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Photocatalytic and antimicrobial properties of magnetron-sputtered bismuth oxide and its potential for water treatment application

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Ratova
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Photocatalysis is known as a promising and environmentally sustainable method of water purification. Photocatalytic water treatment is a cheap, yet efficient process as it is initiated simply by light irradiation. The project aims to undertake an in-depth study on the photocatalytic and antimicrobial properties of novel bismuth oxide coatings.


As water pollution is one of the major environmental concerns, modern science focuses on technologies that aim to benefit the decontamination process. Despite the fact that the major sources of water pollution are well known (sewage, nutrients, industrial wastewater, pharmaceutical and chemical compounds, oil and oil industry-related related hydrocarbons, etc.), the polluted water purification processes are often challenging and inefficient, as the effective treatment and removal of a diverse range of pollutants cannot typically be achieved in a single step process. The photocatalytic process has significant potential for the degradation and removal of biological and chemical contamination from water. Titanium dioxide is currently the most studied and widely used photocatalytic material. However its practical application for water treatment is quite limited as it can only be activated with UV light and suffers from low efficiency under solar irradiation, and therefore requires use of additional UV light sources, which makes process expensive and impractical.

The Surface Engineering Group has world-class facilities in surface engineering and extensive experience in the production and characterization of magnetron sputtered photocatalytic coatings. The Group was behind the discovery of the outstanding antimicrobial properties of photocatalytic bismuth oxide coatings. The project therefore will build on these preliminary results, and provide in-depth understanding of BiOx-based photocatalytic materials, including its structure and physical properties, the mechanism of antimicrobial action against various microorganisms, and, ultimately, its applicability to solar photocatalytic water treatment. The coatings will be characterised in terms of their structures and physical properties using techniques, such as SEM, EDX, XRD, XPS, Raman spectroscopy, etc. The study of antimicrobial properties will include common water-borne species, including their adhesion to surfaces, retention on surfaces, surface cleanability and biofilm formation, and combine a range of quantitative cultural and visualisation techniques.

Project aim:
Deposition and testing of solar light-activated antimicrobial photocatalytic bismuth oxide films.

Project objectives:
• Deposit bismuth oxide coatings onto variety of substrate materials;
• Characterize phase and morphological properties of the most promising surfaces (XRD, Raman spectroscopy, AFM, XPS);
• Assess the photocatalytic properties of the materials using a range of model water pollutants;
• Identify best performing materials and find the optimum deposition conditions based on the analysis of the properties and photocatalytic performance;
• Study the antimicrobial properties of the bismuth oxide films (gram-positive and gram-negative microorganisms, algae);
• Perform durability and stability tests of the coatings;
• Identify the best routes for future development, scale up and follow-up projects.

Entry Requirements

The candidate is required to have a background in microbiology, engineering, materials science or a related scientific discipline. Experience of thin film deposition (CVD or PVD) and characterisation (e.g. SEM, EDX, XRD, Raman) techniques will also be a distinct advantage. The research project is multi-disciplinary and the applicant should demonstrate adaptability and capacity to learn new subject areas and undertake experimental work safely, and with precision. The candidate will need to be able to work to deadlines producing interim reports and presentations to a range of audiences and consequently will need good communication skills and have an ability to critically evaluate their research outputs/work.

Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Marina Ratova
Tel 01612474648 email [Email Address Removed]

Or Prof Peter Kelly
Tel 01612474643 email [Email Address Removed]


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