Bottom-up synthesis of edge-engineered Nanographenes

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr A Keerthi  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project Description:

Nanographenes, cut-outs of graphene, are conjugated molecules consisting of fused benzene rings, which occur in various shapes and sizes, including coronenes, acenes, and larger Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Nanographenes have triggered extensive theoretical investigations due to their enormous potential toward tailor-made organic materials with applications in electronics, optoelectronics, spintronics, chemical sensing, etc. The synthesis of graphene nanostructures via top-down methods such as lithographically patterning and mechanical or chemical exfoliation presents well-known disadvantages such as non-regular edge structures, uncontrollable sizes and chemically functionalised edges. In contrast, the bottom-up organic synthesis approach has emerged in the last decades as a powerful tool to design structurally well-defined nanographenes. The electronic properties of nanographenes are largely determined by their structural characteristics including their size and edge structure. Their experimental validation has been mainly delayed due to the need of atomic precision with respect to edge structure control.

This project aims to develop solution-state bottom-up synthesis of multi-edge nanographenes with precise edge-engineering approaches. Further functionalization of nanographene molecules and making 2D networks will be explored. Self-assembly and supramolecular properties of these graphene nanostructures will be studied in detail and devices will be fabricated to understand the edge dependent electronic properties.

Manchester is hub of 2D materials and we have access to the state-of-the-art research facilities housed in the National Graphene Institute, Henry Royce Institute and the Department of Chemistry, our group focuses on nanographenes and confined reactors.

Training and research environment:

Research will be experimental and based in the Department of Chemistry, Chemistry Building. The student will be exposed to organic chemistry, synthesis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, structural characterizations (such as NMR, single crystal XRD, mass spectroscopy, etc.). Some aspect of the work might also include device fabrication technology for making of organic field effect transistors and involve electrical measurements.

Academic background of candidates

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemical Sciences / Material sciences. A minimum of a 2i class UK Masters honours degree (e.g. MChem, MSci, MEng) in Chemical Sciences, Materials, Natural sciences or Chemical Engineering or a first degree with an additional Master’s degree or international equivalent degree is required. For international students, at least one English language test is a must. IELTS overall score of 6.5 with no less than 5.5 in each sub-test TOEFL iBT overall score of 90 with no less than 20 in each sub-test.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

All appointments are made on merit.

Contact for further Information

Informal enquiry should be directed to Dr Ashok Keerthi with CV. Please specify why you would like to particularly apply for this position, and how you would be suitable. Please send only one PDF file which has the all the relevant information, and keep the file size small to avoid bouncing from the server.

Email: [Email Address Removed]


Please see the application process at:

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year funded studentship, covering fees and stipend (£15,609 in 2021-22). Funding available for home students only.
Self-funded international students are welcome to apply.
Start dates available in April 2022 and September 2022.


1. Slota, M. and Keerthi, A et, Magnetic edge states and coherent manipulation of graphene nanoribbons. Nature 2018, 557 (7707), 691-695.
2. Di Giovannantonio, M. and Keerthi et al, On-Surface Dehydro-Diels–Alder Reaction of Dibromo-bis(phenylethynyl)benzene. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142 (4), 1721-1725.
3. Xu et al, On-Surface Synthesis of a Nonplanar Porous Nanographene. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141 (19), 7726-7730.
4. Keerthi et al, Edge Functionalization of Structurally Defined Graphene Nanoribbons for Modulating the Self-Assembled Structures. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139 (46), 16454-16457.
5. Keerthi et al, On-surface Synthesis of a Chiral Graphene Nanoribbon with Mixed Edge Structure. Chemistry – An Asian Journal 2020, 15 (22), 3807-3811.

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