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  PhD studentship in in situ imaging and diffraction of dual-phase zeolite composites for nuclear waste remediation.


   School of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are sought for a PhD project under the supervision of Dr Phoebe Allan at the University of Birmingham, Dr Sharif Ahmed and Dr Joe Hriljac at Diamond Light Source, and Dr Tom Carey at the National Nuclear Laboratory. This studentship will develop and use in situ quasi-simultaneous x-ray imaging and diffraction experiments to elucidate synthesis-structure-property relationships in dual-phase zeolites for nuclear waste remediation.

The Site Ion-exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP) at Sellafield treats 100s m3 of wastewater contaminated with radioactive Cs-137 and Sr-90 - which account for 99% of the medium-lived radioactivity in spent reactor fuel - each day, via ion-exchange using aluminosilicate zeolites. Natural zeolite sources are preferred because they are cost-effective, abundant and are easily processable. The current industrial standard material, a clinoptilolite sourced from Mud Hills, California, is highly effective for removing Cs-137, but this analogue is unusual in that it outperforms other, seemingly isostructural clinoptilolites for Sr-90 uptake. However, current stocks of Mud Hills are expected to be depleted by the 2030s and therefore the discovery or development of new ion-exchange materials with comparable Cs/Sr uptake is of critical importance.

This project will develop new dual-phase zeolite materials based on promising initial work we have performed at the Dual Imaging and Diffraction (DIAD) at Diamond Light Source. In addition to synthesising new zeolite composites, in situ imaging and diffraction will be used to uncover formation and ion-exchange mechanisms of dual-phase materials, allowing the design of novel materials which are optimised to particular waste streams.

The project will provide training in a wide-range of state-of-the-art scientific skills training directly applicable to career in academia or industry including zeolite and ion exchange chemistry, led by Birmingham, x-ray image and diffraction tomography, led by Diamond, and nuclear chemistry, led by the National Nuclear Laboratory. The student will join the Allan research group at Birmingham and the DIAD team at Diamond who will provide peer-led training in aspects of experiments and data analysis. This will be complemented by training in scientific writing and presentation skills and opportunities to partake in undergraduate teaching and outreach. Diamond students receive an enhanced stipend of around £2000 per annum above the UKRI standard rate as well as funds for training, travel and conference attendance.

The University of Birmingham was founded in 1900 on an anti-discrimination ethos accepting men and women on an equal basis. Today, as a community of over 150 nationalities in one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, we remain committed to promoting equality, diversity and fairness irrespective of age, disability, gender, pregnancy or marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Candidates should have or expect to receive a first or upper second (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) in chemistry, physics, materials science or other related discipline. Familiarity with solid-state or nuclear chemistry, zeolites/porous materials, x-ray diffraction or x-ray imaging would be an advantage. The ability to work in a team and a willingness to develop new skills are essential. Please email Dr Phoebe Allan () with a CV in advance of applying.

Chemistry (6) Environmental Sciences (13) Materials Science (24)

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