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Exploring large-scale nuclear spin polarisation physics of xenon-129 for hyperpolarised gas MRI applications

Project Description

Within this project, the PhD student will be given the unique opportunity to research the unexplored fundamental physics of large-scale nuclear spin polarisation physics. The student would have access to three newly-built 129Xe polarisers in our state-of-the art polariser lab within the POLARIS group, and the nature of the work will involve a balance between the theoretical and experimental aspects of nuclear spin polarisation physics and engineering. While the primary focus of this project is to explore the physics of large-scale nuclear spin polarisation physics, there is scope for the successful candidate to work on in vivo and in vitro applications of hyperpolarised 129Xe MRI on the UoS MRI scanners.

The main components of work the student will undertake during this project are:

1) Designing computer models to simulate the Rb-129Xe spin-exchange optical pumping physics
2) Setting up optics apparatus to perform optical spectroscopy and light polarisation measurements
3) Polariser system optimisation using dedicated NMR hardware/software
4) Performing atomic spectroscopy to probe the D1 and D2 rubidium-85 and rubidium-87 absorption lines and evaluate the hyperfine structure of these levels under different running conditions
5) Magnetic field simulations and experimental field mapping to optimise the spin-exchange optical pumping efficiency
6) Faraday rotation experiments to measure absolute rubidium vapour density under polariser operating conditions
7) Modelling the thermodynamics of gas flow through the spin-exchange optical pumping cell
8) Testing the best gas mixture to maximise 129Xe polarisation
9) Measuring the fundamental constants that underpin large-scale Rb-129Xe spin-exchange optical pumping and comparing against theory
10) Ultimately design and building of a new Rb-129Xe system that incorporates theoretical and experimental work undertaken throughout the project

Upon completion, the student will be specialised in the following physics research areas:

1) Nuclear polarisation
2) Atomic spectroscopy
3) Nuclear and electron magnetic resonance
4) Angular momentum of light
5) Light-matter interactions
6) MRI physics and clinical applications of 129Xe MRI

Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Dr Graham Norquay ()

How to Apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease as the department.

Interviews are due to take place on Monday 25th March 2019.

Funding Notes

The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health has received an allocation of three EPSRC studentships for 2019 entry from the Doctoral Training Partnership grant that is awarded to the University of Sheffield to fund PhD studentships in the EPSRC remit. These studentships will be 42 months in duration, and include home fee, stipend at RCUK rates and a research training support grant (RTSG) of £4,500.

Home/EU students must have spent the 3 years immediately preceding the start of their course in the UK to receive the full funding.

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