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PhD in Materials Science - PDF of Hybrid Materials Under ‘Extreme’ Conditions

Department of Material Science and Metallurgy

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Dr Thomas Bennett No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship to be run in close collaboration between the University of Cambridge (Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy) and Diamond Light Source.

Applicants should have (or expect to be awarded) an upper second or first class UK honours degree at the level of MSci, MEng (or overseas equivalents) and should meet the EPSRC criteria for UK/EU residency and liability for ’home rate’ fees. Overseas nationals are not eligible and should not apply.

The studentship is fully funded for UK students and will run for up to 4 years from October 2020. These will be co-located between the two sites, with years 1 and 4 in Cambridge (supervisor: Dr Thomas Bennett), and years 2 and 3 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site in Oxfordshire (supervisors: Dr Simone Anzellini and Dr Christine Beavers).

Soft microporous materials known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) consist of inorganic clusters or ions bridged by organic ligands in open three-dimensional arrays. This family, of over 70,000 compounds, is of great interest due to their potential for use in gas separation and storage, drug delivery, catalysis and sensing applications. We have recently produced the first two examples of high-pressure high-temperature phase diagrams, revealing liquid and glass phases of metal-organic frameworks by using powder X-ray diffraction and a resistively heated diamond anvil pressure cell at the Diamond Light Source. The glasses are a ‘hybrid’ equivalent of silica glass and a fourth new family of glasses distinct from the known inorganic, metallic and organic glass families. Pair distribution function (PDF) techniques, which create atom-atom distance histograms of materials, have been demonstrated to be effective in the characterization of amorphous materials, and especially in creating atomistic configurations of MOF liquids and glasses.

In this project, you will develop high-pressure PDF capabilities on a variety of porous hybrid materials, and investigate the room temperature collapse of metal-organic framework materials to glassy states under hydrostatic pressure. This will be used to build a picture of the mechanical response of these highly promising materials, to deduce mechanisms of collapse, and to synthesize an array of hybrid glasses through application of pressure. We will then further develop instrumentation and analytical techniques to make it possible to collect PDF data at high-pressure and high-temperature simultaneously, which will allow exotic amorphous and liquid states to be structurally characterized.

Two additional joint projects are also available between the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (Cambridge) and Diamond Light Source, offering an opportunity to form research networks outside of the immediate supervisory teams. The projects are designed so that all students will be present at Cambridge and Diamond during the same periods of their study.

The funds for this post are available up to 4 years and include fees and maintenance for “home-rate’ students, and a contribution to travel expenses between Cambridge and Diamond.

Potential applicants are strongly advised to send a two-page CV and expression of interest to Dr Thomas Bennett ([Email Address Removed]) before making a formal application.

The on-line application system is available at Further information on the application process is available from Rosie Ward ([Email Address Removed]).
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