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Advanced diagnostics for atmospheric and low pressure industrial plasmas

School of Mathematics and Physics

Dr T Field Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Theoretical Physics

About the Project

1 Centre for Plasma Physics, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland

2 Impedans Ltd. Chase House, Northern Cross, D17 AK63, Dublin, Ireland


● The student who takes up this PhD position will work on an experimental project to study low temperature plasmas, which are used by high-tech industry to make computer chips and have many other uses.

● The experiments will be performed partly at Queen’s University Belfast and partly at Impedans Ltd., which designs and manufactures novel plasma diagnostic tools and is located in Dublin, Ireland – (Student travel expenses will be covered.)

● There will be a mixture of pure ‘blue-skies’ research and more applied research relevant to high-tech manufacturing.

● The studentship stipend is £17,285 per year for 3 years, which is tax free. The stipend is made up of £15,285 per year from a DfE PhD studentship and £2,000 per year as part of the collaboration with Impedans.

● The expected project start date is 1st October 2021. Applicants should hold or expect to hold at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics or a related subject by this date.

● To apply, please use the QUB portal - Application deadline 26th February

● Informal enquiries, please contact Tom Field at

Further details below

Capacitively coupled low pressure air plasma

Eligible candidates must be either UK or Republic of Ireland residents. EU citizens that satisfy a requirement of being ordinarily resident in the UK for the three years prior to the start of the studentship are also eligible. Further details of the eligibility criteria can be found here: Potential candidates are strongly recommended to verify their eligibility before applying.

Project Description:

The objectives of this project are to

● study low pressure plasmas on short timescales

● investigate diagnostic tool use with atmospheric plasmas

This experimental project will be carried out partly at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and partly in the research labs at Impedans. At Impedans, the focus will be on low pressure, low temperature, radio-frequency driven capacitively coupled plasmas similar to those used in high-tech industry for semiconductor plasma processing.

At QUB the focus will be on plasmas generated at atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric plasmas are becoming more commonly used in mass production due to their advanced material treatment capability and because they do not require liquid chemicals or vacuum chambers. Characterising atmospheric plasmas presents a new challenge. The student will use new sensors to measure the kinetic energy of ions, RF harmonics and plasma parameters, such as the electron temperature, ion density and plasma potential. These measurements can give insight into the fundamental physics of plasmas and can also be used to help develop repeatable reliable processes in industry. For example, a new challenge in both academia and industry is to measure ‘live’ ion energy distributions on timescales of milliseconds and microseconds. The student will get to use some brand-new plasma diagnostic technologies and will be the first to publish material using them.

Personal Development and Training during the PhD:

This project gives an opportunity to join both a university research group and an industrial research and development team. Note that the team at Impedans have to work at the highest level to be able to develop new plasma diagnostics that are useful to the world-wide semiconductor industry. The research in the university will lead to publications and opportunities to present research results at international conferences. There is a lively global community of academics who work with low pressure plasmas. Wherever possible the student will be given freedom to direct their own research in consultation with their supervisors. At Impedans the student will work with engineers who have years of experience of working directly with all areas of industrial plasma usage, from semiconductor processing, to deposition of advanced coatings, to medical device manufacture. The student will gain practical knowledge of the use of plasmas in a manufacturing / commercial context, including common issues and their solutions. The student will gain insight into the real needs of industry and the challenges that the next generation of semiconductor technologies will face. Impedans is a small to medium enterprise (SME) with under 50 employees, so on placement they will meet people from, and gain insight into, all aspects of the business.

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