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  Breaking the 10 GPa 'Pressure Barrier' in Organic Solids

   School of Physics and Astronomy

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  Dr Dominique Laniel  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available to work on a collaborative project held at The Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions at The University of Edinburgh on the effect of extreme pressure on molecular materials.


Although use of high pressure to explore polymorphism in molecular solids is increasingly common, only 5% of high-pressure molecular crystal structures have been determined above 10 GPa; beyond 20 GPa, precise data are available only for benzene and threonine. Void space in molecular crystal structures approaches zero above 10 GPa, forcing pressure to be accommodated by covalent bonds and intermolecular interactions. Even though structural data for moderately complex organic compounds beyond this key pressure point are essentially lacking, they are critical for determining the mechanical characteristics of both inter- and intra-molecular bonds. This project will address this important gap in our knowledge by examining the effect of very high pressures on a series of organic materials featuring the key synthons of crystal engineering: hydrogen bonds, dispersion interactions and halogen bonds.

Crystal structures will be determined using state-of-the-art equipment for extreme conditions research, with diffraction data collected in-house and at synchrotron sources. Other techniques include vibrational spectroscopy and periodic density functional theory. The image shows a typical sample in this area of research, crystals grown in situ in a diamond anvil cell ready for study by X-ray diffraction or Raman spectroscopy. The pressure is 1.2 GPa.

Chemistry (6) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

This multi-disciplinary studentship will be of duration 3.5 years and based in The Schools of Physics & Astronomy (with Dr Dominique Laniel) and Chemistry (with Prof. Simon Parsons) at The Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions ( The project is fully funded, covering UK fees and a stipend at the EPSRC standard rate (starting at £17,668), with opportunities for undergraduate teaching. The post involves a mixture of practical and computational work, suiting a candidate with a background in Chemistry, Physics or Materials Science. Due to funding restrictions this is open to UK students only.


Informal enquiries should be addressed to or, with applications made through the EUCLID system as outlined at Applicants must have a 1st class or an upper 2nd class honours degree (or equivalent) and meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria: The position will remain open until it is filled.

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