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Photonic micro and nano-structures containing biological light-harvesting complexes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D G Lidzey
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Photonic micro and nano-structures containing biological light-harvesting complexes

Prof. D.G. Lidzey, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield
Prof Neil Hunter F.R.S. Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield

We are seeking an enthusiastic student to study for a PhD and explore the optical properties of biological light-harvesting complexes and biological antenna structures when placed in artificial optical cavity structures. This project builds upon our recent work in which we placed chlorosomes (the main optical antenna structures derived from a green sulfur bacteria) between two closely spaced silver mirrors (a so-called microcavity structure). We found that electromagnetic interaction between photons trapped within the cavity and electronic excitations supported by the antenna resulted in the formation of new optical modes termed cavity polaritons. We speculate that such polariton modes may permit us to modify the electronic properties of the antenna complex, potentially opening a route to modification of the electronic properties of a range of biological light harvesting systems without the necessity to directly modify the organism itself (see Coles et al, Nature Communications, 5 (2014) 5561). This intriguing idea may provide a route to develop materials and structures that harvest light with increased efficiency, or act as new types of optical sensor.

In this project, you will develop a series of optical cavity structures and the deposit biological light harvesting complexes (LHC) and chlorosome antenna complexes into the cavity. You will characterize the materials inside the cavity using scanning force microscopy and optical microscopy, and will then use optical spectroscopy techniques to explore the optical properties of the cavity. Your aim is to look for evidence of interaction between the cavity mode and the electronic states of the molecular assembly. Working with colleagues in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (MBB), you will explore whether such optical interactions have resulted in a change in the optical properties of the molecular assemblies.

This is a challenging experimental project, with the ideal candidate having a 2.1 or better in physics, chemical-physics or electronic engineering. No previous experience of biological systems is required.

You will be based in the Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield (see and will be supervised by Prof. David Lidzey. The EPMM group is equipped with excellent facilities for the development and testing of thin-film optoelectronic devices. You will collaborate extensively with the group of Prof Neil Hunter in MBB at Sheffield who will provide light-harvesting complexes and chlorosomes for your research.

For more details, please contact Prof David Lidzey ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This 3.5-year PhD project is funded by the Department of Physics and Astronomy via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. This project comes with a generous stipend, however only UK and EU Nationals are eligible to apply.

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