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Thinking outside the (glove)box: design of new, non-coordinating, and hydrophobic anions for functional ionic liquids

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

A fully funded PhD studentship is available to work on the development of new ionic liquid anions.

Ionic liquids are an integral component of our efforts to generate sustainable and green chemical technologies. They have found uses in industries across the energy, electronic and chemical sectors as components in a range of applications including catalysis, gas scrubbing, lignocellulosic biomass processing, the production of dye sensitised solar cells and other electrochemical devices. Key to their interest is the ability to modify, and tune, their properties by changing the nature of the cations and anions present in the ionic liquid. This has, for example, allowed hydrophobic ionic liquids to be demonstrated as exceptional solvents for the extraction and separation of lanthanides, transuranic elements, precious metals, bio-refinery products and many more, from aqueous media. However, one obstacle to successful commercialisation of many of these processes is the cost associated with the use of perfluorinated anions, used to impart hydrophobicity.

This project will explore the fundamental nature of anion hydrophobicity, with the objectives of generating new main-group anions that can address this key challenge in ionic liquid science and engineering; availability of inexpensive, stable, non-coordinating anion to enable production of hydrophobic ionic liquids that could have pivotal roles for Lewis acid catalysis, attract enormous interest for battery electrolyte applications, and be transformative for metal extraction processes.

The research will primarily involve the design, synthesis, and characterisation of new ionic liquids with novel main group anions and the investigation of their application in areas such as energy storage, separations, or artificial photosynthesis. The project is suitable for an independent thinking, enthusiastic student with good communication skills and a strong background in synthetic, ideally main-group, chemistry who is interested in research that will spanning from synthetic inorganic chemistry through physical chemistry (spectroscopic studies).

You will be based in QUILL (the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories), which has excellent facilities for fundamental research on ionic liquids and strong links to industry and fosters a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration in an international environment, and appreciation for both high-quality science and collegial spirit.

This studentship is fully funded for 3 years and covers PhD tuition fees, together with a tax-free stipend. The studentship is expected to commence in October 2020, although the start date is negotiable.
Candidates should hold or expect to gain a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree in chemistry or related discipline.


For more information, please contact Prof John Holbrey ().

Funding Notes

Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to candidates from the UK, or those that have been UK resident for the past three years.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.35

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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