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PhD in Engineering: Optical Design, Modelling and Fabrication of Plasmonic Nanostructures for Healthcare Applications

Project Description

The School of Engineering of the University of Glasgow is seeking a highly motivated graduate to undertake an exciting 3-year PhD project entitled ‘Optical Design, Modelling and Fabrication of Plasmonic Nanostructures for Healthcare Applications’ within the Division of Biomedical Engineering.

Rapid detection of clinically relevant biomarkers and pathogens from biological samples is central to the diagnosis of disease. Current hospital practice involves taking blood samples from the patient then sending these samples to a central laboratory for processing. After processing and validating the results they are released to the medical team. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can have a severe impact on patient outcomes. For example, sepsis is a severe inflammatory response to an infection that often leads to severe morbidity and mortality. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of the original infection is key to managing this condition. An estimated 2 million laboratory tests are performed annually in the UK for sepsis diagnosis and, for every hour a patient is on incorrect/no treatment, their chances of survival drop by 8%. Fast, accurate diagnosis are key to survival. The gold standard method for sepsis diagnosis (blood culture) currently takes 24-72 hours. In the UK, sepsis impacts over a quarter of a million people and accounts for 44,000 deaths annually. The estimated cost to the UK economy is £15.6 billion, annually.

You will be working with world leading facilities at the cutting edge of nanomanufacturing to create plasmonic structures designed to optimise detection of biological species. Such nanostructures have the ability to revolutionise diagnostic capabilities leading to much better outcomes for individual patients and wider society. The project will cover the entire workflow from design and fabrication through to device testing. The company partner Causeway Sensors Limited is dedicated to bringing these plasmonic nanostructures to the market.

Design and modelling

You will design nanostructures to be fabricated by electron beam lithography. The nanostructures will be fully characterised (Reflection and Transmission) and compared to Finite Element Modelling (COMSOL). The investigation will include parameter sweeps of feature dimensions as well as the pitch. The aim is to identify the optimal design characteristics for the given biological sensing applications.
Manufacturing of Injection Moulded Plasmonic Nanostructures (IMPN)
You will produce plasmonic nanostructures using injection moulding. This technology has the potential to supply the volumes of sensors required at an appropriate cost point. The IMPNs will be compared structurally and optically to those created using electron beam lithography.

Application of IMPN as a Biosensing Platform

You will explore the application of the nanostructure platform in through optical readout technologies that are made possible through effective control of the nanomanufacturing.

(1) Plasmonic enhanced fluorescence (PEF)
Optimum nanostructures made by injection moulding techniques will be tested in their abilities to enhance the fluorescence from dyes close to the surface. What are the optimum conditions – gold thickness, dye emission band, excitation wavelength, spacer layer thickness? Can we significantly enhance the limit of detection of proteins that are tagged with these dyes?

(2) Localised Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR) type detectors
This part of the work will aim at exploring the potential for using injection moulded nanostructure platform as an SPR type sensor. What is the limit of detection for standard assays using this chip? Can we obtain kinetic binding information for protein-protein interactions?

For an informal discussion or for further information on this project, potential applicants are encouraged to contact:

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported by the EU’s Interreg programme, and it will cover home tuition fees and provide a stipend of £14,777 per annum for 3 years.

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