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Solution and Interfacial Properties of Biosourced Anionic Surfactants

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Karen Edler
    Dr Simon Lewis
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD position in the Department of Chemistry under the supervision of Prof Karen Edler ( and Dr Simon Lewis ( from the University of Bath and Dr Craig Fairgrieve from Unilever.

This project will focus on the characterisation of dilute solutions and surface properties of innovative biosourced anionic surfactants, to understand and thus evaluate their properties for use in cleaning products. One of Unilever’s core aims is to convert to bio-based, renewable and biodegradable raw materials. Surfactants are no exception, and alternatives to petrochemical based surfactants are urgently needed which deliver sustainability, cost competitiveness and superior performance for use in home and personal care (HPC) products. However, such replacements must also deliver equivalent or superior performance to current petrochemically-derived surfactants.

To gain an understanding of the comparative behaviour of these molecules in dilute solution and at interfaces this project will utilise advanced characterisation techniques to study solutions of these species such as small angle X-ray and neutron scattering, surface tension, conductivity, surface rheology, and X-ray and neutron reflectivity to determine the critical micelle concentrations, variation in the packing parameter, (i.e. if they form curved or planar membranes) and compatibility with other formulation ingredients such as salts and other surfactants. Experimental work may include some surfactant synthesis, and will also require use of instruments at neutron and synchrotron X-ray scattering facilities in the UK and Europe.

This project will enable fundamental insights into the behaviour of novel bio-derived surfactants in solution and at interfaces. This will allow us to understand which surfactants and which combinations of surfactants will give the desired performance and facilitate development of more sustainable formulations for future products.

Candidate requirements:

We invite applications from Chemistry or other Physical Science graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class Master’s degree. The project will require the student to spend time both in Bath and in Liverpool on placement at Unilever.

Enquiries and applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Prof Karen Edler, [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry:

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

UK and EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK since September 2017 will be considered for a 4-year EPSRC iCASE studentship with Unilever. Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees, an enhanced stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285 per annum tax-free, increased annually in line with the GDP inflator + £2,000 per annum stipend top-up from the industrial partner) and a generous budget for research expenses, training, travel and conference attendance.

Note: Applications may close earlier than the advertised deadline if a suitable candidate is found; therefore early application is strongly recommended.


1. Vincenzo Calabrese, Marcelo A. da Silva, Julien Schmitt, Juan C. Muñoz-Garcia, Valeria Gabrielli, Janet L. Scott, Jesus Angulo, Yaroslav Z. Khimyak, Karen J. Edler* Soft Matter 14(38), 7793 - 7800 (2018) DOI: 10.1039/C8SM00752G. Surfactant controlled zwitterionic cellulose nanofibril dispersions

2. Gavin Hazell, Anthony P. Gee, Thomas Arnold, Simon E. Lewis, Karen J. Edler*, Journal of Colloid & Interface Science 474, 190-198 (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.jcis.2016.04.020. Langmuir Monolayers composed of Single and Double Tail Sulfobetaine Lipids

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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