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Investigating the atomic and electronic structures of nano-scale molecular metal-oxo clusters.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

One PhD studentship is available for a talented researcher with an interest in Inorganic Chemistry. The project will involve the synthesis and detailed characterisation of new nanoscale metal-oxo cluster molecules.

Metal oxide materials are used in a multitude of modern applications including state-of-the-art self-cleaning windows, solar cells and antibacterial surfaces for next generation medical devices. Many of these applications stem from the ability of metal oxides to absorb light and use this energy to direct chemical reactions. As it can be challenging to optimise the properties of a given metal oxide, or to study the detailed reaction mechanisms that occur on a complicated surface, the Pike group synthesises and studies well-defined molecular metal-oxo clusters, which also exhibit exciting photo-active properties. This creates the opportunity to precisely tune properties, for instance to absorb the maximum amount of visible light whilst still driving the required chemical transformation, which will be essential for the design of new systems which can efficiently convert solar energy into fuels.

Nanoscale (~1-2 nm) molecules sit at the interface between molecular and materials chemistry. As ultra-small nano-structures they are challenging to investigate by material characterisation techniques such as microscopy, but may also stretch the capabilities of small-molecule characterisation techniques such as single crystal X-ray crystallography. Therefore this PhD project will explore the use of a range of characterisation techniques to fully understand this size domain, utilising the wide range of facilities available at the University of Warwick under the Spectroscopy and X-ray Research Technology Platforms

The project will investigate metal-oxo cluster molecules, which exhibit photoactive properties. These have the potential to act as visible light driven photocatalysts with tuneable properties. Furthermore, they are interesting well-defined analogues of bulk metal oxide materials and allow study of detailed (photo)reaction mechanisms which can be difficult to study at the bulk scale. Particular challenges will be to understand the electronic properties both in terms of HOMO-LUMO gap and also the relative energy positions of the frontier orbitals – key information for designing new photocatalysts.

Specialist characterisation techniques that will be used in this project include:

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
Electron Micrsocopy
Small angle X-ray scattering
X-ray crystallography
Mass spectrometry
SQUID magnetometry
NMR and EPR spectroscopies
UV and photoluminescence spectroscopies

The applicant will build a wide range of skills in (air-sensitive) synthesis and characterisation, including an in-depth knowledge of NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, which will be supported by internal and external training programmes. The student will work closely with Dr. Pike as a key member of the research group. There will also be opportunities for national and international collaborations with experts in computational modelling and photoelectron spectroscopy.

The studentship comes with an associated travel budget for attending conferences/visiting collaborators.

This project is available via the Warwick Centre for Doctoral Training Analytical Science following a ’4 years Direct start PhD project’ model. The student will embark on a research project in the Pike Group for the etirety of the 4 years duration.

Applications are invited on a rolling basis up to deadlines of January 31st / March 31st / May 31st / July 15th / September 1st until the project is filled.

Please apply here

Please direct informal enquiries and requests for further information to Dr. Seb Pike . For more information on the research interests of the Pike Research Group, please visit

The intended project start date is October 2020

Funding Notes

Eligible applicants must have or be expected to gain a 1st or upper 2nd class undergraduate degree in a relevant Science subject.

To be eligible for a full award an applicant must be ordinarily resident in the UK

Applicants from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award.


1. Krämer, T.; Tuna, F.; Pike, S. D., Photo-redox reactivity of titanium-oxo clusters: mechanistic insight into a two-electron intramolecular process, and structural characterisation of mixed-valent Ti(iii)/Ti(iv) products. Chem. Sci. 2019, 10 (28), 6886-6898.

How good is research at University of Warwick in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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