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Anomalously-large clusters of small molecules in solution

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M.B. Sweatman
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Clustering in solution is increasingly recognized as being of fundamental importance in many diverse areas of science and engineering, such as biomineralisation, neurodegenerative disease, and nanoparticle and pharmaceutical production1-5. But the mechanism for the formation of anomalously-large clusters of small molecules, like glycine, in solution below the solid solubility limit is unknown. In this project, we will seek to shed light on this phenomenon, which has direct application to continuous crystallisation for pharmaceutical production. Recently, we have shown6 that a simple (SALR) fluid with competing short-range and long-range interactions exhibits clustering similar to micellization, and developed a thermodynamic theory to describe this. This project will extend these methods to investigate small-molecule clustering in solution, in collaboration with Dr Leo Lue (Strathclyde) and Dr Jan Sefcik (EPSRC Centre for Continuous Manufacture and Crystallisation (CMAC), Strathclyde).

The aim of this work is two-fold.
1. Chemical physics (in collaboration with Dr Leo Lue, Strathclyde): To continue to investigate the rich phase behaviour of the model mentioned above, and to extend it to better represent solutions of small molecules.
2. Physical chemistry (in collaboration with Dr Jan Sefcik, Strathclyde): To make the link between the models mentioned above and experiments where clustering is apparent, e.g. aqueous glycine.

1. D. Gebauer, A. Völkel & H. Cölfen, Stable pre-nucleation Calcium Carbonate Clusters. Science 322, 1819-1822 (2008).
2. A. Stradner et. al., Equilibrium cluster formation in concentrated protein solutions and colloids. Nature 432, 492-495 (2004).
3. P.G. Vekilov, Nucleation. J. Crystal Growth & Design 10, 5007-5019 (2010).
4. M. Li, H. Schnablegger & S. Mann, Coupled synthesis and self-assembly of nanoparticles to give structures with controlled organization. Nature 402, 393-395 (1999).
5. A. Saric, Crucial role of nonspecific interactions in amyloid nucleation. PNAS 111, 17869–17874 (2014).
6. M.B. Sweatman, R. Fartaria & L. Lue, Cluster formation in fluids with competing short-range and long-range interactions. J. Chem. Phys. 140, 124508, (2014).

Candidates should have a good (1st or 2:1 hons) degree in a cognate discipline, such as Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics. An interest in thermodynamics, computational modelling and/or molecular simulation is essential.

Please apply by clicking the "Apply Online" button below.
Select the Research Area: "Materials & Processes" and clearly state on your application form which project you are applying for and the relevant supervisor.

Funding Notes

Studentship available for UK/EU students only. Overseas students may apply but additional funding to cover the fee difference would be needed.

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in General Engineering?
(joint submission with Heriot-Watt University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 91.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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