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Hot carrier dynamics in plasmonic photocatalysis

   Department of Physics

   Monday, August 01, 2022  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Plasmonic nanomaterials are new promising candidates for photocatalysis, which lies at the heart of new technologies ranging from the use of sunlight for water decontamination and for the generation of fuels and energy carriers in a net zero carbon economy, to bond selective photochemistry in drug manufacturing. 

When light interacts with a plasmonic nanostructure, it can excite collective oscillations called surface plasmons, which enable efficient use of electromagnetic radiation over a broad wavelength range from the ultraviolet to the infrared. Some of the light energy stored in these surface plasmons can be re-emitted as light but some can also decay into an electron-hole pair – an energetic, "hot" carrier. If these hot carriers can be extracted from the plasmonic nanostructure efficiently, they can be used to drive novel photochemical reactions. However, our understanding of such plasmon-mediated photocatalysis is still rudimentary.

This PhD project offers the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary collaboration between two of London's leading universities, involving the Department of Physics at King's College London (Professor David Richards) and the Department of Chemistry at University College London (Professor Helen Fielding). The project aims to apply time-resolved optical spectroscopy to gain a new insight on how plasmon-induced ‘hot carrier’ excitation provides an efficient pathway from light to excited electronic states of molecules adsorbed at nanostructure surfaces, to inform our design of the next generation of photocatalysts.

The project will exploit femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy and femtosecond time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to probe the energies and the timescales for the formation and decay of excited states of absorbed molecules, exploring the dependence on nanostructure geometry, material and plasmon resonance. Different plasmonic architectures will be considered, including colloidal nanoparticles and metamaterials based on arrays of electro- chemically grown gold nanorods. The project will exploit the extensive facilities for advanced spectroscopy, characterisation and nanofabrication in King's and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, and new state-of-the-art instrumentation in the newly established ESPRC-funded femtosecond laser facility in the UCL Photon Science Hub. The two departments are just a short walk or bus journey apart. The student will be registered for a PhD in Physics at King's College London.

Candidate Requirements:

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

·      To have, or be expecting to achieve, a first or upper second-class Honours degree or equivalent in Physics, Chemistry, or related discipline.

·      A background in solid state physics and chemical physics.

·      A passion for research, and motivation.

·      A desire to learn new skills; not being afraid to apply yourself to new problems.

·      Creativity and a collaborative spirit; the ability to work in a team.

·      The ability to clearly communicate your ideas to your colleagues and to people beyond our research group.

·      The ability to analyse data and test hypotheses.

·      Practical laboratory experience.

The selection process will involve a pre-selection on application documents; if selected this will be followed by an invitation to an interview. Early application is encouraged as appointment may be made in advance of the application deadline.

Start date: October 2022

For enquiries please contact: Professor David Richards

For full information on how to apply:

Candidates must apply via King’s Apply online application system. Details are available at Please select the Physics Research programme and identify Prof D Richards as a potential supervisor in your application.

The Physics department at King’s College London supports Diversity and Equality and we invite all eligible candidates to apply.

The Department was awarded the Silver Swan medal and Juno Champion award from IOP


Funding Notes

Full funding is available to UK-resident candidates. Applicants from other countries can apply but would normally need to cover international student fees from other sources. Funding is for 3.5 years duration with a stipend bursary of £17,609 per annum, including London Allowance (the stipend bursary will rise each year to reflect the standard research council rates).

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