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PhD Studentship: Laser Ablation of Nanostructured Matrices for Spectroscopy

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B Horrocks
    Dr N Walker
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Number of awards


Start date and duration

Monday 28 September 2020, 3.5 years


The installation of a laser ablation source into the broadband microwave spectrometer at Newcastle University yielded an instrument with globally-unique capabilities. Laser ablation allows microwave spectra to be obtained for many substances that cannot be probed by other methods. However, experiments give unpredictable yields and the mechanism of laser ablation is poorly understood. We propose to refine the approach currently employed; this will support applications of microwave spectroscopy in the analysis of novel (recently-discovered or synthesised) chemical samples.

Proposed Approach

Our proposed approach will be to design composites based on ensembles of metal nanoparticles, a porous silicon host and the organic solid of interest. The optical plasmon resonance of metal nanoparticles (NPs) provides efficient coupling to the applied light field when the NP composition is tuned so that the plasma frequency matches the laser. This tuning will be achieved using coinage metal alloy NPs prepared by electroless reduction. Details of the mechanism will be revealed by employing FTMW spectroscopy to study the ablated material, anti-Stokes Raman spectra to determine local temperatures and finite difference simulations to understand thermal diffusion and evaporation in the sample.


The successful candidate will receive training in the configuration of electronic instruments to perform precisely synchronised measurements. They will be trained to maintain and operate pulsed laser systems. Programming skills will be developed in the context of highly-automated experiments. Mechanical parts will be designed and assembled in collaboration with members of technical workshops. The successful candidate will gain experience in nanomaterials preparation, characterisation and will have access to the equipment and support of the staff and students in the Chemical Nanoscience Laboratory.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Ben Horrocks (
Dr Nicholas R Walker (

Eligibility Criteria

At least a 2.1 honours degree in chemistry, physics or a related subject.

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system (

You will need to:
•insert the programme code 8100F in the programme of study section
•select ‘PhD Chemistry (full time) - Chemistry’
•insert the studentship code nes027 in the studentship/partnership reference field
•attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code nes027 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
•attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications


Dr Nick Walker ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Full UK/EU fees and annual living allowance of £15,285. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

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