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Atomic imaging in liquids

Project Description

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is one of the few techniques able to image the structure and chemistry of a wide range of materials at the atomic scale. However, the vast majority of TEM imaging is done in a vacuum environment which prevents observation of processes such as chemical reactions. It can even lead to artefacts and misundertanding when the material has a different structure when imaged in vacuum compared to when imaged under operational conditions.

We recently demonstrated a new design of graphene liquid cell consisting of a thin lithographically patterned hexagonal boron nitride crystal encapsulated on both sides with graphene windows [1]. This technology enables exciting new opportunities for controlled imaging of specimens in a liquid environment (without compromising on imaging resolution or analytical capabilities). The design is fully compatible with flow and liquid mixing although this has not yet been demonstrated. In this project you will apply and develop novel graphene liquid cell designs for the first time to investigate chemical reactions at the atomic scale. The specifics of the reactions to be studied range from quantum dot synthesis to mineralisation depending on the interests of the student.

The successful student will learn to fabricate graphene liquid cells in the NGI clean rooms, and characterise these with TEM, SEM, AFM, and Raman Spectroscopy. They will become an expert electron microscopist, able to independently use the £2M Titan ChemiSTEM. They will have the opportunity to gain experience and expertise in advanced image processing and analysis of big data. They will be expected to present their work regularly at international conferences and be expected to interact with external collaborators and to perform joint experiments.

This project is closely linked with the Rosalind Franklin Institute; a new £100 million investment applying the latest physical sciences methodology to key problems in physical sciences. There is also strong interest in the project from the National Physical Laboratory and GSK.

Funding Notes

Successful candidates will have 1st or high 2.1 class Undergraduate degree in Physics/Chemistry/Engineering or Materials.

This project is being considered for DTA funding. This would provide a full fee waiver and a EPSRC standard stipend. International applicants are welcome to apply but will require access to self-funding.


Kelly et al Nano Letters, 2018,

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?
Metallurgy and Materials

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.00

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

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