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i-sorp, a new technique for multi-resolution analysis of pore structure in materials


Project Description

If you find the idea of travelling around the UK to create bespoke equipment that could transform materials science appealing, then you’ll want to be part of this project.

Determining the convoluted pore structure of materials such as cement currently relies on measuring the total amount of gas taken up by the material under certain conditions. Mathematical techniques rely on a series of assumptions which are based on model systems to convert this information into statistics such as pore size distribution, specific surface area and total pore volume. These model systems are usually simplified and do not take into account the complex nature of the pore network.

This project will develop a new technique which will revolutionise our understanding of these structures, and minimise the uncertainty which arises from the assumptions currently used. Argon or krypton gas will be used to probe the pore structure of various materials, but instead of measuring gas uptake you’ll use X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron, to map the location of the gas in three dimensions.

Initially you’ll be based at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility; here you’ll design a rig which will be compatible with the beam lines at Diamond, and will be capable of holding samples at the required temperature while controlling the gas pressure in the sample chamber.
Your second year will be based at the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire where you will refine the sample rig. You’ll also collect high resolution tomographic maps of various samples including the ion etched foils and standard zeolites which have regular pore structure, as well samples with a more convoluted structure which will be prepared by collaborating researchers.

You’ll then return to Cumbria where you’ll develop post-processing programmes to analyse your data and compare your results to standard gas intrusion techniques; the zeolites will be used to provide confidence in our new technique while the bespoke samples generated in the laboratory will provide information on samples of interest to the nuclear industry.

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility values co-operation and inclusivity while offering unparalleled access to a diverse expertise base. You’ll receive training on the particle accelerator systems and analytical equipment and may also be required to travel to Manchester, or other locations, to undertake further training.

This project is one of several projects on offer at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility. For information on other opportunities, see our website. Applicants should send a CV to giving their top three projects in order of preference in the body of the email, with the subject line ‘PhD application’.


Supervisory team
Laura Leay and Fred Currell (The University of Manchester)
Darren Batey (Diamond Light Source)

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the School of Mechanical, Civil and Aerospace Engineering. To be eligible you must hold or expect to attain a minimum of 2:1 in a science or engineering discipline.

Funding is provided for three years and covers tuition fees and stipend at the standard RCUK rate.
You will have a maximum of four years to complete this PhD, although the fourth year is not funded.
You will be based in Cumbria at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility, and it's expected that you will relocate to Oxfordshire for one year to work at the Diamond Light source.

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