of structural integrity; this will pave the way to the optimisation of standardised tests to assess material performance.

We have previously studied damage development in ceramic matrix composites using high-resolution computed tomography, with the three-dimensional full field displacements measured by digital volume correlation. Segmentation of the tomography data provided the inputs to a ‘cellular automata with finite element’ (CAFE) simulation of damage development that introduces microstructure heterogeneity into a continuum FE model and through which complex fracture behaviour can be modelled.

This project aims to validate and further develop the CAFE methodology, applying it to the thermally driven degradation of ceramic matrix composites. The experimental work will include synchrotron computed X-ray tomography and digital image correlation methods in 2D and 3D. The project is suitable for graduates from materials science, mechanical engineering, applied mathematics or physics backgrounds.

Also see homepages: James Marrow

Fatigue Crack Initiation in Ti Alloys
Prof Angus J Wilkinson

The development within the group of the high resolution EBSD method provides a route to map the intra-granular distributions of local stress and dislocation density in a routine way. This project will exploit this development in trying to gain insight into cyclic deformation leading to fatigue crack initiation. Ti alloys processed to give different characteristic length scales will be examined at various points through the early stages of fatigue. The formation of 'hot spots' of high stresses and/or high dislocation density will be characterised. We will also attempt to identify local microstructural features that tend to encourage hot spot formation and crack initiation. This project will be carried out in close conjunction with Rolls Royce and other partner Universities within the HexMat flagship EPSRC programme (

Also see homepages: Angus Wilkinson

Graphene based 2D nanoelectronics
Jamie Warner

Graphene has exceptional electronic properties, combined with a 2D structure that makes it attractive for a wide range of electronic applications. Other 2D crystals such as MoS2 and BN have similar 2D structure, but are semiconducting and insulating. This project will focus on the fabrication and characterization of nanoelectronic devices such as field effect transistors and ultrathin optoelectronic devices using 2D crystals. It will involve working in a clean-room environment using electron beam lithography to fabricate nanostructured electrodes and the patterning of graphene from the top down. The graphene and other 2D materials will be available within the group and are grown by chemical vapour deposition. The aim of this project is to solve processing and materials issues that currently limit the potential of 2D materials in electronics.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Graphene based sensors and actuators
H. Bhaskaran

Graphene has been around for a bit now, and technology is reasonably advanced in order for reasonable quality graphene to be procured commercially. However, the ability to make devices and test them is sorely lacking. Even worse is the inability to integrate graphene with other functional materials to make real nanoscale devices that actually perform important tasks. In this project, we will specifically target projects related to directly patterning graphene to make nanomechanical resonators. Our group has been gaining much expertise in reaching very high mass sensitivities using such sensors (mass less than a He atom), and we are seeking a DPhil student that can actually integrate sensing functions into arrays of such sensors.

Your Profile and application
Your profile will ideally be one of a highly motivated researcher (evidenced by previous stints in research groups or labs), having (or predicted to earn) a first class honors degree (or equivalent) undergraduate/masters in Physics, Materials, Engineering, Chemistry or a closely related field with a deep desire to carry out independent experimental research.  You must enjoy hands-on laboratory experiments and have the desire to try out many novel ideas.  Evidence (via references) of initiative would be a plus, as this is an experimental project.

Also see homepages: Harish Bhaskaran

Graphene electrodes for nanocrystal solar cells
Jamie Warner and Andrew Watt

Graphene is an ideal 2D material for utilization as a transparent conducting electrode in photovoltaics (solar cells). High efficiency photovoltaic devices will require the effective integration of other nanomaterials with graphene to produce hybrid nanosystems. Inorganic nanocrystals such as PbS, ZnSe, TiO2 and Si, have unique semiconducting properties with band gaps that span from the near-IR to UV. This project will focus on synthesizing inorganic nanocrystals using solution-phase chemistry. Control over the shape to tailor spherical, rod and branched structures will be investigated. Variation of surface state morphology will be conducted through various chemical approachs to control the inter-nanocrystal interactions. Synthetic graphene will be produced using chemical vapour deposition. Composite hybrid devices will be fabricated that use synthetic graphene as a working transparent conducting electrode and the inorganic nanocrystal as the active functional nanomaterial.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Graphene ribbons for nanoelectronics
Dr. A.A. Koos, Professor N. Grobert

Controlling the structure and hence properties of nanomaterials is essential for their successful implementation in devices. This project will focus on the generation of graphene ribbons and their detailed characterisation using state-of-the-art in-situ characterisation techniques.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

Growth and spectroscopy of metallic nanocrystals and clusters
Professor Martin Castell

Nanometre sized metal islands on oxide supports are used in diverse applications from catalytic materials to gas sensors. Interaction between the oxide support and the islands, the island shape, the temperature dependence of island ripening, and molecular interactions with the islands are all active areas of study. In this DPhil project a variety of transition metal clusters on single crystal oxide supports will be investigated. The atomic structure of the nanocrystals will be imaged with scanning tunnelling microscopy, and their electronic structure will be probed using optical spectroscopies.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Hierarchical nanostructures for energy applications
Dr. F. Dillon, Dr. A.A. Koos, Professor N. Grobert

This project will aim to develop fast, facile, and inexpensive routes to manufacturing hierarchical inorganic nanostructures for energy applications. Various production techniques and combinations of these will be explored including hydrothermal methods, chemical vapour deposition techniques, and wet chemistry.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

High Q optical microcavities for solid state cavity QED
Dr Jason Smith

We are currently developing large arrays of high quality tunable optical microcavities and using them to modify the photon emission properties of nanomaterials such as diamond colour centres and semiconductor nanocrystals. Our work focuses on cavity fabrication, the basic science of the emitter/cavity quantum systems, and exploring their use as single photon sources, microlasers, and in a range of sensing and spectroscopic applications. The new project will involve further developing the cavity fabrication techniques (using focused ion beam milling), and performing experiments to characterise the cavities and the cavity/emitter systems. Particular directions of focus may include increasing the cavity quality factors sufficiently to enter the strong coupling regime, developing nanocrystal-based semiconductor microlasers, or exploring their use in advanced sensing and optical characterisation applications.

Also see homepages: Jason Smith

High resolution electron microscopy of novel electronic materials
S.C. Speller / C.R.M. Grovenor

In recent years, the discovery of new classes of electronic materials including iron-based superconductors, 3D topological insulators and helical multiferroics has stimulated a worldwide effort to grow high quality single crystals and thin films for fundamental property measurements. However, these complex, multi-component materials are challenging to grow as single phase materials, and small inhomogeneities in chemistry and crystal structure often have a strong influence on properties. This project involves using a range of microstructural characterisation techniques including chemical microanalysis in the SEM and (S)TEM, HREM and high-resolution electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to investigate phase separation phenomena and defects in a range of novel electronic materials to improve understanding of the relationships between electronic/magnetic properties, microstructure and processing. Samples will be provided by collaborators in the Oxford Physics Department, Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland) and Ames Laboratory (Iowa).

Also see homepages: Susannah Speller

High sensitivity phase contrast imaging of radiation sensitive and low-Z materials
Prof P D Nellist

When attempting to form atomic-resolution images of low-atomic number (Z) materials such as polymers and biological materials the electron microscope is a key technique. A particular problem, however, is the damage to the sample from the electron irradiation. The key is to maximise the information derived from the electron scattering while minimising the dose. A particularly effective way of doing this is by detecting just the small shift in phase that occurs when the electron quantum mechanical wave passes through the sample. Recent developments in detector technology have created new possibilities for such phase-sensitive imaging in the scanning transmission electron microscope, creating many new opportunities. The aim of this project is to develop, optimise and make the first applications of this technique.

Also see homepages: Peter Nellist

High Temperature Micro-mechanical testing of Zirconium for Nuclear Fission Applications
Dr D.E.J. Armstrong / Professor A. J. Wilkinson

Zirconium alloys are widely used in nuclear fission reactors in fuel cladding, where its mechanical performance is key to ensure safe operation of the reactor. However there is a lack of basic mechanical data on these alloys at both reactor specific temperatures, and with controlled, known levels of oxygen, both of  which are needed for improved alloy processing and reactor design.

This project will utilize and further develop novel micro-mechanical techniques, based on FIB machined test samples such as pillars and cantilevers, to measure key mechanical parameters such as Young’s Modulus, critical resolved shear stress, and slip system activity. The world leading Variable Temperature Nanoindenter, recently installed in Oxford, will be used to carry out these tests at elevated temperatures and advanced finite element modelling used to extract the key mechanical properties from the tests. Work will be carried out on pure alpha zirconium as well as samples with intentionally increased oxygen content. The data produced will be used to improve the modelling of zirconium alloys in the nuclear industry. This project will be carried out in close conjunction with Rolls Royce and the other partner Universities in the EPSRC flagship HEXmat ( and MFFP ( programme grants.

Also see homepages: David Armstrong

Image reconstruction techniques for super-reconstruction electron microscopy
A Kirkland

We are developing techniques for reconstructing the exit wavefunction of various specimens from images recorded with different focus values or with different illumination tilts. In this way it is possible to obtain fully quantitative structural data at higher resolution than the instrinsic limit set by the optics of the electron microscope. This project will apply this approach to a variety of nanomaterials with the aim of understanding their structure property relationships at higher spatial resolution than is otherwise possible.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Imaging and spectroscopy of 2D nanomaterials
Prof P D Nellist, Prof N Grobert, Dr J R Yates, Dr R J Nicholls

The very small (~0.1 nm) beam widths available in the scanning transmission electron microscope allow for extremely high resolution imaging and spectroscopy of materials at the individual atom level. Such an approach is extremely powerful for investigating 2D nanomaterials such as graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides that are currently of great interest in a wide range of applications because of their electronic and mechanical properties. The aim is to measure not only atomic positions by direct imaging, but also to make use of atomic resolution spectroscopy to probe bonding. An example application is graphene containing heteroatoms (e.g. nitrogen, boron and phosphorous). The incorporation of heteroatoms can be used to modify the growth processes of such materials and to control their response to mechanical deformation or electrical transport. By combining imaging and spectroscopy of such materials with simulations of bonding and structure using density functional theory calculations, we aim to further understand the mechanisms by which heteroatoms can modify the properties of these materials.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert Peter Nellist Rebecca Nicholls Jonathan Yates

Improving melt cleanliness
K A Q O'Reilly

Most metals have, at some stage in their processing, been in the liquid state. Such metallic melts can be chemically dirty (containing impurities and dissolved gases) and physically dirty (containing unwanted hard particles, oxide films etc). It is now becoming accepted that the cleanliness of a melt can significantly influence the ease with which a melt can be handled and cast, and the properties of the final components into which it is made. This project will investigate the effect of melt cleanliness in Al alloys. Novel intrinsic and extrinsic methods will be developed, including chemical doping and thermal excursions of the melt, in order to improve melt cleanliness. Melt cleanliness will be measured in-house both directly in the melt and by investigating the effect on primary grain size and properties. The effectiveness of these novel methods will be compared to current industrial methods such as rotary flux degassing and filtration. The overall aim is to develop new methods for improving melt cleanliness which are both quicker and cheaper than existing technology, while being suitable for use on an industrial scale.

Grain refiner additions, impurity levels and melt cleanliness have all recently been shown to individually affect secondary intermetallic phase selection in Al alloys. In turn, the type, size and morphology of such intermetallics can significantly affect the ability to carry out downstream processing and the mechanical properties of final components. This project will investigate the effects of combining these and other factors (such as solidification conditions) in order to determine the dominant factors affecting intermetallic selection under more realistic, commercially relevant conditions.

Grain refiner additions, impurity levels and melt cleanliness have all recently been shown to individually affect secondary intermetallic phase selection in Al alloys. In turn, the type, size and morphology of such intermetallics can significantly affect the ability to carry out downstream processing and the mechanical properties of final components. This project will investigate the effects of combining these and other factors (such as solidification conditions) in order to determine the dominant factors affecting intermetallic selection under more realistic, commercially relevant conditions.

Also see homepages: Keyna O'Reilly

Inert Gas Behaviour in Nuclear Fuels
Phil Edmondson

Nuclear energy is likely to grow worldwide as fossil fuel stocks continue to reduce and as their use becomes less environmentally desirable. The majority of current nuclear fission reactors, and some Generation IV designs, burn uranium dioxide fuel. At present, the use of this nuclear fuel type is very inefficient due to the accumulation of fission products. One important form of fission product is the inert gases Kr and Xe which cause the fuel to undergo significant swelling: a limiting factor in fuel performance. To allow nuclear power plants to burn the fuel more efficiently it is necessary to understand at an atomistic level the mechanisms of inert gas bubble formation and behaviour.

This experimental project is based around the use of non-radioactive surrogates and ion implantation as a proxy for neutron irradiation to examine the inert gas behaviour under simulated reactor conditions. The materials will be characterised using advanced microscopy techniques including transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography. In addition to working in Oxford it is anticipated that there will be opportunities to work with project partners at the National Nuclear Laboratory (UK) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Also see homepages: Philip Edmondson

Insulating and Semiconducting 2D crystals for electronic applications
Jamie Warner

Graphene is a semi-metal 2D crystal, Boron Nitride (BN) an insulating 2D crystal, and MoS2/WS2 are semiconducting 2D crystals. Realizing the potential of 2D crystals in electronic applications requires all 3 of these variants. We have undertaken years of research in growing graphene crystals by chemical vapour deposition and can now produce high quality materials. However, further improvement is needed to advance the synthesis of BN and MoS2/WS2 2D crystals to obtain similar quality films. In this project 2D crystals will be synthesized by chemical vapour deposition to produce materials with varying band structure. New synthetic strategies will be developed in order to produce large single crystal structures on a variety of substrates compatible with device processing. The atomic structure of the new 2D crystals will be characterized using advanced electron microscopy (scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy). The electronic properties of the new materials will be analysed by fabricating nanoelectronic devices such as transistors. This is a unique opportunity to undertake a project involving new materials synthesis, characterization of the atomic structure, and implementation in nanoelectronic transistor arrays. The project is well integrated into the group's goals by developing new 2D crystals that will have large up-take amongst other researchers for applications ranging from flexible electronics, pressure sensors, optical detectors, LEDs and solar cells.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Integrating Inorganic Nanocrystals into Graphene Devices
Jamie Warner

Utilizing graphene in opto-electronic devices will require the effective integration of other nanomaterials to produce hybrid nanosystems. Inorganic nanocrystals such as PbS, ZnSe, TiO2 and Si, have unique semiconducting properties with band gaps that span from the near-IR to UV. This project will focus on synthesizing novel inorganic nanocrystals using solution-phase chemistry. Control over the shape to tailor spherical, rod and branched structures will be investigated. Variation of surface state morphology will be conducted through various chemical approachs to control the inter-nanocrystal interactions. Synthetic graphene will be produced using chemical vapour deposition. Composite hybrid devices will be fabricated that use synthetic graphene as a working transparent conducting electrode and the inorganic nanocrystal as the active functional nanomaterial. Viability in photodetectors and photo-catalysis will be explored.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Investigation of atomic structures of bioactive glasses for biomedical applications
A I Kirkland / K Borisenko

Bioactive glasses play a key role in bone tissue engineering due to their ability to form strong bond with the living tissues . This is often related to the ability of such glasses to precipitate bone-compatible hydroxyapatite phasesat rhe surface. It is also  observed that their bioactivity can be modified by various additives or dopants. However, the mechanisms of the hydroxyapatite formation and the influence of dopants/additives and composition of the glass on  hydroxyapatite precipitation are poorly understood. This is in part related to the fact that there is no reliable experimental information on structures of such glasses. In the project we will study the atomic structures of various bioactive glasses prepared by different methods and containing different additives using advanced electron selected area and nanodiffraction, reduced density function (RDF) analysis, imaging and modelling methods.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Making and manipulating metal nanowires inside carbon nanotubes
Professor N Grobert

Ferromagnetic nanowires have attracted much interest and are widely used across different disciplines, including biology and medicine. In preliminary experiments, ferromagnetic nanoparticles and -wires have proven to be highly efficient for manipulating nano- and micro-scale objects. Recently it has been shown that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be filled during growth with pure metals and alloys simply by varying catalyst concentration. The carbon coating prevents nanowire oxidation making them easy to handle.

This project is aimed at the production of metal-filled carbon nanotubes, their structural characterisation using state-of the art analytical electron microscopy. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with Professor Toru Maekawa (Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre, Toyo University, Japan). The candidate will have the opportunity to interact with researchers based at the Bio-Nano Electronic Research Centre and will be participating at the 21st Century's Centre of Excellence Programme on Bioscience and Nanotechnology.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

Manufacturing and characterization of new light weight alloys
M. Galano/ F. Audebert

The design of new light weight materials (Al and Mg based) is of extreme importance to industry due to the constant need to develop materials that combine high strength and light weight. This project is based on the development of new alloys systems by means of diverse rapid solidification techniques achieving cooling rates of 10 6 K/s. These rapid solidification techniques allow obtaining microstructures that combine several stable and metastable phases such as amorphous, quasicrystalline and crystalline phases opening wide range of alternative phases to be able to produce innovative light weight alloys for demanding applications. Materials are going to be characterised by X- Ray analysis, calorimetry and electron microscopy techniques. The evolution of the microstructure is going to be studied by means of heat treatments, structural characterisation and mechanical testing in order to understand the phase transformations and the potential properties for structural applications.

Also see homepages: Marina Galano

Mapping fluorescent markers in biological samples using low-loss electron energy-loss spectroscopy
Prof P D Nellist, Dr A Papworth, Dr Roland Fleck (Kings College London)

Fluorescence microscopy in light microscopy is a very common technique because it allows the molecular composition of biological structures to be identified through the use of fluorescently-labelled probes of high chemical specificity such as antibodies. Observation of sub-wavelength structures with light microscopes is difficult because of the Abbe diffraction limit. Green light at around 500 nm has an Abbe limit of 250 nm larger than many relevant cellular structures. Resolution is further degraded by detector sensitivity (increasing noise at the expense of signal), wide spread use of signal amplification (reducing spatial resolution) to improve detection and scattering of light. Recent developments in spectroscopy in the electron microscopy now allow optical excitations to be observed with nanometre-scale spatial resolution. The aim of this project is to attempt for the first time to apply these electron microscopy methods to fluorescently-labelled biological structures, creating an entirely new method for characterising biological structures.

Also see homepages: Peter Nellist Adam Papworth

Mapping the structure and composition of heterostructured semiconductor nanoparticles using the scanning transmission electron microscope
Prof P D Nellist, Dr J M Smith

Heterostructured semiconducting nanoparticles show the greatest potential in terms of being able to control and harness quantum properties at room temperature with applications in healthcare, photovoltaics, sensing and optoelectronic devices, spintronic, quantum computation & information processing. Measuring the structure and composition variations at atomic resolution, however, presents a severe characterisation challenge. Recent technological developments in scanning transmission electron microscopy have allowed imaging and spectroscopy measurements to be made routinely at atomic resolution. The aim of this project is to use the capabilities of STEM to make quantitative measurements of structure and composition of heterostructured semiconducting nanoparticles, which can then be related to the optical response of the nanoparticles and used to guide the synthesis and applications of the nanoparticles.

Also see homepages: Peter Nellist Jason Smith

MBE growth and characterisation of iron chalcogenide superconducting thin films
S.C. Speller / C.R.M. Grovenor / T. Hesjedal (Physics/RAL)

In 2008 an entirely new class of high temperature superconducting compounds containing iron was discovered, and in the subsequent few months a huge number of different iron-based superconducting phases were synthesised. This project will focus on the simplest of these compounds based on FeSe. Doping of up to 50% Te on the Se site is known to significantly increase the critical temperature of these compounds, but there is considerable variation in the properties of samples made by different groups, and a lack of understanding of the detailed phase stability and chemistry in this system. In addition, monolayer films of FeSe have been found to have a much enhanced Tc, possibly as high as 77K [Wang et al. Chin. Phys. Lett., 2012, 29(3): 037402]. Our aim is grow high quality thin films using a dedicated chalcogenide MBE system at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and use sophisticated microanalytic techniques (SEM/FIB/TEM) to develop a better understanding of the influence of chemical composition, structure and film thickness on the unusual magnetic and superconducting phenomena observed in these materials. Grain boundary properties will also be investigated by epitaxial growth of films on bicrystal substrates. The nature of grain boundaries in iron-based superconductors is a topic of considerable debate, influencing the potential processing routes of conductors and the success of these materials in future technological applications.

Also see homepages: Susannah Speller

Mechanical properties of laminated metals for nuclear applications
S. P. Fitzgerald, E. Tarleton, S. G. Roberts

Future nuclear fission and fusion reactors will place enormous demands on structural materials, in particular extreme heat loads and energetic particle irradiation. Typically, a material may be able to withstand one but not both of the above. A composite structure may be able to offer the best of both worlds. This project aims to apply multiscale mathematical and computational modelling methods (atomistic simulations, discrete dislocation dynamics and crystal plasticity techniques) to investigate the mechanical properties of such composites, and determine their viability, or otherwise, for future nuclear applications. Ideally the project will involve close collaboration with experimental research undertaken in the Materials for Fusion and Fission Power group. 

Also see homepages: Steven Fitzgerald

Mechanism and Modelling of Superplastic Deformation
R.I. Todd, A.J. Wilkinson,

Superplasticity is a phenomenon in which metals and ceramics can exhibit spetacularly large tensile elongations to failure under certain conditions (the world record approaches 10 000!). By using submicron surface marker grids we have recently shown conclusively that superplastic deformation takes place by stress-directed diffusion and does not involve significant lattice dislocation activity under optimum conditions. This has made a clear step forward in the understanding of the phenomenon and has settled the 75 year old question of how grain boundary sliding is “accommodated” at grain boundary triple lines. At the same time, this advance raises a new set of questions, and in particular why the kinetics of superplasticity do not correspond to those of classical diffusion creep. This project aims to answer these questions by expanding our surface studies to different materials and different deformation regimes. A further aim is to incorporate this new understanding of superplasticity into improved modelling of superplastic forming. The research will involve Focused Ion Beam milling and mechanical testing in the SEM over a range of temperatures and nanoindentation.

Also see homepages: Richard Todd

Metal matrix composites produced by semi-solid processing
K. O'Reilly / M. Galano / F. Audebert

The aim of this project is to use semisolid processing to obtain novel graded properties and selective local reinforcement of Al alloy components. The processing is based on the rapid induction heating into the semi-solid state of cylindrical slugs of materials containing various fine-scale complex microstructures. Stacking of slugs of various compositions will be used to obtain the gradation in properties or local reinforcement. Semi-solid material will subsequently be injected into an Ube 350 tonne New Rheocaster to produce components. Semi-solid techniques are known to produce small, equiaxed, non-dendritic grains resulting in an increase in the toughness of the material.

Materials manufactured by this route will be suitable for use at a wide range of temperatures, dependent on the the Al alloy system. The applications the project will be focusing on are engine blocks and automotive and machine components.

Different types of nano-sized reinforcements will be used in order to optimise the properties achieved in the final components. The fine scale complex microstructures of the composites obtained will need to be characterised at the different stages of the processing to gain an understanding of the processing/microstructure relationship and the microstructural evolution, to provide a platform to control the complex microstructures and to understand mechanical behaviour.

Also see homepages: Marina Galano Keyna O'Reilly

Metal Oxide Photovoltaics
Dr Andrew Watt

The leading second generation thin film solar cells are made of copper indium gallium diselenide and cadmium telluride. Significant market penetration of these systems is hampered by their toxicity and use of expensive rare earth metals. There is growing need to develop new second generation thin film photovoltaic materials which are robust, low energy cost, lower toxicity and recyclable. The project will examine visible light absorbing metal oxide semiconductors which we have developed and proven to work effectively in solar cell devices. The project will involve, deposition of thin films visible light absorbing ternary metal oxide, fabrication of solar cell devices, power conversion efficiency and spectral response measurements and some physicochemical characterization eg XRD, SEM, XPS, TEM. There is a commercial license associated with this project and close industrial collaboration and further IP generation is expected.

Also see homepages: Andrew Watt

Metal-Organic-Semiconductor Nano-composites Transparent Conductors
Dr Andrew Watt

Transparent conductors are part of life from iPod touch screens to solar cells. Current technologies utilise doped metal oxides, however the constituent materials and processing method are expensive and not applicable to a wide range of substrates (eg plastics). This project will involve the synthesis of percolated networks of metal nano-particles in a porous hosts, thin film processing on a variety of substrates, conductivity and mobility measurements along with some physicochemical characterization eg XRD, SEM, XPS, TEM. There is IP generated within the research group associated with this project and close industrial collaboration and further IP generation is expected.

Also see homepages: Andrew Watt

S G Roberts / A J Wilkinson / R I Todd

We have demonstrated over the last two years that focussed ion-beam (FIB) machining can be used to produce specimens for mechanical testing on a length scale of microns to tens of microns. These can then be imaged using a nanoindentation system in AFM mode and loaded to produce a load-displacement curve from which stress-strain data can be derived. This type of testing only became possible with the advent of precision FIB equipment, and is greatly facilitated by the use of the recent dual-beam (electron & gallium) instruments that allow imaging without simultaneous cutting & damage. The Oxford group is one of thee groups worldwide (the other two being in the USA and in Austria) currently leading in this new and very rapidly-developing area. For the first time, we can make quantitative studies of mechanical behaviour at the scale of materials’ microstructures, the scale that control their behaviour. These techniques will form an integrated part of many of the “fusion reactor materials” projects. We have devised specimen geometries that contain only the thin ion-irradiated layer in the deforming region of the specimen, and have shown that we can obtain full stress strain curves of irradiated materials from such specimens. In other aspects of micromechanical testing, we are now looking to recruit researchers to develop these new techniques and to apply them to the understanding of the microstructural basis of the mechanical behaviour of materials.In particular, we aim to initiate projects focussing on: Factors controlling the strong size-effects on yield and work-hardening in micro-cantilever, micro-tension and micro-compression specimens; Technique and equipment development, especially to low  and high test temperatures and use of controlled test environments Characterising stress-corrosion cracking rates as a function of stress and boundary character for individual grain boundaries in steels; Mechanical behaviour of microporous materials; Grain boundary strength and sliding in superplasticity; Grain boundary embrittlement in ferritic steels; strength and toughness of individual grain boundaries in engineering ceramics. Funding may be available (for UK/EU applicants), depending on the outcome of some currently pending research grant applications.

Also see homepages: Steve Roberts Richard Todd Angus Wilkinson

Microstructural control of Al alloys using intrinsic oxides
K O'Reilly

The world produces 37 million tons of Al every year. All of this metal will have grain refiner additions made to it to promote the nucleation of a fine primary Al grain size.
Oxide particles exist in nearly all liquid metals and alloys exposed to air or even under protective atmospheres. Oxide particles are often considered harmful inclusions since they reduce castability of alloy melts, deteriorate ductility and fatigue strength of castings and cause severe difficulties in down stream processing of continuous cast feedstock. As a result, considerable effort is expended to prevent oxide formation and to clean the melt by expensive melt filtering. However, recent research work at Brunel has demonstrated that by liquid metal engineering they can not only eliminate the harmful effects of the oxides but also make positive use of them for effective enhancement of nucleation for structural refinement of the Al grains, so reducing the need for grain refiner additions.
Work in Oxford has demonstrated that grain refiner additions not only nucleate the Al grains, but also control intermetallic selection in Al alloys, hence modifying mechanical properties. This project will investigate the potency of oxide particles for heterogeneous nucleation of intermetallics. The nucleation sequence of various intermetallic phases due to unavoidable oxides and their control will be studied during solidification of Al-alloys. A phase extraction technique will be used to facilitate the detailed characterisation of intermetallic phases and their interaction with extrinsic and intrinsic alloy additions. Special reference will be made to inclusions and impurity elements in recycled materials.

Also see homepages: Keyna O'Reilly

Multi-component molecular crystals
Professor Martin Castell

The surfaces of a variety of nanostructured oxides can be used to order molecules, such as fullerenes (e.g. C60, C70), into specific two dimensional patterns. This is called templated molecular ordering. In this DPhil project fullerenes of different sizes will be mixed together to give rise to molecular alloys. Specific concentrations and relative sizes of fullerenes are thought to form ordered systems. The structure of these molecular alloy crystals will be studied at atomic resolution with scanning tunnelling microscopy. Ultimately the idea is to create molecular architectures that can be used in advanced electronic devices.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Nanocrystalline metal and metal oxide catalysts
A Kirkland

Nanocrystalline metal and metal oxide particles play a key role in catalysis. This project aims to characterize these materials, and in particular their surfaces and shapes using combinations of high resolution imaging and three dimensional tomographic reconstruction. The project will also involve interactions with theoretical modelling groups and for suitable systems prototype catalytic studies. 

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Nanomaterials for quantum technologies
Professor G. A. D. Briggs, Dr K. Porfyrakis, Dr J. H. Warner and Dr E. A. Laird

Quantum information processing offers one of the most exciting challenges in the study and development of nanomaterials. It is at the cutting edge of quantum nanoelectronics, and Oxford is part of the world-wide endeavour to develop scalable quantum computers. Instead of classical bits of information, these will work with qubits (quantum bits). We need materials with quantum states that can be individually controlled and measured, and yet which are sufficiently robust against decoherence that they can sustain a sequence of quantum manipulations and interactions. We lead the world in using the new family of fullerene materials (popularly known as Bucky balls), which can be used to contain atomic species inside a cage that separates them from the environment. We can store the quantum information in an electron or nuclear spin, and exchange it between the two. We can manipulate and characterize the spin states by electron paramagnetic resonance and also optically. By creating entanglement between several spins, it is possible to develop sensors that exceed the standard quantum limit. A core thrust of our research is to incorporate molecular materials in working devices for practical quantum technologies. There will be several projects with these nanomaterials, ranging from synthesis and microscopy to experimental implementation of candidate schemes for quantum computing. The research is highly interdisciplinary, and there is scope for a range of skills and interests from materials science and chemistry to experimental quantum physics. There may be possibilities for industrial support and for international travel and collaboration.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird Kyriakos Porfyrakis Jamie Warner

Nanoparticle toxicity characterization via atomic force microscopy
H. Bhaskaran

Nanoparticle toxicity is of high interest because of emerging concerns regarding their environmental impact. However, recent methods to manufacture nanoparticles using bio-inspired processing have been reasonably successful. The big question is: what is the difference between such bio-inspired processing routes and conventional routes. The DPhil student who will work on this project will pursue very advanced atomic force microscopy techniques in our laboratory to understand how surface texture at the nanoscale, as well charge contribute to theor toxicity. 

Our group is very well set-up to perform these measurements. We are now in possession of one of the most advanced atomic force microscopes with excellent collaborations with Asylum Research in Santa Barbara. Thus a DPhil student will be able to start on this project with plenty of informal as well as formal mentoring and support.

Your Profile:
Your profile will be one of a highly motivated undergraduate (evidenced by previous stints in Research laboratories), first class honors degree (or equivalent) earning undergraduate in Physics, Materials, Engineering or a closely related field with a deep desire to carry out independent experimental research. You must like working on hands-on laboratory experiments and have the desire to try out many novel ideas. Evidence (via references) of initiative and ability to work collaboratively would be a plus, as this is an experimental project.

Also see homepages: Harish Bhaskaran

Nanorobots for pick and place assembly of nano particles
H. Bhaskaran

We have an ambitious plan to deliver pick-and-place manufacturing at the nanoscale. To realize our ambitions, we are looking for a team member to pursue the doctorate on fundamental aspects of nanoscience, including the study of surface forces at the nanoscale and the ability to attract single nanoparticles reliably, and place them in a manner similar to automobile assembly - except this is at the nanoscale. This project is in close collaboration with Asylum Research of Santa Barbara USA, IBM Research - Zurich, Switzerland and the Microelectronics iNets with potential opportunities to travel to partner sites. 

The DPhil student working on this project will become an expert in advanced nanomanufacturing techniques, atomic force microscopy and nanoparticle assembly. All our projects allow for significant creative contributions and the right DPhil candidate will have the freedom to shape research directions.

Your Profile:
Your profile will be one of a highly motivated undergraduate (evidenced by previous stints in Research laboratories), first class honors degree (or equivalent) earning undergraduate in Physics, Materials, Engineering or a closely related field with a deep desire to carry out independent experimental research. You must like working on hands-on laboratory experiments and have the desire to try out many novel ideas. Evidence (via references) of initiative and ability to work collaboratively would be a plus, as this is an experimental project involving many collaborations.

Also see homepages: Harish Bhaskaran

Nanoscale mapping of local strains in III-V nitride thin films
Prof Angus J Wilkinson

Our development of cross-correlation based analysis of EBSD has produced a step change in performance allowing elastic strain and lattice rotations to be measured in the SEM at high spatial resolution and with sensitivity that is competitive with large synchrotron facilities. This advance makes possible sensible characterisation of high quality semiconductor materials that previously could not be attempted with EBSD due to lack of sensitivity. This project will continue to develop the method and use it to characterise various III-V nitride thin films. The work will concentrate on epitaxial lateral overgrowth, coalescence of nanopillars and nitride thin films grown on native substrates. The EBSD analysis will be complemented by finite element modeling of strains distributions and cathodoluminescence, AFM and TEM observations as appropriate. The project is associated with an EPSRC funded programme on characterisation of nitride films involving post-docs at Oxford and Strathclyde Universities and nitride film growers at Strathclyde, Imperial, Nottingham, Bath and Cambridge.

Also see homepages: Angus Wilkinson

Nanoscale patterning of graphene for electronic devices
J H Warner

One of the key challenges limiting 2D electronics is the ability to pattern features on the 10nm scale with high uniformity across a wafer. Field effect transistors comprised of graphene nanoribbons exhibit large on/off ratios only when their channel widths are sub-10nm. At this small size scale the structure of the edges plays a role in their transport properties. Developing methods to control the edge atomic structure is important and it will lead to uniform structures with tailored properties. This project aims to develop top-down lithographic approaches to achieving nanoscale structures in 2D sheets of graphene that are then incorporated into electronic devices. Graphene nanoribbon field effect transistors will be fabricated that are compatible with electron microscopy. Low-voltage aberration-corrected high resolution transmission electron microscopy will be used to characterize the atomic structure. The goal is to improve the performance of graphene nanoribbon field effect transistors by cleaning up the atomic disorder at the edges. Other methods to improve the atomic ordering at the edges such as Joule heating will be examined whilst inside the aberration-corrected HRTEM. The main focus of this project is to develop nanoscale patterning techniques that are scalable, rapid and provide uniformity across a large area.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

NanoSIMS analysis of biological materials
Professor Chris Grovenor

The NanoSIMS is a very high resolution instrument for performing chemical analysis of dilute species in a wide range of different materials.  The NanoSIMS group have developed over the past few years reliable protocols for the study of trace element distributions in both human cell cultures and tissue sections, investigating problems like the uptake and sequestration mechanisms of isotopically spiked glutamine in cancer cells and the mechanisms by which anti-microbial peptides attack membranes.  This project will design and carry out (in collaboration with our colleagues in the Life Science Departments) new experiments where the unique capabilities of the NanoSIMS can contribute to developing a better understanding of key processes in biological systems .

Also see homepages: Chris Grovenor

New passivation processes for semiconductor surfaces
Prof P R Wilshaw

§ Silicon photovoltaics is a key technology to provide the world with renewable, inexpensive and reliable energy. Efficiency in silicon solar cells, however, continues to be limited by recombination of photo-excited electron-hole pairs at surfaces and interfaces. Future generations of high efficiency solar cells require cheap techniques for producing semiconductor/dielectric interfaces with very low recombination. This process is called surface passivation and the development of efficient new processes is critical to the development of next generation solar cells. This doctoral project aims to develop such new passivation processes with the potential to be applied to real cell manufacture. Surface passivation is achieved using two complementary approaches - chemical and field effect. This work will focus on the latter: Field effect passivation uses electrical charge in surface dielectric layers to repel the carriers in the semiconductor from the interface so that recombination is mainly eliminated. Our previous work has resulted in effective carrier lifetimes approaching 4ms - these are some of the highest obtained but, unlike other work, ours have been produced without the need for expensive processing which is incompatible with solar cell processing. The new work will mainly be aimed at developing techniques by which the advantageous effect of the charge can be made permanent. To do this we need to understand in detail the physics and materials science of the processes taking place and then use this knowledge to further develop them to give stability over a thirty year time frame. The student performing the work will be involved in deposition of the dielectrics using semiconductor facilities, characterisation of their properties using advanced electronic techniques and then modification by charge deposition and further testing.

Also see homepages: Peter Wilshaw

NMR Crystallography: Exploring the use of J-couplings in Molecular Crystals
J Yates

Molecular crystals have a wide range of technological uses, from pharmaceuticals to electronic devices. Unfortunately, X-ray diffraction cannot always determine the structures of such materials. Solid-state NMR is an important technique for materials characterisation and could, in principle, be used for structure solution (so call 'NMR Crystallography'). However, there is no simple theory to link the observed NMR spectrum to the underlying atomic level structure (as Bragg's Law does for XRD).

In recent years we have developed computational techniques, based on quantum mechanics, to predict and interpret NMR spectra (see Typically this has focused on the so-call NMR chemical shift, but, excitingly, it has recently become possible to both measure and compute the NMR J-coupling. J-coupling is an indirect interaction of the nuclear magnetic moments mediated by bonding electrons, and provides a direct measure of bond strength and a map of the connectivities of a system (hence its importance for crystallography).

The aim of this DPhil project is to study the nature of NMR J-coupling in molecular crystals - to interpret current experiments, understand the microscopic mechanisms, and guide the development of new experiments. The project is highly computational and will involve the use of large supercomputers, it may (optionally) include the development of new computational methods. The work will be carried out in close collaboration with experimental solid-state NMR studies performed in the group of Dr Steven Brown (University of Warwick).

Also see homepages: Jonathan Yates

Novel processing approaches to graded dielectric and magnetic composites for spatial transformations
Prof Patrick Grant

Recent UK-led breakthroughs in the theory of Spatial Transformations (ST), such as the possibilities concerning cloaking and invisibility, have caught both the scientific and popular imagination, and have stimulated a huge growth in related research around the world. The potential of the underlying ST approaches, however, has much wider applicability than cloaking alone, in arguably more important applications that span communications, energy transfer, sensors and security. However, theory and concepts are outstripping practical demonstration and testing, leading to a mismatch in what may be theorised and computed and what can be realised in practice.

This project will focus on developing practical new processing approaches to build materials with graded dielectric and magnetic properties in order to produce designed and unusual interactions with microwaves. The primary manufacturing approach involves the use of a polymer matrix into which high dielectric permittivity and magnetic permeability particles are added with controlled, spatially varying fractions. The resulting materials have anisotropic properties in at least one direction; the use of inherently anisotropic or high aspect ratio materials can also enhance this effect. Processing routes include 3D printing, spray deposition, and variants of casting and will be the focus of the experimental work. The material microstructure will be characterised from the nanoscale upwards, along with electrical and magnetic response in the mega-gigahertz range.

The research will involve close interaction with Queen Mary University and Exeter University as part of the QUEST programme:

Also see homepages: Patrick Grant

Novel processing of nanostructured films for energy storage
Prof Patrick Grant

A new method for manufacturing electrodes for Li ion batteries, electrochemical supercapacitors and permeable fuel cell membranes has been developed in Oxford based on the spray deposition of suspensions of nanomaterials. The next stage in the evolution of this new process is to move from proof of concept to exploring the possibilities of manufacturing new energy storage devices with outstanding performance. The research will investigate how to produce designed meso-structures and hybrid electrodes involving novel combinations of: (i) engineered porosity for ion mobility, (ii) conductors for electron mobility, (iii) interfacial nanostructure for efficient charge transfer, and (iv) nanostructuring of electrochemical active materials for high surface area, storage capacity and strain tolerance. The project will involve a combination of processing and equipment development, microstructural characterisation and energy storage measurements.

Also see homepages: Patrick Grant

Novel routes to manufacturing layered inorganic nanomaterials
Dr. F. Dillon, Dr. R. Nicholls, Professor N. Grobert

Cabon nanotubes, have attracted increasingly more attention due to their outstanding properties in recent years. Concurrently, other 1D nanomaterials such as, inorganic nanowires and nanotubes of other layered materials, such as MoS2, WS2, BN, have been explored. Recently, new techniques for the precise structural control of WS2 nanomaterials were developed in house. Larger laboratory scale production, however, is still scarce and needs to be developed in order to make these novel nanomaterials viable for further characterisation, manipulation and application. This project will be focusing on the development of novel routes to inorganic 1D nanomaterials using chemical vapour deposition techniques. In this project the student will work closely with other members of the group and the samples produced by the student will be an integral part of a collaborative project with Dr Michael B Johnston (Department of Physics) and Dr Kylie Vincent (Department of Chemistry). It is envisaged to publish the findings in a peer reviewed journal and conference participation will be encouraged.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

Optical resonators in ultrapure diamond
Dr Jason Smith

Diamond is optically transparent throughout the infrared, visible and into the ultraviolet region of the spectrum, and its refractive index is relatively insensitive to temperature, making it highly attractive for producing stable optical resonator structures. Such structures could have a number of uses, from classical optical switches, to microcavities for housing quantum bits (qubits) for quantum computing. The difficulty is that processing diamond into microstructures is highly challenging as its chemical inertness makes it resistant to most etches. New plasma etching techniques developed by our collaborators at the University of Strathclyde Institute of Photonics look extremely promising in this regard, and the project will be to design and characterize resonators and waveguides based on thin films of diamond. The project will also involve interaction with the Quantum Photonics group at the University of Bristol.

Also see homepages: Jason Smith

Phase field modelling of nuclear materials
S. P. Fitzgerald, P. D. Edmondson

Phase field modelling is a mathematical approach for solving interface problems. Originally developed for the dynamics of solidification, it has more recently been applied to a wide range of physical problems involving the boundaries of two or more distinct phases, where "phase" can be interpreted very generally, e.g. solid/liquid, matrix/precipitate, grain 1/grain 2 etc. This project will develop a phase field simulation program and apply it to microstructural evolution in irradiated materials. Ideally the project will involve close collaboration with experimental research undertaken in the Materials for Fusion and Fission Power group.

Also see homepages: Philip Edmondson Steven Fitzgerald

Phase separation in thin film polymers
Dr Hazel Assender

§ The project will examine phase separation processes and morphological changes in thin film polymers, comparing the processes and kinetics in thin film systems with those in the bulk.  Collaborations with other universities should allow novel polymer systems to be investigated.

Also see homepages: Hazel Assender

Probing the atomic scale structure and dynamics of energy materials
J Yates

The aim of this project is to develop and apply computational techniques to interpret solid-state NMR spectra of materials used in solid-oxide fuel cells and battery materials. Determining the local atomic structure and material function of such materials has proved challenging using convention (diffraction based) techniques, due to the presence of long-range disorder and ionic motion.

Solid-state NMR is a powerful probe of atomic scale structure and dynamics. However, there is no simple theory to link the observed NMR spectrum to the underlying atomic level structure (as Bragg's Law does for diffraction). In recent years we have developed computational techniques, based on quantum mechanics, to predict and interpret NMR spectra (see

There are several possible routes for this project, depending on the student's interest - either focusing on applying existing techniques to novel problems, or developing new computational methodologies. There will be close collaboration with experimental NMR groups, both international and within the UK.

Also see homepages: Jonathan Yates

Processing and properties of tungsten coatings for fusion reactors
Prof Patrick Grant / Dr David Armstrong

Tungsten is the key plasma facing material for use in any future nuclear fusion device due to its high melting point, good sputter resistance and low activity. However its refractory nature leads to inherent difficulties in its processing and many traditional production routes are not available. Vacuum plasma spraying is one of the most attractive methods of producing tungsten coatings for this application, but thermal mis-match between the tungsten and substrates such as steel or copper lead to the development of complex residual stresses which degrade the performance of the coating. Other challenges include microstructural control, and characterising the properties of tungsten in the coating arrangement.

This project will use recently upgraded vacuum plasma spraying equipment to produce both pure and alloyed tungsten coatings on novel substrates. In-situ process data will be recorded including temperatures, deflections, etc. Coatings will be characterised using state of the art microscopy and micro-mechanical testing facilities, as well as thermal loading, and finite element analysis used to understand the evolution of the stress state. By consideration of the process conditions in manufacture, the microstructure and the properties of the coatings, optimisation will be performed to produce practical tungsten coatings for further testing and application.

Also see homepages: David Armstrong Patrick Grant

Production of Semi-Insulating Silicon for High Frequency Devices
Prof P R Wilshaw / Kanad Mallik

§ This project will provide an opportunity to research the making of semi-insulating (resistivity of 10-100kohm-cm) silicon-on-insulator (SOI) substrates grown by the Czochralski technique for microwave monolithic integrated circuits (MMIC). This has been identified as a novel substrate material in the ITRS Roadmap and has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in the semiconductor industry.

The research involves enhancement of the resistivity of SOI handle wafers by doping with transition elements, which introduce deep impurity levels in the silicon energy band gap. Another challenging aspect of the research is to confine these dopants to the handle wafer by use of diffusion barriers. The work will provide an excellent opportunity to get training and gain experience in a wide range of experimental skills in modern semiconductor science and technology. For example:

  • Transition element doping techniques, including ion implantation and diffusion.
  • Characterization techniques like, deep level transient spectroscopy (DLTS), secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS), Auger electron spectroscopy (AES), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and microwave absorption measurements.
  • Some of the characterisation experiments will involve training in high vacuum techniques and cryogenics.
  • Semiconductor device fabrication using photolithography.
  • Working in semiconductor-grade cleanrooms in Southampton and Oxford.
  • There is also scope for numerical modelling work concerning the electronic properties of semiconductors and microwave device simulation.

The student will work in a team involving members of the Department of Materials, Oxford, the Electronic Engineering Department, Southampton, a multi-national Si wafer manufacturer, and a UK/EU semiconductor device manufacturer.

Also see homepages: Peter Wilshaw

Quantification of STEM HAADF image intensities for catalyst nanoparticle systems using novel EM techniques including EDX and EELS
Prof P D Nellist, Dr S Lozano-Perez and Dr D Ozkaya (Johnson-Matthey)

Heterostructure nanoparticles, for example containing two different metallic elements, can show improved catalytic activity at reduced cost compared to monometallic nanoparticles. Determining the atomic structure and the distribution of elements within such nanoparticles presents a severe characterisation challenge. Furthermore, in order to develop sufficient statistics to relate structure to activity, a large number of nanoparticles need to be measured requiring high throughput methods. Recent developments in electron microscopy allow atomic resolution imaging and spectroscopy, and this project seeks to apply these methods to bimetallic catalyst nanoparticles making use of world-leading electron microscopes at Oxford and at the EPSRC National Facility for Aberration-Corrected STEM (SuperSTEM). A particular focus will be developing automated instrument control and data processing methods to allow the high throughput required. The project will supported by Johnson-Matthey, who will provide research materials and support, and financial support including a top-up to the student stipend.

Also see homepages: Sergio Lozano-Perez Peter Nellist

Quantitative 3D imaging and spectroscopy at the atomic scale
Prof P D Nellist

The development of correctors for the inherent aberrations of electron optics has revolutionized the spatial resolution achievable in transmission electron microscopy (TEM), which now can reach below 0.1 nm. Focusing the microscope at specific depths within a sample, a method known as optical sectioning, offers the opportunity to perform three-dimensional (3D) imaging and spectroscopy on materials. Alongside this, careful measurements of the total electron scattering combined with computer modelling of the scattering processes can provide additional information about the 3D arrangement of atoms. An example application of this method is measuring the strain that occurs when a dislocation interacts with a surface, and the evolution of the atomic core structure of dislocations in strained thin films. Such measurements are critical to improve the efficiency and longevity of the latest heterostructured semiconductor devices. Alternatively, the techniques developed will be used to determine the 3D configuration of atoms in nanoparticles that contain more than elemental species, such as catalysts for fuel cells and semiconducting nanoparticles tailored for specific optical response.

Also see homepages: Peter Nellist

Quantitative atomic resolution imaging
A Kirkland

Almost all structural information derived from High Resolution Electron Microscopy relies on qualitative matching of observed and calculated images. This project aims to investigate the fundamental reasons as to why the calculated and measured image contrast differs by significant amounts and to develop new quantitative approaches to image matching that can be applied to a range of structural problems.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Quantum confinement in oxide nanostructures
Professor Martin Castell

Crystalline oxides such as SrTiO3 have vast potential as a material to be integrated in the next generation of microelectronic devices. It has recently been discovered in Oxford that certain surface treatments of SrTiO3 produce atomic scale nanostructures by subtly changing the ratio of Ti to Sr in the surface region. The aim of this DPhil project is to investigate the quantum confinement of electrons in these nanostructures, similar to the particle in a box problem in elementary quantum mechanics. Atomic resolution scanning tunneling microscopy will be used to determine the size and distribution of the nanostructures, and spectroscopy techniques will show the degree of quantum confinement. For this research a new state of the art microscopy/spectroscopy facility is available.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Quantum control of donor spins in silicon devices
Dr S. Simmons, Dr J. A. Mol and Professor G. A. D. Briggs

Quantum information embodied in spins in silicon can be manipulated very precisely, and can persist for over three hours.  Quantum computers made from silicon materials would benefit from the great industrial development of silicon processing and nanofabrication. Much of previous research in silicon for quantum computing has used donor impurities in bulk crystals. The great challenges now are to learn how to measure the states and control the interactions of a small numbers of spins in silicon. This project will seek to develop control techniques that will be sufficiently precise to allow fault-tolerant error-correction in silicon devices with small numbers of spins. 

The long lifetimes of spins in bulk silicon place a very high upper bound on the possible quality of quantum control. Donor spin qubits located close to a material interface in a silicon device, such as a transistor, experience a nonuniform environment which can affect the quality of quantum control. Scalable quantum technologies will need to meet and surpass certain accuracy thresholds to demonstrate quantum error correction. The goal of the project will be to exceed these thresholds using interface spins in silicon devices. For this you will investigate magnetic resonance and interface effects in both many-spin and single-spin regimes. You will need to have, or to acquire early in the project, good knowledge of physics, magnetic resonance, quantum information, and semiconductor materials. New cryogenic and pulsed microwave facilities are currently being established at Oxford for experiments on quantum devices.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Jan Mol Stephanie Simmons

Quantum interference in single-molecule devices
Professor G. A. D. Briggs, Dr E. A. Laird, Dr J. A. Mol and Professor H. L. Anderson*

Quantum interference offers a rich resource which could be exploited in molecular devices. If there are multiple pathways for energy transport through a molecule, or if electrical transport is subject to resonances within a molecule, then these effects could be exploited for practical technologies. For example, it may be possible to make transistors with much lower power consumption than current silicon CMOS, and it may be possible to exceed the current limits of thermovoltaic materials for scavenging heat that would otherwise be wasted. Understanding such phenomena may also shed light on postulated quantum coherent processes in biology, ranging from photosynthesis to bird navigation.

The project will require nanofabrication of carbon-based devices into which individual molecules can be inserted. The current through the molecules will be measured with a view to discovering mechanisms of quantum interference. A major challenge will be to devise and fabricate geometries with additional gates to control the quantum interference. The project will involve nanofabrication, chemical attachment of the molecules, and electrical measurements over a range of temperatures and frequencies, with especial regard to discovering the conditions under which quantum coherence can be found. A successful outcome will be to find regimes in which quantum coherence gives enhanced device performance.

* Department of Chemistry

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird Jan Mol

Quantum read-out of spin resonance in a silicon transistor
Dr J. A. Mol, Dr S. Simmons and Professor G. A. D. Briggs

If quantum computers could be made using silicon materials, they would benefit from the vast investment that has been made in the purification of the materials and the nanofabrication of devices. Recent work in collaboration with Oxford has shown that the quantum coherence time of spin qubits can be more than three hours. The great challenges now are to learn how to control the interactions and measure the states of a small numbers of spins in silicon. This project will seek to detect electron spin resonance in a nanoscale silicon transistor through the resulting change in current.

The project will study electrically detected magnetic resonance (EDMR) in state-of-the-art silicon transistors. The size and geometry of these devices allows for the detection of spin states down to level of a single donor atom. The project will combine device fabrication and measurement with cavity-based electron and nuclear magnetic resonance. This will open the way to exploring phenomena usually associated with atomic physics for quantum information processing. The project will demand good knowledge of physics and/or electrical engineering as well as a deep understanding of semiconductor materials, and will benefit from new facilities currently being established at Oxford for experiments on quantum devices.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Jan Mol Stephanie Simmons

Quantum superposition in a vibrating carbon nanotube
Professor G. A. D. Briggs, Dr E. A. Laird and Dr N. Ares

There are two motives for extending the amount of ‘quantumness’ in our materials and devices. One is to develop technologies which exploit uniquely quantum phenomena, to perform tasks which are not feasible using classical physics alone. The other is to investigate ways in which classical realism can be ruled out in interpreting quantum measurements. A well-established test of ‘macrorealism’ is provided by the Leggett-Garg inequality (LGI), which enables you to tell whether or not a system is in one and only one state at any given time. We have demonstrated violations of the LGI in atomic scale systems, and the time is now ripe to stretch the limits of ‘macroscopicity’ which can be tested.

This project will test the LGI in different states of a vibrating single-walled carbon nanotube. Nanotubes will be mounted so that their vibrational frequency can be tuned electrically at frequencies of tens of gigahertz. They will have a high quality factor, so that their quantum states decay only slowly, typically over 10,000 or more oscillations, with large level spacing, so that they can be cooled to the quantum ground state in a dilution refrigerator. A pair of valley-spin qubits in the nanotube will provide means of excitation one quantum at a time, and also the means of measuring resulting states. A carefully designed experiment will make it possible to test whether the LGI is violated, and hence whether a macrorealistic interpretation of the experiment can be ruled out. This will be an important practical demonstration of how to increase size of systems that manifest fully quantum behaviour.

Also see homepages: Andrew Briggs Edward Laird

Reactive Metal Nanoparticles for Batteries
Dr Andrew Watt

Recently we discovered a new method for producing highly reactive metal nanoparticles (eg aluminum, lithium) in large volumes and under environmentally friendly conditions. The process overcomes the major barriers for using reactive metals as materials in batteries or hydrogen generators; (1) there is no surface oxide to prevent reaction, and (2) the nanoparticles are so small that once the reaction has taken place all metal has been reacted so there is no waste. The objective of this project is to utilize Aluminum’s superior energy density to weight ratio, zero emissions potential and minimal toxicity to produce a hydrocarbon replacement fuel source.

Also see homepages: Andrew Watt

Recycling of Al alloys
K A Q O'Reilly

Reducing energy use is a major component of the UK’s policy for meeting its CO2 emission targets. Vehicle lightweighting, by replacing steel components with light alloy castings and wrought components, has been identified as one of the technologies with the greatest potential to contribute to this goal. Aluminium alloys are hence being used by the automotive and aerospace sectors. However, these industries are currently using primary grade aluminium, as recycled materials do not give adequate mechanical properties.  
A recent life cycle assessment for the Al industry showed that the production of 1kg of primary Al, when all the electricity generation and transmission losses were included, required 45kWh of energy and emitted 12kg CO2, whereas 1 kg of recycled Al required only 2.8kWh (5%) energy and emitted 0.6kg (5%) of CO2. Hence the use of recycled materials would considerably reduce the carbon footprint.
This project will investigate the ability of melt conditioning to improve the mechanical performance of recycled materials. Melt conditioning is defined as treatment of liquid metals by either chemical or physical means for the purpose of enhancing heterogeneous nucleation through manipulation of the chemical and physical nature of both intrinsic (naturally occurring) and extrinsic (externally added) nucleating particles prior to solidification processing. A prime aim of melt conditioning is to produce solidified metallic materials with fine and uniform microstructure, uniform composition and minimised cast defects and hence good mechanical properties.

Also see homepages: Keyna O'Reilly

Roll-to-roll manufacture of organic transistors
Dr Hazel Assender

§ We are seeking to develop organic transistor devices on polymer substrates by roll-to-roll vacuum deposition using high-throughput molecular and polymer evaporation.   The project will be to explore materials parameters for improved properties, and also the lifetime/degradation in performance of the device as a result of chemical degradation, and mechanical and thermal stresses on the devices.

Also see homepages: Hazel Assender

Semiconductor nanocrystal sensors
Dr Jason Smith

Semiconductor nanocrystals grown by wet chemical methods are rapidly becoming a key functional material that are finding applications in fields as diverse as life sciences, solar power generation, and telecommunications. It is well known that the chemistry of the nanocrystals’ surface profoundly affects their electronic properties, and the fluorescence from single nanocrystals displays a number of interesting dynamic phenomena such as random blinking and spectral drift due to the Quantum Confined Stark Effect which can potentially be harnessed for use as sensors of the local environment. The aim of this project will be to develop techniques for using changes in the fluorescence properties of nanocrystals to sense changes in the surroundings. It will build on recent work to develop a fluidics device and electrical gating structures compatible with single nanocrystal photoluminescence measurements.

Also see homepages: Jason Smith

Sensor Technology Based on Large Area Synthetic Graphene
Jamie Warner

Sensor technology, such as touch screen displays and pressure/strain sensors, will be developed using graphene. The graphene will be synthetic and of large area, produced using metal catalyst assisted chemical vapour deposition. Processing methods for transferring the graphene onto transparent flexible polymer substrates will be developed. This project aims at bringing graphene into application and will utilize recent advances within the group for producing outstanding synthetic graphene material. Optical and electron beam lithography will be used to pattern the graphene and metal electrodes for devices. Interfacing with computer hardware will be undertaken to achieve functioning sensor technology.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Spray forming of hierachical metal-metal composites
Prof Patrick Grant

Spray forming is a high technology casting process for producing large scale advanced alloys with unmatched quality and performance. This project will explore spray forming for the processing of 'designer' alloys by co-spraying a second (or more) liquid or metal phase into the primary sprayed alloy so that co-deposition and mixing occur to produce unusual and potentially highly useful structures and properties. This project will make use of the leading spray forming facilities at Oxford to manufacture and study hierachical metal-metal composites in which microstructural features at the nano, micro and meso scale controlled separately by co-spraying of different materials, from the simplest mixture of two pure metals that are then heavily deformed to produce nanofibrils, through to the co-injection of nanoscale powders and mixing of different liquid sprays to produce in-situ reactions and otherwise difficult to process compositions and phases. The microstructure and mechanical properties will be studied for the most promising combinations, together with the effect of downstream processing operations.

Also see homepages: Patrick Grant

Strains Induced by Hydride Formation in Zirconium
Prof Angus J Wilkinson

In service temperature cycling of nuclear fuel cladding can lead to repeated sequences of precipitation and dissolution of hydrides in zirconium based alloys. During the transformation from hydrogen in solid solution to the hydride phase there is a considerable volume expansion. This project will explore the links between nucleation sites, hysteresis between temperatures for precipitation and dissolution, the stress field and local plasticity induced by the transformation strain and the precipitation morphology. The following techniques will be used: high resolution EBSD, digital image correlation of SEM images, in situ thermal cycling, finite element based-crystal plasticity simulations. This project will be carried out in close conjunction with Rolls Royce and other partner Universities within the HexMat flagship EPSRC programme (

Also see homepages: Angus Wilkinson

Structural anisotropy properties correlations in materials for electronics and photonics
A Kirkland / K Borisenko

Chalcogenide phase change memory materials (for example, Ge2Sb2Te5, GST) find applications as electronic memory storage materials. In these materials the phase change, and therefore information storage, can be initiated by laser or electric pulses. It has recently been suggested that by using polarised light to initiate the phase change it may be possible to control the  anisotropic structures. In GST materials this could add an extra parameter  to increase the fundamental storage density. In the project we will prepare new chalcogenide-based phase-change memory materials with dopants that are likely to induce anisotropic properties and study their atomic structures .  The project will also involve measurements of the optical and electric properties of the prepared materials and the building of computed models describing structure – property correlations. The project will involve electron micrsoscopy, computer modelling and studies at the Diamond Synchrotron.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Structural studies of Graphene and other 2D crystals with single atom sensitivity
Jamie Warner, Angus Kirkland

Graphene is a 2D crystal only one atom thick and is ideal for studying individual atoms by transmission electron microscopy. This project will focus on understanding fundamental crystal defects in graphene and other 2D crystals such as boron nitride, MoS2 and WS2. Mono-vacancies and the other non-6 member ring structures that exist in the unique 2D crystal. It will also investigate the grain boundary interface between two graphene domains with the aim of mapping out the unique atomic stitching that occurs. Graphene will be grown by chemical vapour deposition. This project will use Oxford's state-of-the-art aberration-corrected high resolution transmission electron microscope, equipped with a monochromator for the electron beam to give unprecedent spatial resolution at a low accelerating voltage of 80 kV. Advanced image analysis techniques, including exit-wave reconstruction, and comparison to image simulations will be utilized for a deeper understanding of the atomic structure.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland Jamie Warner

Studies of rapid phase-change and resistive memory materials for information storage
Professor A I Kirkland / Dr K Borisenko

Phase change memory materials based on chalcogenide alloys and resistive memory materials based on metal oxides are an important class of industrial materials, which find applications in electronic storage and rewritable memory. The operation of phase-change memory is based on fast and reversible phase transformation between amorphous and crystalline forms which have different properties. Similarly, resistive memory operates by transition between states that have different resistivities. Despite their wide commercial applications the exact mechanism describing fast phase transitions or resistance changes remains unclear. To understand the ways in which performance of memory devises using such materials can be improved, accurate structure properties correlations are required. The project will involve preparation of new phase change and resistive memory materials and investigation of their atomic structures using advanced diffraction and imaging techniques as well as theoretical simulations. The electric and optical properties of the materials will be also measured and correlated with their structures

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Superconducting metamaterials
Dr Susannah Speller/Professor Chris Grovenor

Metamaterials - composites designed with spatially varying dielectric and/or magnetic properties - are of great interest internationally for a wide range of applications including invisibility cloaking! We are members of the £5m EPSRC Programme Grant QUEST ( which is developing new materials and demonstrator devices for novel microwave communications systems. As part of this large project, we are introducing a new research activity in the fabrication of polymer/superconductor composite materials to extend the range of performance of conventional metamaterials. This studentship will be closely integrated with the QUEST team, and the holder will become an expert in a wide range of composite processing techniques, and in microstructural and electromagnetic characterisation using electron microscopy, high frequency testing and SquID magnetometry. There will also be opportunities to spend time in the laboratories of our partner universities; Queen Mary, University of London, and Exeter University.

Also see homepages: Chris Grovenor Susannah Speller

Surface structure characterisation of iron-based superconductors and topological insulators
Dr Susannah Speller/Professor Martin Castell

The unexpected discovery in 2008 of a new family of superconductors based on iron promises to lead to substantial progress in understanding the elusive mechanisms responsible for high-temperature superconductivity. However, worldwide efforts to understand the fundamental properties using a wide variety of experimental techniques have so far proved to be inconclusive and contradictory due to the lack of detailed understanding of the complex microstructures of even the best single crystal samples. This project involves using Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM) to investigate the surface structure with atomic resolution in combination with High-Resolution Electron Backscatter Diffraction analysis for mapping local structural variations on the micron-scale.

Iron-based superconductors are only one of several novel quantum state materials of great interest in the scientific community. Another �hot topic� are the so-called topological insulators, which exhibit bulk insulating properties with special conducting surface states, promising dissipation-less carrier transport at room temperature. There are a wide range of potential applications for these exciting new materials including dramatically faster, almost powerless computer chips. The experimental techniques developed in this project are ideally suited to studying the distribution of ferromagnetic additions needed to exploit the exciting properties of topological insulators in practical devices.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell Susannah Speller

Synchrotron X-ray and optical in-situ measurement and analysis of solidification phenomena
Prof Patrick Grant / Dr Enzo Liotti

Although solidification theory and casting practices are well-developed, several important uncertainties remain, particularly relating to reconciling aspects of microstructural evolution in a real casting (highly dynamic conditions) to solidification theory (generally artificially benign conditions). Synchrotron X-rays have a sufficiently high energy and flux that they can penetrate engineering alloys up to several millimetres or more and form a high contrast image. This project will combine synchrotron X-ray imaging and our specially designed solidification rig to investigate microstructural evolution in alloys under highly dynamic and manipulated conditions, similar to real castings. These experiments will be complemented with optical based measurements on organic transparent alloy analogues in the laboratory. Key phenomena of interest are dendrite instability and fragmentation, the behaviour of grain refiner and heterogeneous nucleation, and the effect of pulsed electromagnetic and ultrasound external fields. Since the output of these experiments involves large and many video files, a final key aspect is the development and use of algorithms to automatically extract key quantified data, involving collaboration with vision research groups elsewhere in the university.

The project will require travel and stays of typically 5 days to X-ray synchrotron sources around the world, particularly the Diamond Light Source (UK), ESRF and Soleil (Grenoble and Paris, France), the Swiss Light Source (Geneva, Switzerland) and the Shanghai Synchrotron (China).

Also see homepages: Patrick Grant

Synthesis of large area graphene sheets using chemical vapour deposition
J H Warner

The 2D crystalline nature of graphene makes it suitable for large area transparent conducting electrodes. Recent advances in chemical vapour deposition (CVD) methods now permit a route to making large area sheets. This project will focus on understanding the growth mechanisms behind CVD grown graphene and then developing approaches to improve the atomic structure and electronic properties. Insights into the structure will be gained using atomic-resolution imaging with low-voltage aberration-corrected high resolution transmission electron microscopy. Techniques to transfer the sheets to transparent substrates, such as glass or flexible polymers will be examined and the sheet resistance determined. Methods to incorporate dopants into the CVD growth process will be pursued with the aim of improving conductivity. Controlling the number of graphene layers grown by CVD will be investigated.

Also see homepages: Jamie Warner

Tailored nanocrystal catalysts
Professor Martin Castell

Currently, industrial catalyst nanoparticles used for pollution control and chemical processing are randomly dispersed on their supports with a large variety of sizes and shapes. Within this multi-billion pound industry the main research driver is to find ways of increasing the catalytic efficiency of the precious metals used such as Pt, Pd, and Rh, or increasingly alloys of various metals. One method is to increase the surface to volume ratio of the particles, and much effort has been directed towards that goal. Another method, proposed here, is to recognise that the crystal facets of the catalyst particles all have different chemical properties. This means that highly efficient catalysts can be created by synthesising particles with particularly large fractions of highly active crystal facets. One of the central aims of this project is to develop new processing routes to allow large-scale manufacture of shape and size selected metal and oxide nanoparticles with high catalytic efficiency. The project will also involve the synthesis of core-shell nanocatalysts. Characterisation of the catalyst particles will be carried mainly with scannning tunnelling microscopy.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

The theory of mapping bonding at atomic resolution using electron microscopy
Prof P D Nellist, Dr J R Yates, Dr R J Nicholls

The very small (~0.1 nm) beam widths available in the scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) allow for extremely high resolution imaging and spectroscopy of materials. In particular, the structure observed in electron energy-loss spectra (EELS) reveals details about chemical bonding, and when performed in the STEM in principle allows for mapping bonding effects atom by atom. Interpretation of the imaging and spectroscopy data requires comparisons with simulations, and the aim of this project is to develop the theoretical and computation methods required to simulate the effects of bonding on EELS. It will involve combining ab-initio electron structure calculations using density functional theory with electron scattering modelling and imaging theory.

Also see homepages: Peter Nellist Rebecca Nicholls Jonathan Yates

Three-Dimensional Fracture Mechanics
Prof James Marrow, Prof David Nowell (Engineering)

The fracture resistance of engineering materials is measured using standard test specimens; real cracks and engineering components are three-dimensional and more complex, so approximations and adjustments are needed to reliably assess their structural integrity. Over-conservatism, to safely account for the uncertainties in these adjustments, can have significant economic consequences.  There is also an increasing need to miniaturized test specimens, to monitor the degradation of structural material properties in fission and fusion energy generating power plants.

We are using digital correlation image analysis, combined with X-ray computed tomography techniques (laboratory and synchrotron), to obtain precise, in-situ, measurements of the material displacements inside solid samples, such as the strain distribition at stress concentrations; damage development relaxes the elastic strain energy and increases strength for example.

You will investigate, by experiment and finite element modelling, the propagation of three-dimensional cracks, to develop novel test methods to study energy materials.

The project is suitable for graduates with an engineering, mathematical or physics background.

Also see homepages: James Marrow

Tissue engineering of scaffolds
J T Czernuszka

Tissue engineering is a rapidly expanding commercial and research area. To date, skin and articular cartilage have been tissue engineered and are available for clinical use. Other larger structures have been more difficult to produce. The major reason for this is the diffusion constraints imposed on the scaffold. We have developed a novel and unique method for producing three dimensional scaffolds from collagen, either by itself or as a composite with hydroxyapatite or other biopolymers. The technique involves rapid prototyping by solid freeform fabrication combined with CT/MRI data scanned directly from patients. Because we use SFF we can create a microvasculature within the scaffold ensuring that nutrients are kept supplied to cells deep within the structure. This is termed a 'platform technology' and the following examples show the breadth of tissues which can now be fabricated: bone, meniscal cartilage, heart valves, smooth muscle and arteries. We have a range of collaborations with leaders in their field both within the UK and abroad. There is scope for several projects within this general theme, depending on the interests and experience of the applicants.

Also see homepages: Jan Czernuszka

Tissue expanders
J T Czernuszka

Tissue expanders are widely used by plastic surgeons in reconstructive surgery. These are of the 'balloon' type which involves sequentially injecting fluid into the device to expand the overlying tissue. This tissue is then used elsewhere in the patient. We are developing an in situ anisotropic tissue expander for the treatment of severe cleft palates, syndactyly and tissue reconstruction following major burns. We are collaborating with plastic surgeons at the John Radcliffe Hospital and at the Radcliffe Infirmary and with colleagues at Georgia Tech in the US.

Also see homepages: Jan Czernuszka

Ultimate microscopy without lenses
A Kirkland

All Transmission Electron Microscope Images are resolution limited by the aberrations of the objective lens. This project aims to develop radical new approaches to overcoming these limitations by processing diffraction data thus avoiding the need for a good (or even any) lens. The approaches developed will form part of a multi University program and the Diamond Synchrotron investigating imaging and diffraction using a variety of radiation sources.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Ultra high resolution imaging of soft (biological) materials
A Kirkland

This project aims to extend many of the ultra high resolution imaging techniques that have been developed for imaging hard (radiation resistant) materials to soft materials including biological structures. This is an entirely new area and projects will be available in experimental, theoretical and computational areas or combinations of these. Part of this work may involve collaboration with the MRC laboratories in Oxford.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Ultra-sensitive molecular detection
Professor Martin Castell

The aim of this project is to develop a novel ultra-sensitive sensor for the detection of low concentrations of gases, especially concentrating on volatile organic compounds. The sensor design is based on our recently submitted 'percolation sensor' patent. It is made of a network of metal nanoparticles connected by conducting polymers and is optimised for high sensitivity and functionalised for selectivity. The student will be involved in a broad range of interdisciplinary activities from sensor design and construction to testing and evaluation.

Also see homepages: Martin Castell

Ultrafast Electron Microscopy
A Kirkland

Modern electron microscope can provide information at the atomic scale in the spatial dimemsion. The next generation of instruments will also provide temporal resolutions in the fs regime. This project will investigate solutions to providng temporal resoltuions from the ms to micro s timescale to bridge the gap between the limits imposed by current detectors and possible future pulsed electron sources.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Unconventional Computing using a Materials Science Approach
H. Bhaskaran

We want to achieve something unique - creating a computing system where data storage and processing are closely linked using a materials science approach. In this exciting and pioneering project we aim to create nanoscale devices using phase change materials, and investigate arithmetic computations on these devices - this is our attempt to mimic biological computing processes (albeit at a very early stage).

This is difficult to achieve, and so we need very, very bright and motivated colleagues. Doctoral students working on this project will have much scope to effect a large-scale impact in the future of computing. We also have several international academic collaborations for this project, and the student will have potential opportunities to travel to partner institutions in Germany and the USA.

The DPhil student working on this project will become an expert in phase change materials and memories as well as advanced measurement techniques. All our projects allow for significant creative contributions and the right DPhil candidate will have the freedom to shape research directions.

Your Profile:
Your profile will be one of a highly motivated undergraduate (evidenced by previous stints in Research laboratories), first class honors degree (or equivalent) earning undergraduate in Physics, Materials, Engineering or a closely related field with a deep desire to carry out independent experimental research. You must like working on hands-on laboratory experiments and have the desire to try out many novel ideas. Evidence (via references) of initiative and ability to work collaboratively would be a plus, as this is an experimental project.

Also see homepages: Harish Bhaskaran

Understanding Radiation Enhanced Corrosion Mechanisms in Advanced Nuclear Materials
P. D. Edmondson / Prof. S.G. Roberts

Oxford Materials has established a major research effort in the study of materials for use in nuclear applications. This includes the radiation and corrosion effects of nuclear materials. Understanding these effects is extremely important in the design of new alloys in order to mitigate the degradation of materials during service.

This project, in collaboration with researchers at Sandia National Laboratory in the USA, will – for the first time – examine microstructural changes within advanced nuclear materials, from both radiation damage and corrosion. These process will be studied individually and holistically, as they occur. This analysis will be undertaken using the unique In-Situ Ion Irradiation Transmission Electron Microscope (I3TEM) facility at Sandia National Laboratory.

This project is available to students that satisfy both the academic requirements for Oxford University and security requirements for access to Sandia National Laboratory.

Any questions concerning this project can be addressed to Dr Phil Edmondson (

Also see homepages: Philip Edmondson

Understanding Zeolite Catalysts
Professor A I Kirkland

Zeolites are one of the worlds most important catalysts but their structures are still relatively poorly understood. This project which is co-sponsored by Johnson Matthey aims to understand how these catalysts evolve and degrade. The project will involve advanced electron microscopy under low dose conditions and possibly X-Ray synchrotron studies and computer modelling. There may be opportinities for direct placement with the Industrial partner.

Also see homepages: Angus Kirkland

Up-scaling graphene manufacturing to meet target device specifications
Dr. A.A. Koos, Professor N. Grobert

For graphene to become industrially viable und useful for technological applications large scale production of high-quality graphene must be developed. This project will investigate different routes to manufacturing highest grade graphene and the feasibility of up-scaling production. State of the art characterisation techniques will be employed for quality control, and close collaboration with internationally leading industries will form an integral part of the project.

Also see homepages: Nicole Grobert

105 projects

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