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Developing capability for high T, high P studies of liquid surface structure under reactive atmospheres by neutron and X-ray reflectometry

Project Description

The ability to gain a molecular picture of gas-liquid interfacial composition and structure at a range of pressures, temperatures and under different atmospheres, including reactive gasses such as H2, hydrocarbons or O2 would be transformative for many areas of academic, industrial and societal importance. This includes catalysis, where the gas-liquid interface can play a crucial role in key industrial processes such as hydrogenation or hydroformylation; carbon capture and storage; atmospheric chemistry, in particular processes occurring above ocean surfaces that affect atmospheric composition; and many more. Neutron and X-ray reflectometry (NR and XRR) are complementary techniques that can deliver these insights, but to our knowledge there is currently no capability to perform measurements on liquids at both high temperatures and pressures at any national X-ray or neutron beamline.

This studentship aims to develop new high-pressure, high-temperature sample environments for reflectivity measurements of liquids and solids, which are compatible with reactive atmospheres and on-line analysis e.g. by GC/MS. The designs will be flexible, so that they can also be used for other techniques (e.g. GISAXS or diffraction studies) and thus provide benefits to a wide range of ISIS/Diamond users. Sample environments will be tested on ionic liquid (IL) systems of relevance to supported IL phase (SILP) catalysis, which is an important area of development for industrial processes, such as the water-gas shift reaction, hydroformylation and hydrogenation. We will investigate how the gas-liquid interfacial structure of ILs can be modified by IL composition and link changes in structure to catalytic performance through in operando reflectivity measurements. Collaborations with other world-leading groups will allow NR & XRR data to be interpreted alongside complementary techniques, such as reactive-atom-scattering (RAS), and will allow insights from the project to inform the design of the next generation of SILPs.

The ultimate aim is to be able to tune SILP catalyst performance by changing IL composition in a rational way, based on the knowledge of how these changes impact on surface structure and how this links to catalyst activity. The student will spend half of the four-year PhD based at the ISIS and Diamond facilities on the Harwell Campus in Didcot and half at The University of York, which will give them an interesting and varied experience of different research environments and exceptionally broad training opportunities. The York, ISIS and Diamond supervisors possess a wide range of expertise including synthetic chemistry, catalysis, neutron and x-ray scattering, instrumentation development and many analysis techniques that the student will benefit from during the broad research-based training offered.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

This PhD would formally start on 1 October 2020. Induction activities would start on 28 September.

Funding Notes

A funding decision is awaited. If funding is approved, it will cover tutiion fees, a stipend for 4 years, funding for consumables and travel. 50% of funding would be provided by a Chemistry Teaching Studentship for which you should submit a separate application: View Website


Candidate selection process:
• Applicants should submit a PhD application to the University of York by 8 January 2020
• Applicants should submit a Teaching Studentship Application by 8 January 2020:
• Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors can nominate up to 2 candidates to be interviewed for the project
• The interview panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York in the week commencing 10 February 2020
• The awarding committee will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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