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Building Three-Dimensional Structures from Two-Dimensional Materials, Novel Approaches for the Creation of Van der Waals Heterostructures


Dr Marek Szablewski Friday, April 30, 2021 Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Durham United Kingdom Experimental Physics Physics Solid State Physics

About the Project

The isolation of graphene by Geim and Novoselov in 2010 proved that two-dimensional crystalline solids could be stable and brought into the realm of experimental science and technology. We have recently developed a novel process to use such two-dimensional crystalline solids for the fabrication of van der Waals heterostructures (vdWHSs), a materials system that has only recently been conceived and fabricated. A funded PhD position is available under the supervision of Dr Marek Szablewski and Dr Michael Hunt in Physics at the Durham University, UK. 

Our method is generic, scalable and inexpensive. The focus of this project is to the science underpinning this new approach and investigate the novel heterostructures produced. vdWHSs are layered materials derived from monolayer 2D solids such as graphene and its non‐carbon analogues (transition metal dichalcogenides, black phosphorous etc.). These ultra‐thin 3D structures can be built up of one or more layers of different 2D materials in a nanoscale equivalent of a layered cake. The resulting architectures are novel ‘smart’ materials combining the individual, outstanding properties of the building blocks, enabling new functionalities ranging from photodetectors and light‐absorbing coatings to flexible electronic devices. vdWHSs offer great advantages over conventional semiconductor heterostructures that are limited in their materials combinations due to the need to precisely lattice match the structure between layers – in vdWHSs the weak van der Waals interactions between layers produce clean, defect‐free interfaces from a wide palette of two‐dimensional materials.

Current methods of producing vdWHSs are expensive, time consuming and difficult to scale. The first vdWHSs were produced by an extension of the ‘Scotch tape’ technique. Recent advances have been made with chemical vapour deposition (CVD) to grow of these structures, but are limited in the range of solids accessible and the quality of the heterostructures. Our liquid suspension deposition (LSD) approach, which has been proven in early studies, involves precise and controlled assembly of vdWHsS from easily produced liquid phase suspensions on almost any surface with limited (and potentially no) pre‐treatment. The physics of the LSD approach is not fully understood and research is needed to optimise the quality and widen the range of materials. Addressing these issues is the core activity of the proposed PhD project, providing a platform for industrial collaboration and future developments. 

This PhD Studentship is due to start in October 2021. 

Entry requirements and Funding: Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first class honours degree or upper second class integrated Masters (or equivalent) in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science or a related subject. The Scholarship will be offered at the standard UK Research Councils’ rate (currently £15,285; to cover living costs) and will cover tuition fees at the Home/Islands rate (currently £4,407) and may involve undertaking teaching/demonstrating duties during the period of study.

Applying for the Position: The closing date for applications is Friday 30 April 2021, but applications will be reviewed as they are received. The start date is October 2021, but there is flexibility to start later.

Applications are particularly welcome from people in under-represented groups in STEM including female and black and ethnic minority candidates.

For further information or informal enquiries, please contact Dr Marek Szablewski (), or the Senior Postgraduate Research Administrator ().

To apply please go to Department of Physics : How to apply - Durham University and please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results, two academic references).

Applications can be made immediately and interviews will be held until the studentship is filled.

About the University: Durham University, founded in 1832, is the third oldest English University. It is in the Top 100 Universities in the world as ranked by Times Higher Education and QS, and the Department of Physics ( is currently ranked 4th in the UK Complete University Guide. Materials Physics is one of the largest, most diverse and dynamic fields in modern physics, encompassing all aspects of the solid and liquid states of matter. This breadth is reflected in the research undertaken at Durham which spans a wide range of subjects from light emitting polymers and solar cell materials to nanoscale magnetics. Our work aims to push forward the forefront of our understanding in the physics of materials using experiment, theory and computation - Centre for Materials Physics (

Funding Notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International students, includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (currently £15,285 per annum to cover living costs) and will additionally cover tuition fees at the Home rate (currently £4,407 per annum). Also, additional funding is included to cover research costs and local, national and international travel such as conferences.

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