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The Design and Fabrication of Biocide-free Antifouling Materials

Project Description

Materials that are continually submerged in water/marine environments (e.g. vessel hulls, underwater platforms, and fluid transport networks) form an essential part of highly valued technical systems, as well as local and national infrastructure. Due to the presence of microbes and/or chemicals, these systems are highly susceptible to contamination. Biofilms are a particular issue for marine environments, as they are hard to remove, particularly from continually submerged surfaces. Biofilms can also act to promote further contamination, including facilitating the attachment of barnacles. As a result, the decontamination of marine systems is fundamentally complex, and can be hazardous, costly, involve harsh cleaning methods, and/or require the total replacement of parts.
Current approaches for antifouling materials focus on degradation/eradicating of surface contaminants, via the incorporation of components toxic to attaching microorganisms, or utilising light activated antimicrobials. These approaches have seen the effective application in a range of arenas. However, the level of success depends on the precise marine conditions, and can additionally release toxic chemicals into the environment. The PhD project will investigate the viability of versatile toxin-free antifouling materials. This is a highly important matter for a range of areas, including; healthcare, infrastructure, and marine environments.

The research will utilise superhydrophobic antibiofouling, which minimises the interaction between a material’s surface and microbial species – and are reported to substantially reduce contamination. These materials possess a microstructure designed to trap air at the water-surface interface and their implementation demonstrates the potential for broad antifouling applications. The research will aim to developing superhydrophobic materials retaining their antibiofouling properties for extended periods, without the need for the inclusion of biocides or intensive cleaning protocols.

Training in materials fabrication will include; nano/microparticle synthesis (lab scale, and high throughput automated formulation [Materials Innovation Factory]), materials fabrication, and antifouling testing (laboratory, and real-world testing). In addition to the comprehensive characterisation of morphology, composition, and functional properties.
Applications are encouraged from highly motivated candidates who have, or expect to have, at least a 2:1 degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, or similar areas.
Applications should be made as soon as possible but no later than 31/03/2019. Informal enquiries are also encouraged and should be addressed to Dr. Colin Crick ().
Some teaching duties may be required.

Funding Notes

The award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 3.5 years (currently £14,777 p.a.) and it is anticipated that the successful candidate will start in October 2019. Applications from candidates meeting the eligibility requirements of the EPSRC are welcome – please refer to the EPSRC website.


Crick et al., Thin Solid Films, 2011, 519, 3722.
Lu et al., Science, 2015, 347, 1132.
Ozkan et al., Chemical Science, 2016, 7, 5126.
Xu et al., Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2018, 6, 4458.

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