Atomic scale characterisation and quantum engineering of energy-efficient molecular materials (QMol)

   Physics Department

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  Dr S Jarvis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project summary – The goal of this PhD project is to help realise a new generation of switchable molecular devices with the potential to fulfil societal needs for flexible energy harvesting materials, low-power neuromorphic computing, smart textiles, and self-powered patches for healthcare. The possibility of creating these exciting materials derives from a series of world firsts by the supervisory team, demonstrating that room-temperature quantum interference effects can be scaled up from single molecules into molecular layers with the potential to translate quantum interference effects into technologically relevant materials.

Background – Thin-film molecular layers are exceptionally important for introducing high degrees of functionality to materials. Molecules can be designed with a multitude of different physical properties, ranging from high electrical conductivity, catalytic activity, tuneable optical properties, and much more [1]. These properties are determined by the electronic structure of a molecule, making them well suited for applications in quantum technologies. In particular, a technique called on-surface polymerization has received considerable recent attention due to its ability to create unique and stable 1D and 2D molecular structures with an exciting range of quantum mechanical properties [2]. This project is an exciting opportunity to realise these new materials as part of a recently awarded £7m programme of research bringing together a world leading team in molecular electronics [3].

Project Outline – This project will explore methods for surface growth and characterisation of molecular thin films designed to optimise thermoelectric and memristive properties. The successful candidate will develop new methods to prepare highly ordered molecular films including the use of on-surface reactions that can be used to link together molecules with well-defined quantum mechanical properties into rigid 1D molecular wires or 2D molecular networks. Single molecule and atomic scale properties will be studied with Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM) which provide images of their detailed atomic and electronic structure (with resolution better than 0.1nm). The resulting molecular structures will provide an exciting playground to develop our fundamental understanding of quantum behaviour and molecular interactions at the atomic scale, and ultimately, provide new routes for developing nanoscale molecular electronic devices.

The selected student will have the opportunity to become trained in a broad range of techniques to study a variety of nanoscale materials. This will involve advanced scanning probe microscopy methods capable of imaging single atoms and characterising nanoscale electronic and chemical properties. This work will take place in world-leading facilities including Lancaster’s Quantum Technology Centre and the award winning IsoLab, providing advanced environments for atomic scale characterisation. You will also become highly trained in nanoscale material fabrication, ultra-high vacuum technology and X-ray spectroscopy. Students are also expected to publish high impact journal publications and present their work at international meetings and conferences, and will receive opportunities and training for personal and research development.

The Lancaster Physics Department holds an Athena SWAN silver award and Institute of Physics JUNO Championship status and is strongly committed to fostering inclusion and diversity within its community.

Applicants are expected to have the equivalent of a first (1) or upper second (2.1) degree class in Physics or Astrophysics, supplemented by a relevant Master's-level qualification. Potential applicants are invited to apply to the physics department through this link: stating the title of the project and the name of the supervisor. For more information contact Dr Samuel Jarvis

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)


[1] T. Kudernac, S. Lei, J. A. A. W. Elemans, and S. De Feyter, Chem. Soc. Rev. 38, 402 (2009).
[2] L. Grill and S. Hecht, Nature Chemistry, 12, 115 (2020).
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 About the Project