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Advanced Functional Dyes

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr J N Moore, Dr S Cowling  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project


Dyes have many practical applications in a wide variety of contexts. Examples of their use range from providing simple, stable colours on paper and textiles, to providing switchable colours in more advanced technology applications, such as those found in display devices. The annual global dye market is in the multi-$billions, and there is a continuing demand from industry for new dyes that are designed to meet the stringent requirements of increasingly more advanced applications as high-technology devices evolve. From a research perspective, this continuing demand for new dyes requires the development of better molecular design strategies that are firmly based on an improved understanding of the fundamental chemistry that defines the properties of such dyes.

We have recently been developing a new strategy for designing dyes for advanced materials applications by using a combination of experimental studies and computational modelling, and which is based on understanding the way in which subtle variations in molecular structure can affect and enhance the properties of dyes. We are already using this new strategy to identify novel target dye molecules before synthesis is attempted, contrasting the more traditional approach in which design has often been led by synthesis, followed by repeated cycles of testing, synthesis, re-testing, etc. One important high-technology application is the use of dyes as guests in liquid crystal hosts, which can provide materials for energy-efficient, relatively simple display devices that can operate with or without a back-light and can generate colour images directly from the dyes without the need for colour filters or polarisers. Our new design strategy has been producing new dyes with significantly improved properties for such applications.

Objectives and Novelty

The aim of this project will be to explore our new design strategy through experimental and computational studies of new dyes that have recently been synthesised at York, including anthraquinones and other classes of dyes. The outcomes of the project will feed back directly to the synthesis of further new dyes.

Experimental Approach

The project will involve studying dyes in solution and in liquid crystal hosts by a combination of methods. Experimental techniques may include UV-visible absorption and emission, IR, Raman, and NMR spectroscopy, cyclic voltammetry, spectroelectrochemistry, and time-resolved studies of excited states, along with materials characterisation techniques such as microscopy, X-ray diffraction, DSC, and studies of optical switching in devices. Computational techniques, including DFT calculations and MD simulations, will be used to model the molecules and their dynamic behaviour.


The project will involve training on a variety of experimental and computational techniques, focusing on physical chemistry and also including materials chemistry, devices and applications. The student will have strong interactions with both Physical and Materials Chemistry groups in the Department and close support from experienced technical staff.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: .

Funding Notes

This project is open to students who can fund their own studies or who have been awarded a scholarship separate from this project. The Chemistry Department at York is pleased to offer Wild Fund Scholarships to new students who will pay tuition fees at the overseas rate. Scholarships are competitive and awarded based on academic ability and financial need. For further information see:

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