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Control of organic gels for tailored applications

Project Description

Organic gels are widely used in industry and on the laboratory scale to produce materials for a variety of applications in energy and nanomaterials. The often opaque ‘native’ gels demonstrate high physical strength and low thermal conduction making them ideal as insulators and for use in optical and electrical systems. However, such gels are more often pyrolised (heated in inert atmosphere, e.g. nitrogen) to produce porous carbons, which can be further activated by heating in active gas streams and that have wide application in filter technologies, gas separation/storage, water purification, catalysis and capacitors.

Despite wide application, current manufacture is typically by trial and error processes, as neither nanoscale assembly processes nor factors controlling physical properties of final gels are fully understood; acceptance of less than optimal materials is common. Due to lack of control and understanding on the bench scale, industrial scale up leads to additional issues such as increased gelation times and changes in physical characteristics. Researchers and industrialists frequently produce gels that could be greatly improved by greater understanding of nucleation, self-assembly and gelation processes. Proper understanding would allow rational design, in turn enabling both enhanced performance of existing materials and novel bespoke products for applications requiring precise control of gel properties such as pore sizes, e.g. for selective storage and delivery, filtration.

In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.
Information about the host department can be found by visiting:

Funding Notes

This PhD project is initially offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with their own funding, or those applying to funding sources. However, excellent candidates will be eligible to be considered for a University scholarship.

Students applying should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant engineering/science discipline, and be highly motivated to undertake multidisciplinary research.


Principe, I.A., Fletcher, A.J. Parametric study of factors affecting melamine-resorcinol-formaldehyde xerogels properties, Materials Today Chemistry. 2017.

Taylor, S.J., Haw, M.D., Sefcik, J., Fletcher, A.J. Effects of secondary metal carbonate addition on the porous character of resorcinol-formaldehyde xerogels, Langmuir. 2015; 31, 50:13571-13580.

Taylor, S.J., Haw, M.D., Sefcik, J., Fletcher, A.J. Gelation mechanism of resorcinol-formaldehyde gels investigated by dynamic light scattering, Langmuir. 2014; 30, 34: 10231-10240.

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