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Mobile robot chemists for discovery crystalline materials

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, June 30, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found.
Description: Crystalline solids are important in a range of applications such as drugs and functional materials for energy applications. One challenge is that solids can pack in different ways to give different physical properties: this is known as polymorphism, and it has important real-life consequences. For example, different polymorphs of pharmaceutical molecules can have widely different solubilities and bioavailabilities. Identifying the conditions needed to produce the desired polymorph of a molecule in a reproducible way is an important research goal, spanning a range of application areas.

This project will approach this problem in a disruptive way by developing mobile robot chemists that can autonomously search the available polymorph space. A video of our progress in the related area of solar fuels can be found here:
The project will involve both the development of the hardware and the software to drive the autonomous searching, as well as tackling specific problems such as the preparation of highly porous polymorphs for gas separations or as battery materials. A key goal will be to carry out searches that are guided by computed energy–structure–function maps (Nature, 2017, 543, 657). A primary initial task will be to incorporate a powder X-ray diffractometer within a mobile robotic workflow.

This project is globally unique, and the student will graduate with a diverse skill set that could launch a career either in academic research or in industry. The project forms part of the £10 M Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design, and there will be multiple opportunities to interact with other members of that centre in a range of areas such as experimental chemistry, computational chemistry, robotics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Environment: The studentship will be based in the Autonomous Chemistry Laboratory, which forms part of the Materials Innovation Factory (MIF), a new £82 M research facility, supervised by Professor A. I. Cooper FRS, the MIF Academic Director, and Dr Samantha Chong, a Lecturer in the MIF. The studentship is funded by the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design, a £10 M, 10-year activity funded by the Leverhulme Trust. You will be part of the Cooper Group. Twitter: @AICooperGroup
Qualifications: A 2:1 or higher degree or equivalent in Chemistry is required. Ideally, the candidate will already have strong programming abilities (e.g., in Java), but an interest in programming and a willingness to learn is essential.
Informal enquiries should be addressed to Professor Cooper

Funding Notes

The award is primarily available to students resident in the UK/EU and will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 3.5years (£14,777 pa in 2018/19). Non-EU nationals are not eligible for this position and applications from non-EU candidates will not be considered unless you have your own funding.

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