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Controlling Reservoir Formation at the Air/Water Interface by Nanoparticle Design: a bridge from Biocompatible Model Systems to Lung Surfactant Function

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Lawrence
    Dr R Campbell
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This PhD project is at the interface between physical chemistry and physical pharmacy and combines the use of several interfacial tools including neutron reflectometry and laser reflection techniques to understand and control the use of nanoparticles in tuning reservoir formation in films at the air/water interface. The work aims to: (1) improve the fundamental understanding of controlled reservoir formation in fluid monolayers from synthetic through to biocompatible systems, (2) provide insight into nanoparticle design to activate the formation of reservoirs of hierarchical structures, and (3) bridge the knowledge gap in reservoir formation from model phospholipid systems to lung surfactant substitutes of relevance to babies born with breathing difficulties. The work stems from a sustained experimental campaign to understand the properties of oppositely charged polyelectrolyte–surfactant mixtures at the air/water interface in terms of non-equilibrium effects. Recent work has been carried out to exploit these effects in order to create super-efficient films that have superior properties to surface layers formed at equilibrium. Interestingly, it has just been shown that reservoirs of material can be triggered when films are compressed, but only when particles trapped in them have a certain charge and structure. This is the first time that extended structures in fluid films have been switched on and off in such a controlled way. The PhD project extends these exciting findings towards the design of optimum nanoparticles to tune reservoir formation in a range of synthetic, biocompatible and biologically-relevant systems.

The PhD studentship is fully funded for 3 years and is based at the Institut Laue-Langevin (Grenoble, France), which is a leading international neutron research centre. The student will be enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Manchester (Manchester, UK). There will be opportunities to collaborate with leading experts from France, Spain and Hungary in this project.

The student will be based at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), a world leading facility in neutron research, for the duration of the PhD. Work will be carried out using the cutting edge neutron reflectometer FIGARO to provide information about the composition and structure of films during dynamic compression/expansion cycles. Essential complementary information will be acquired using surface pressure isotherms as well as laser reflection techniques including ellipsometry (surface excess) and Brewster angle microscopy (lateral film morphology). Access to bulk characterisation techniques such as dynamic light scattering and UV-vis spectroscopy will be provided through the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter. The student will be expected to participate in the induction week at the University of Manchester as well as weekly student seminars at the ILL that cover a broad range of technical and research topics. Support will also be provided to attend some relevant training courses, meetings and workshops.

Entry Requirements
Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in chemistry, physical chemistry, physics, pharmacy or pharmaceutical sciences. A Masters degree in a relevant subject area would be advantageous.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( A start date of September 2019 or January 2020 is available. Applications will close when a suitable candidate is found so please apply as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

This is a funded project covering all fees and stipend. Please contact the supervisor for more information. You MUST also submit an online application - select Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the form.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Tummino, A.; Toscano, J.; Sebastiani, F.; Noskov, B. A.; Varga, I.; Campbell, R. A. Langmuir, 2018, 34, 2312–2323.
Braun, L.; Uhlig, M.; von Klitzing, R.; Campbell, R. A. Adv. Colloid Interface Sci., 2017, 247, 130–148.
Varga, I.; Campbell, R. A. Langmuir, 2017, 33, 5915–5924.
Campbell, R. A.; Tummino, A.; Noskov, B. A.; Varga, I. Soft Matter, 2016, 12, 5304–5312.
Campbell, R. A.; Yanez Arteta, M.; Angus-Smyth, A.; Nylander, T.; Noskov, B.; Varga, I. Langmuir, 2014, 30, 8664–8674.

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