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Design and applications of photoresponsive MOFs

   School of Chemistry

About the Project

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 pores and channels. These pores and channels are on the same size scale as many small molecules critical to life on Earth and MOFs have found applications in many areas, including gas storage, gas separations, catalysis, drug delivery, and, most relevant to this PhD, water purification.[1] Photoactive MOFs are a relatively new subfield; photoresponsivity can be achieved by the inclusion of a photoactive guest, post-synthetic modification of an existing framework, or by designing framework linkers that are intrinsically photoactive.[2,3] A significant portion of this project will focus on the synthesis and design aspects of photoactive MOFs, ranging from organic synthesis of photoresponsive linkers to MOF formation, subsequent characterization, and applications.

We make novel porous frameworks that contain intrinsic photoresponsivity, enabling us to control the structure and properties of the material in a completely reversible manner. One key application within our group is controlling the flow of ions into, out of, and within powders and single crystals using light, enabling the realization of technologies such as sunlight-driven water purification. Often, however, researchers create new materials that exhibit interesting behaviours without a thorough understanding of how they actually work. This "Black Box" situation inherently limits the ability to improve and build upon existing materials in a rational way. This project is not like that. The multi-disciplinary nature of our approach means you will gain invaluable experience not only in synthesis and supramolecular chemistry but also in the fundamental understanding of the photochemistry and photophysics that govern the phenomena these materials are used for. We have extensive experience in spectroscopic and photocrystallographic techniques which you will employ to understand molecules and materials as they change and move on the nanoscale. The project will afford you the opportunity to work on all aspects of the research, from material synthesis to advanced characterization techniques required to understand and control their behaviours. Dr Easun is a frequent user of national and international facilities, including time-resolved vibrational spectroscopies (RAL) and synchrotron X-ray diffraction and IR-microspectroscopy (Diamond, ESRF), and training will be provided in relevant methods. You 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 you 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 () for informal inquiries, and before applying (with a CV and cover letter summarising your research interests and previous experience). Formal applications by students eligible for UK “Home” fee status should be made through the University of Birmingham’s online application system.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded (stipend+fees) 3.5 years PhD position and is open to UK applicants.


[1] Easun et al., Chem. Soc. Rev., 2017, 46, 239-274;
[2] Jones et al., J. Mater. Chem. A, 2016, 4, 6714-6723;
[3] Cerasale et al., Nat. Rev. Chem., 2022, 6, 9-30.

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