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Novel Structured Surface Coatings for Protection from Chemical, Biological and Radiological Agents

   School of Engineering

About the Project

This 4-year fully funded EPSRC PhD studentship offers the unique and exciting opportunity to work with the MOD (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, DSTL), Northumbria University (Polymer Chemistry) and Edinburgh University (Wetting, Interfacial Science and Engineering lab) in the development of new technologies for protection of people and equipment from chemical, biological and radiological agents (CBR).

This research program will develop novel multifunctional protective coating technologies that can be adapted for use on a wide range of substrates including fatigues and textiles as well as assets such as military vehicles and other hardware. The novel coating system will be based on a multi-layered, hierarchical coating where the micro, nano and sub-nano structures are controlled to deliver a robust spray application, protective coating with integrated capture and self-decontaminating capability. The research will involve the synthesis and characterisation of novel molecules and particles for surface coatings developing both synthetic chemistry and coatings expertise, as well as experience in the use of advanced analytical techniques including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), AFM, infra-red, NMR, contact angle analysis and more.

We are looking for a talented chemistry or materials science graduate (or related discipline) with a passion for synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry or surfaces science for this fully funded 4-year EPSRC, iCASE PhD project. The project will be multi-disciplinary, combining synthetic chemistry, molecule/material characterisation, surface science and prototype development/testing allowing the PhD student the unique opportunity to develop expertise across these diverse fields of science, supported by leading expert scientists from both Industry and Academia.

The successful PhD student will be primarily based at Northumbria University (Newcastle) benefiting from established expertise at this institution in the synthesis and characterisation of functional particles and coatings (www.northumbria.ac.uk/spin). The student will also spend time at Edinburgh University to access specialist facilities and expertise in the field of surface engineering and characterisation and small molecule-surface interactions. With DSTL as part of this research collaboration, the student will benefit from access to testing capabilities and expertise at the government laboratories in Porton Down where they will also spend some of their research time. Overall, this multidisciplinary project team is ideally positioned to deliver new technology and insight for CBR protection facilitated by this iCASE funding.

This collaborative PhD will provide excellent opportunities to interact with industrial experts throughout the duration of the project, delivering an ideal blend of academic and industrial training allowing the PhD student to develop industrial contacts to support future employment opportunities. 

This project is co-supervised with Dr. Matthew Unthank, Northumbria University.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non- UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

•         Eligible students must have British nationality. Dual nationals (where one nationality is British) would be subject to approval by Dstl, depending on the country of the second nationality.

•      Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

•      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

 Please note: All applications must include a CV and covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert). 

 Deadline for applications: 11/07/2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022.  

Informal enquiries to Dr Matt Unthank () or Dr. Gary Wells ()

To apply, please follow the link provided here: Engineering PhD, MPhil | The University of Edinburgh

Funding Notes

Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International applicants only.
Eligible students must have British nationality. Dual nationals (where one nationality is British) would be subject to approval by Dstl, depending on the country of the second nationality.


Dr. Unthank press release https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/news-events/news/antiviral-coating-to-reduce-spread-of-covid19/
M. G. Unthank, C. Cameron, A. Wright, D. Hughes, M. A. Alam and M. R. Probert, ‘Amino-diol borate complexation for controlling transport phenomena of penetrant molecules into polymeric matrices’, Poly. Chem., 2019, 10, 4920.
G. S. Caldwell, P. In-na, R. Hart, E. Sharp, A. Stefanova, M. Pickersgill, M. Walker, M. G. Unthank, J. Perry and J. G. M. Lee, ‘Immobilising Microalgae and Cyanobacteria as Biocomposites: New Opportunities to Intensify Algae Biotechnology and Bioprocessing’, Energies, 2021, 14(9), 2566
Wong, T. S.; Kang, S. H.; Tang, S. K. Y.; Smythe, E. J.; Hatton, B. D.; Grinthal, A.; Aizenberg, J. Bioinspired Self-Repairing Slippery Surfaces with Pressure-Stable Omniphobicity. Nature 2011, 477 (7365), 443–447.
Yamamoto, M.; Nishikawa, N.; Mayama, H.; Nonomura, Y.; Yokojima, S.; Nakamura, S.; Uchida, K. Theoretical Ex-planation of the Lotus Effect: Superhydrophobic Property Changes by Removal of Nanostructures from the Surface of a Lotus Leaf. Langmuir 2015, 31 (26), 7355–7363.

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