School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr E Valsami-Jones, Dr Swaroop Chakraborty  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Nanoscience and nanotechnology explore the special properties and processes that occur in the nanoscale: the size range conventionally considered as 1-100nm. These fields have emerged as enabling and disruptive, influencing and cutting across all current scientific domains, from medicine to technology, whether fundamental or applied. Nanomaterials are utilized in lubricants to enhance their performance by reducing friction and wear between surfaces at the nanoscale level. They provide improved thermal stability, wear resistance, and better load-carrying capacity, leading to longer-lasting and more efficient lubrication. By incorporating nanomaterials such as graphene or nanoparticles of metals or ceramics, these lubricants exhibit superior properties, optimizing machinery and engine performance across various industries.

The PhD project is part of a European consortium project (SiToLub), which aims to create a virtual platform based on integrated computational models with built-in artificial intelligence (AI) features to predict the safe and sustainable lubricant's performance in a tribological system and to facilitate the formulation of lubricants to overcome the obstacles posed to the European industry by new market demands, regulatory requirements and shortage of raw materials.

Through the use of these advanced computational models and AI, SiToLub will support the development of innovative lubricants (with nanomaterials) that meet the evolving needs of the European industry, enabling the industry to remain competitive in the face of the new challenges and, at the same time, promoting sustainable development, SiToLub will contribute to the EU broader goals of digital and green transformation.

The supervisory team has already showed in preliminary experiments that the most reactive range of silver, gold and platinum nanoparticles differs amongst the three elements and across the nanoscale size range. Through this PhD project, further work will allow us to capture hybrid structures, in space and time, and study them in more detail. The work will provide important experimental data to support model development.


  • To assess the safety and biodegradability of nanoparticle based lubricant formulations developed in the SiToLub project.
  • To establish the constraints on reactivity and transformation of nanolubricants in various environmental conditions.
  • To assess the safe and sustainable by design (SSbD) principles to be followed in the project SiToLub.
  • To develop dataset for generation of SSbD models.


Four analytical approaches will be used for the experimental work:

  • Synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials
  • Test the transformation and reactivity of nanomaterials to be used in lubricants.
  • In vitro toxicology assessment of safe by design of nanolubricants using mammalian cell culture and Daphnia magna.
  • Test QSAR model for SSbD using the existing literature and SiToLub data


The PhD project is planned for 48 months: M1-3 training needs analysis, literature review, assessment of existing literature on safe and sustainable by design of materials; M3-6 training in analytical methods in Birmingham, especially ICP-MS and TEM; M6-12 in depth analytical training in Birmingham; M12-16 experimental design; M16-26 experimental nanomaterials synthesis and characterization, including in relevant media, toxicity assessment; M26-30 revision of work and refining of experiments; modelling; synthesis of data for publication; M30-34 submission of manuscripts and contribution to project deliverables; M34-36 design and execution of experimental safety assessment of nanolubricants; review of data and consideration of wider implications; submission of further journal paper(s). M36-48 thesis and papers completion.


Training will be provided to the successful applicant to enable mastering a diverse range of analytical and computational skills throughout the PhD. The training will support the planned research but also much enhance the student’s skillset. In addition to engaging extensively with the wider research of the host team and School (GEES), the successful student will also have opportunities to attend and participate in more generic training on important topics such as time management, communication, scientific writing, and resource management skills. The project will place the student within a large research team, working alongside chemists, physicists, environmental, biological and materials scientists with a range of expertise in their area.


Interested applicants should hold a BSc degree (2:1 at least), or Masters (desirable) in chemical, environmental or biological sciences. Students with an experience of research at undergraduate or Masters level are encouraged to apply. An ability to work both independently and as part of a team and willingness to travel to national and international facilities for research is required. 

The supervisory team for this studentship includes Professor Éva Valsami-Jones and Dr Swaroop Chakraborty. This 4 year studentship is funded via a Horizon Europe UKRI Guarantee projedt SiToLub to Professor Valsami-Jones. International applicants are eligible to apply for this studentship. For further enquiries contact Prof. Valsami-Jones ([Email Address Removed]). Please send the completed application form, CV and a letter of motivation to Prof. Valsami-Jones.

Deadline for applications, 15th December 2023.

The studentship will start in January 2024 or as soon as possible after that.

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

SiToLub - Horizon Europe UKRI Guarantee funding (PI - Éva Valsami-Jones)

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