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Time-Resolved Photochemistry of Organic Solutes in Aqueous Microdroplets


Bristol United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Chemical Physics Environmental Chemistry Physical Chemistry Pollution

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 4 year PhD studentship starting in Autumn 2022 as part of the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science

Project description

Atmospheric aerosols represent the largest uncertainty in climate change estimates and are also a major component of air pollution. The photochemistry of atmospheric aerosol particles is crucial to assessing their climate and health impacts. Certain classes of atmospherically relevant molecules like α-keto acids (e.g. pyruvic acid) undergo different photochemical reactions and have unique products in aerosols compared to the gas phase or bulk aqueous phase. In fact, molecules undergoing unique and extremely rapid reactions in aerosol may be a widespread phenomenon. This chemistry may have significant implications on our understanding of pollutant transformation within the atmosphere and how aerosols impact global climate. The reasons for this unusual chemistry in aerosols are unclear but may arise from the unique reaction environment of the droplet interface.

We have developed a range of world-leading tools to levitate individual droplets for extended periods, providing real-time insight into dynamic changes in droplet size, phase, composition, and optical properties. Bristol researchers have also pioneered advances in molecular spectroscopy to probe reaction dynamics in solution on femtosecond to picosecond timescales, allowing detailed insight into excited states, transient intermediates, and their lifetimes. This project unites these two separate areas of excellence through development of a completely novel approach to explore photochemical reaction dynamics on ultrafast timescales in individual droplets.

During this project, you will gain experience with single droplet levitation and ultrafast spectroscopic approaches. You will develop a novel experimental approach to study ultrafast chemical reaction dynamics of pyruvic acid and other α-keto acids in aerosols. The results will provide insight into how the confined nature of microscopic droplets alters the outcomes of photochemical reactions.

Dr Bryan Bzdek would be pleased to discuss this project further with interested candidates: 

About the Centre for Doctoral training in Aerosol Science

Aerosol science is crucial to disciplines as broad ranging as transmission of disease, drug delivery to the lungs, climate change, energy and combustion science, novel materials, and consumer and agricultural products.

An aerosol is any collection of particles dispersed in a gas. The CDT brings together a multi-disciplinary team of 80 post-graduate students and academics from 7 UK universities spanning the physical, environmental and health sciences, and engineering. Our aim is to tackle the global challenges in which aerosol science is key.

Further details are available from our website: https://www.aerosol-cdt.ac.uk/

Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science

During your doctorate, you will learn to research in diverse multidisciplinary teams, gain an advanced understanding of the core physical science of aerosols, and collaborate with industrial and public sector partners, equipping you to undertake ground-breaking research in aerosol science.

During the first 7 months of your PhD, you will join the CDT cohort based at the University of Bristol. Core training in aerosol science, research methods, professionalism and translation will be delivered by Team Based Learning. You will then undertake a short research project at your home or partner institution before starting your PhD research. You will gain experience outside academia in a placement with an industrial/public sector partner in Year 2 or 3.

More Information and How to Apply

Candidates who aspire to work in a multidisciplinary field, and hold or will achieve a minimum of an upper second-class undergraduate degree in any of these areas are encouraged to apply: chemistry, physics, biological sciences, life and medical sciences, mathematics and computer science, chemical and mechanical engineering, pharmaceutical and environmental sciences.

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Application Deadline:

Apply by 9am on Monday 24th January 2022. Shortlisting will take place after the deadline, and shortlisted candidates will be invited to participate in the CDT online interview process during w/c 7th February 2022. Applications after this date will be subject to remaining availability of studentships.

Diversity and Inclusion

We are committed to furthering issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. We recognise the benefits of recruiting a diverse group of students to the Aerosol CDT and strive to avoid any conscious or unconscious bias in our recruitment. The needs of individuals will be accommodated during the recruitment process and while studying with the CDT. Further information on our commitment to equality and diversity can be found on our website. 

Funding Notes

This project is funded as part of the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science. Successful candidates meeting the funding criteria will receive a studentship covering tuition fees, research and training support grant, plus a stipend to cover your living expenses while you train, paid at the standard UKRI rate.
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Griffith et al., “Photochemistry of Aqueous Pyruvic Acid”, Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the USA, 2013, 110, 11714-11719.
Bzdek et al., “Open Questions on the Physical Properties of Aerosols”, Communications Chemistry, 2020, 3, 105, doi: 10.1038/s42004-020-00342-9.
Robertson et al., “Tuning the Excited-State Dynamics of Acetophenone Using Metal Ions in Solution”, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2021, 12, 5473-5478.

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