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Synthetic engineering of nanoporous graphene and 2D-polymer sheets

   Department of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

One atom-thick sheets of graphene and other 2D materials have attracted tremendous interest as membranes for molecular separation and sieving. Several studies in the recent past have explored various sources for creating pores in 2D material, among those the popular techniques are oxygen plasma, thermal annealing, ion and electron beam irradiation, acid etching, and ultraviolet-induced oxidation etching. Despite the emergence of many nanoscale conduits such as nanopores, nanochannels, nanolaminates etc., ultimately narrow pores with atomic-scale dimensions in both the transmembrane and lateral directions have not been studied in detail with precision. In particular, all ‘top-down’ techniques fail to have control on the pore geometry and edge structure in 2D materials.

This project aims to develop bottom-up synthesis of nanoporous graphene sheets and 2D polymers. The controlled introduction of lattice defects/nanopores in the basal plane of the sp2 carbon skeleton through careful design of precursor molecules and optimizing polymerization/ring-fusing reactions represents an alternative strategy to make such nanoporous graphene. Molecular sieving and separation of gasses will be studies using nanoporous membrane devices.

Manchester is hub of 2D materials and we have access to the state-of-the-art research facilities housed in National Graphene Institute and Henry Royce Institute, our group focuses on nanographenes, graphene nanoribbons and confined reactors.

Training and research environment:

Research will be experimental and based in Department of Chemistry, Chemistry Building. The student will be exposed to organic chemistry, synthesis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and conjugated organic frameworks, structural characterizations (such as NMR, single crystal XRD, atomic force microscopy, etc.). Other characterizations techniques such as Raman, FT-IR, UV-vis, mass spectroscopies. Device fabrication technology for making membrane using porous graphene and study the molecular separation. Some aspect of the project might also involve electrical measurements to study stimuli responsive filtration.

Academic background of candidates

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemical Sciences / Material sciences. A minimum of a 2i class UK Masters honours degree (e.g. MChem, MSci, MEng) in Chemical Sciences, Materials, Natural sciences or Chemical Engineering or a first degree with an additional Master’s degree or international equivalent degree is required.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

All appointments are made on merit.

Contact for further Information

Dr Ashok Keerthi



Please see the application process at:

Funding Notes

This PhD is open to self-funding applicants. Tuition fees will be £27,000 GBP per year for Overseas students, and £6,000 GBP per year for Home students, in 2022-23.


1. Keerthi, A.; Geim, A. K.; Janardanan, A.; Rooney, A. P.; Esfandiar, A.; Hu, S.; Dar, S. A.; Grigorieva, I. V.; Haigh, S. J.; Wang, F. C.; Radha, B., Ballistic molecular transport through two-dimensional channels. Nature 2018, 558 (7710), 420-424.
2. Mouterde, T.; Keerthi, A.; Poggioli, A. R.; Dar, S. A.; Siria, A.; Geim, A. K.; Bocquet, L.; Radha, B., Molecular streaming and its voltage control in angstrom-scale channels. Nature 2019, 567 (7746), 87-90.
3. Slota, M.; Keerthi, A.; Myers, W. K.; Tretyakov, E.; Baumgarten, M.; Ardavan, A.; Sadeghi, H.; Lambert, C. J.; Narita, A.; Müllen, K.; Bogani, L., Magnetic edge states and coherent manipulation of graphene nanoribbons. Nature 2018, 557 (7707), 691-695.
4. Xu, K.; Urgel, J. I.; Eimre, K.; Di Giovannantonio, M.; Keerthi, A.; Komber, H.; Wang, S.; Narita, A.; Berger, R.; Ruffieux, P.; Pignedoli, C. A.; Liu, J.; Müllen, K.; Fasel, R.; Feng, X., On-Surface Synthesis of a Nonplanar Porous Nanographene. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141 (19), 7726-7730.
5. Keerthi, A.; Radha, B.; Rizzo, D.; Lu, H.; Diez Cabanes, V.; Hou, I. C.-Y.; Beljonne, D.; Cornil, J.; Casiraghi, C.; Baumgarten, M.; Müllen, K.; Narita, A., Edge Functionalization of Structurally Defined Graphene Nanoribbons for Modulating the Self-Assembled Structures. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139 (46), 16454-16457.

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