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Pseudo-3D optical metamaterials for Biophysical Applications

Department of Physics

London United Kingdom Biophysics Nanotechnology Optical Physics

About the Project

Plasmonic metamaterials encompass media exhibiting a broad range of optical properties that are unachievable in natural ‘bulk’ materials. These properties may be tailored by their composition, as well as by nanometric control of the material’s physical structure, allowing for precise confinement and control of optical near-fields on the nanoscale. These spectrally tunable optical properties include strong electromagnetic field enhancement, sensitivity to their local environment (via local dielectric permittivity), tunable hyperbolic dispersion and the ability to harvest the energetic carriers from plasmonic decay for the enhancement of photo-voltaic performance and photo-catalysis. As a result, optical metamaterials continue to be an area of intense scientific interest, from the perspective of both fundamental and applied physics.

In order that these materials can make a significant technological impact, they must be affordable, environmentally sustainable and scalable. This project will involve the design, self-assembled fabrication and characterisation of a suite of optical metamaterials for use in the deep-ultraviolet and visible spectral ranges, utilising non-traditional and non-noble plasmonic media. Post characterisation, these materials will be applied as ultra-sensitive biosensors, with diverse yet specific targets, including cell-free DNA, large biological macromolecules including exosomes (targets for early cancer detection) as well as lentiviruses and adeno-associated viruses (used as gene therapy vectors). Detection methodologies will include both refractive index sensing as well as plasmon enhanced fluorescence. To achieve the necessary selectivity and sensitivity, both the composition and nanoscale architecture/geometry of these materials will be precisely tailored. The candidate will have the opportunity for inter-disciplinary interaction with the Departments of Pharmaceutical Science and the Comprehensive Cancer Centre at King’s College London.

The successful candidate will receive training and experience in a wide variety of experimental and numerical modelling techniques, encompassing magnetron sputtering, Plasma Enhanced Atomic Layer Deposition (PEALD), electro-chemistry, DeepUV and visible light spectroscopy, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Transmission and Scanning Electron Microscopies (TEM/SEM) as well as Fluorescence Spectroscopy including fluorescence lifetime imaging. These studies will be supported by numerical simulations via finite-element methods, using software packages such as Comsol Multiphysics, CST Microwave Studio or Lumerical.

King’s College London is a member of the London Centre of Nanotechonology (LCN) and founding member of the London Institute of Advanced Light Technologies.

A successful candidate is expected to have:

·     A first-class honours or second class honours upper division (2.1) MSc or MSCi degree in Materials Science, Physics, Biophysics, Chemistry or any other relevant topic

·     Excellent English written and spoken communication skills

·     A background in the area of nanophotonics

·     Ability to acquire and analyse data

·     Ability to devise experiments to test hypothesis

In addition, the following skills are desirable but not essential:

·     An interdisciplinary degree, or experience outside of main degree topic

·     Experience in working in a research environment

·     Experience in nanofabrication techniques and methods

·     Knowledge of basic chemistry or surface functionalization techniques

The PhD studentship will be undertaken

in the Photonics & Nanotechnology Group of the Physics Department of KCL


To be considered for the position candidates must apply via King’s Apply online application system. Details are available at:

Please indicate Dr. Wayne Dickson as your desired supervisor and quote research group [Photonics and Nanotechnology] in your application and all correspondence.

The selection process will involve a pre-selection on documents; if selected this will be followed by an invitation to an interview. If successful at the interview, an offer will be provided in due time.

The Physics department at King’s College London is supporting Diversity and Equality, we invite all eligible candidates to apply.

The Physics department at King’s College London was awarded the Silver Swan medal and Juno Champion award from IOP.

Funding Notes

Funding is available for 3.5 years and covers tuition fees at the level set for UK/EU students, c. £5,300 p.a. and a tax-free stipend of approximately £17,000 p.a. with possible inflationary increases after the first year.


Google Scholar of Dr Wayne Dickson

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