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The colour-changing properties of twisted metal nanostructures for metamaterial devices and applications

Department of Physics

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Prof Ventsislav Valev , Dr Phillip Shields No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Bath invites applications for the following fully-funded PhD project:


Prof Ventsislav Valev, Department of Physics (lead supervisor)
Dr Philip Shields, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (co-supervisor)


Our research group ( builds laser experiments on novel materials, such as plasmonic nanostructures, metamaterials, 2D materials and quantum optical materials. We seek to discover new properties and to test theoretical predictions. Our focus is on physics of photons, electrons and magnetism confined to tiny volumes of space – nanoparticles or 2D sheets. We seek out new and useful intersections between classical electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. Our research is both fundamental and applied, featuring a joint project with Renishaw PLC, for whom we are currently developing a microscope prototype. Our main national collaborators are in the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London. Abroad, we have many collaborations with world-leading scientists in Belgium, Bulgaria, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA, etc. The successful candidate will be joining a dynamic group and is expected to get involved in a range of scientific projects, pursuing state-of-the-art research questions.

Our group has pioneered ways to weave light around metal nanostructures, producing enormous interactions between electrons and photons. Earlier this year, we were the first to demonstrate a new physical effect that had been predicted 40 years ago.[1] The discovery opened the door to a previously unexplored area of science and this PhD project aims to take us beyond the door threshold. It involves shining powerful laser light to illuminate twisted (“chiral”) nanostructures and measuring their colour changing properties (second and third harmonic generation). The goal is to produce the most sensitive method to detect the twist (chirality) in nanostructures and molecules, which could have a huge impact on manufacturing healthier and safer pharmaceuticals (many of which are chiral)[2].

All PhD students in our research group develop strong experimental skills. You will use a variety of lasers and a large number of nanomaterial characterization techniques (microscopy and spectroscopy). You will learn how to formulate scientific questions and how to answer them by building your own optical experiment. You will also understand how to program automatic experimental rigs and how to conduct numerical simulations using a commercial Maxwell equation solver. Through the co-supervisor for this project - Dr Philip Shields - you will receive an introduction to nanomaterial fabrication. Overall, you will emerge as a highly qualified expert in advanced nanophotonic techniques with a balanced scientific skills set.


Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

The successful candidate will have a strong interest in optics/photonics and a preference for experimental work. He/she will be enthusiastic about science and will enjoy learning new things. He/she will receive in depth training in advanced photonic techniques and microscopy, as well as in the practical choice of individual optical components for his/hers work. Overall the candidate is expected to develop as an independent experimental scientist and will be encouraged to attend national/international scientific conferences and training schools.

Our research group is engaged in numerous outreach activities, such as visits to schools and participation in science festivals. An interest in communicating science to the public, robotics or digital art would be an advantage.


Informal enquiries are welcomed and we recommend that you make contact with Professor Ventsislav Valev, [Email Address Removed] to discuss the project prior to submitting a formal application.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Physics (full-time):

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

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


As soon as possible (and no later than the end of March 2020).

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

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a studentship covering UK/EU tuition fees and providing a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 per annum, 2019/20 rate) for a period of up to 4 years. In addition, funds will be available to support research expenses, training and travel.

Unfortunately, candidates who are classed as 'Overseas' for fee-paying purposes are not eligible for the studentship and will only be considered if they are in a position to fully self-fund (overseas tuition fees and living expenses).


[2] V. K. Valev, Chiral Nanomaterials and Chiral Light, Optics & Photnics News 27, 35-41 (2016) July/August Issue
[3] V. K. Valev, J. J. Baumberg, C. Sibilia and T. Verbiest, Chirality and Chiroptical Effects in Plasmonic Nanostructures: Fundamentals, Recent Progress, and Outlook, Adv. Mater. 25, 2517-2534 (2013).
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