Applications are invited for a funded PhD position in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of microporous crystalline materials made of organic ligands linked to metal nodes, self-assembled to form infinite frameworks with nanoscale pore and channels. These pores and channels are on the same size scale as many small molecules critical to life on earth. As such, MOFs have found applications in many areas including gas storage, gas separations, catalysis, drug delivery and, of key relevance to this PhD, water purification.
Photoactive MOFs are a relatively new subfield; photoresponsivity can be achieved by inclusion of a photoactive guest, by post-synthetic modification of an existing framework or by designing framework linkers that are intrinsically photoactive.[2,3]
In this project you will exploit the photoresponsive MOFs that we make and use in our research group to control the flow of ions of interest into, out of, and within powders and single crystals using photoirradiation. We also have extensive experience of using infrared and Raman microspectroscopy to give information on the dynamic behaviour of guests within MOFs. The combination of novel photoresponsive materials with such advanced spectroscopic techniques will form the core of this PhD project, elucidating both nanofluidic motion in these controlled nanospaces and testing macro-scale applications to water purification. In addition to water purification, we also target ion-capture from waste streams. There is great need for technologies that can effectively extract species of interest from large volumes of wastewater, currently a difficult, energy expensive process as they require concentrating first. Targets include supply-threatened "E-tech” elements essential for green technologies and the ‘EU-20’ critical elements. This project will deliver new materials which can reversibly bind ions from solution to enable a greener alternative to current technologies.
The project offers a motivated student the opportunity to work on all aspects of the research, from making materials through to the advanced characterisation techniques that are required to understand and control their behaviours. Dr Easun is a frequent user of national and international facilities, including time-resolved vibrational spectroscopies (RAL), synchrotron X-ray diffraction and IR-microspectroscopy (Diamond, ESRF), and the Warwick National NMR facility, and training will be provided in relevant methods.
The candidate should be enthusiastic about combining expertise from multiple areas to solve complex problems and should possess a strong undergraduate degree in Chemistry by the start of the PhD. Backgrounds in synthetic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, photochemistry, spectroscopic analyses, X-ray crystallography, coordination chemistry or porous materials would all be advantageous, and the student must be willing to learn across a wide range of chemistry. The School of Chemistry is keen to achieve a gender and diversity balance across the School and welcomes applicants from all backgrounds.
Applicants should contact Dr Timothy Easun ([Email Address Removed]) for informal inquiries, and before applying (with a CV and cover letter summarising your research interests and previous experience). Formal applications should be made through the University of Birmingham’s online application system.