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Development of a Portable Mass Spectrometer for accurate carbon isotope measurement

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Maher
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The University of Liverpool (UoL) and Q-Technologies are seeking to appoint a suitably experienced and qualified individual to undertake a three year doctoral research programme.

Accurate determination of carbon isotopic ratios is important for a wide range of measurement and monitoring scenarios including ecosystem-atmosphere interactions, climatological modelling, stable (13C) and radio (14C) isotope ratio measurement. In the oil and gas industry, measurement of 13C signatures from methane gas obtained during drilling operations is important in biogenic to thermo-genic methane determination. Paleontology and archaeology rely on stable isotope 13C measurement for indication of diet (based on C3 and C4 metabolic pathways). Recently the advent of miniature and micro-engineering technology has allowed the development of portable mass spectrometers which may be deployed in field conditions (i.e. out of the laboratory). Furthermore by using a hydrophobic membrane inlet, the sensing element may be used underwater for monitoring levels of dissolved isotopes including carbon and oxygen. Interest worldwide in such instruments is high and the potential market enormous.

To realise a portable quadrupole mass spectrometer for accurate measurement of carbon isotopic signatures in field conditions (i.e. out of the laboratory). Such an instrument could be used for monitoring and measuring anthropogenic carbon related GHGs (CO2, CH4) and VOCs, but if capable of this specification could also be used for a range of other GHGs (e.g. N2O)

Project objectives:
• Specification of the instrument for the carbon isotope measurement
• Simulation of the instrument performance using 3D computer modelling software
• System design
• Sourcing of component parts and procurement
• Build of prototype
• Test of prototype system in the laboratory
• Measurement of carbon isotopic signatures in field conditions

Students will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in one of the following, or related areas: Physics, Electronics, Engineering, Chemistry or Environmental Science. A relevant Master’s degree in the above areas and/or experience in one or more of the following will be an advantage: electronics, electrical engineering, electromagnetics, modelling/simulations, analytical chemistry, instrumentation, control systems, mass spectrometry, charged particle optics or environmental analysis, forensic and/or archaeological science.

Funding Notes

By joining the centre you will receive a £15,000 tax free stipend per year, with your post-graduate tuition fees paid (at UK/EU rate). The Centre is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Please visit for more information on the centre.

Application details:
To apply for this opportunity please email [Email Address Removed] quoting UoL-LCEI-101 in the email subject with:
• 2 page CV
• 2 page expression of interest
• A completed Application Criteria – available from


Q-Technologies develops and supplies innovative mass spectrometry systems and is at the leading edge of micro and miniature mass spectrometry technology. The technology has applications in a wide range of existing and emerging areas across a variety of industries. We have exclusive technology that enables us to be a key provider of unique cutting edge solutions. Please visit for more information
Electrical Engineering and Electronics at University of Liverpool is at the forefront of research in this fast-moving discipline and its postgraduate body is one of the largest in the University, encompassing world-class fundamental and applied research. The Department has a very active postgraduate research programme with over 100 research students engaging in PhD studies and approximately 25 post-doctoral research assistants. There is also a large number of visitors from overseas universities, research institutes and industry. Please visit for more information.

How good is research at University of Liverpool in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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

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