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PhD Studentship in Materials Physics

   School of Mathematical & Physical Sciences

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  Prof A Dalton, Dr Alice King  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The Materials Physics group is led by Professor Alan Dalton. Find out more about the group here.

The Project

Ceramic materials within X-ray scanners can lose mechanical integrity due to deleterious charging. Imparting an electrical dissipative coating to the ceramic or creating a ceramic composite containing conductive particles may offer a cost-effective solution. It is well known that when conducting particles are distributed in an insulating matrix, there is a statistical threshold at which current can flow through the composite when the filler particles are macroscopically inter-connected. In collaboration with Advanced Material Development, the Sussex Team have previously produced conducting graphene materials from graphene oxide by thermal reduction within a polymer matrix. GO thermal reduction is highly exothermic and can result in spontaneous ignition, while thermal runaway gives estimated adiabatic local temperatures well above 1200°C – comparable to decomposition enthalpies of explosives such as nitrocellulose and TNT. As such, it should be possible to both sinter and impart conductivity in one step during the preparation of ceramic paste materials. The project will develop both coatings and composites with adjustable electrical and thermal conductivities. Structure property relationships will be analysed using a range of techniques including photoelectron spectroscopy, mechanical spectroscopy and electron microscopy. The materials robustness to Xray exposure will be tested as a function nanoparticle inclusion. Finally, prototype structures will be fabricated and tested.

The project supervisors will be Professor Alan Dalton (Primary Supervisor) and Dr Alice King and the project duration will be three and a half years.

The South-East Physics Network (SEPnet) comprises nine universities working together to deliver excellence in physics. The aim of the SME Doctoral Training Network (SME-DTN) is to create a critical mass of research to support both regional industries and national science priorities with funding from Research England Development Fund (RED). The SME-DTN aims to attract applications from diverse backgrounds and non-traditional routes. 

All students recruited to the SME-DTN are expected to attend the Graduate Network Summer and Winter Schools and up to 5 advanced physics courses during the course of their PhD. For details of the GRADnet Training Programme 2021-22 see here.

Further information about SEPnet (South East Physics Network) Doctoral Training Centre and the SME collaborative PhD studentship offer is here.


Applicants must hold, or expect to hold, at least a UK upper second class degree (or non-UK equivalent qualification) in Physics, or a closely-related area, or else a lower second class degree followed by a relevant Master's degree.

Only UK Higher Education “Home Fee” status applicants and EU residents satisfying the three-year residency requirement are eligible. The funding is for three and a half years and covers tax-free stipend at UKRI rates, UK fees and some research and travel costs.


The term start date will be 24 January 2022, with funding available from 1 February 2022. Applications will be accepted until midnight, 10 January 2022.

How to apply:

Apply through the University of Sussex on-line system.

Select the PhD in Physics, with an entry date of September 2021.

In the Finance & Fees section, state that you wish to be considered for studentship reference SEPnet/MPS/2021

We advise early application as the position will be filled as soon as a suitable applicant can be found.

Due to the high volume of applications received, you may only hear from us if your application is successful.

Contact us:

If you have practical questions about the progress of your on-line application or your eligibility, contact Emma Ransley at [Email Address Removed]

For academic questions about the project, contact Professor Alan Dalton at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

• Fully-paid tuition fees for three and a half years
• A tax-free bursary for living costs for three and a half years. From October 2021/22 this is expected to be £15560 per year
• Additional funding towards research consumables and training costs


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