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Time-Resolved Photoelectron Spectroscopy using Hollow-Core Photonic Crystal Fibres

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 08, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Recent advances in hollow-core photonic crystal fibre technology now permit widely tuneable generation of femtosecond light pulses in the ultraviolet spectral region. This approach will be combined with time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy to study the ultrafast dynamics of non-radiative energy redistribution within the excited states of small, biologically relevant molecules.

The use of ultrafast femtosecond lasers with pulse durations comparable to the timescales of molecular motion has become widely employed for studying real-time energy redistribution dynamics following ultraviolet (UV) absorption. Investigating such processes using pump-probe spectroscopy is important for understanding photo-protection mechanisms that take place in, for example, DNA and the melanin pigmentation system, serving to protect the body from the potentially damaging effects of UV light. They are also of critical relevance for many other classes of molecular system, including photochromic polymers, light harvesting complexes, sunscreens, photodynamic therapy drugs and molecules relevant to atmospheric/interstellar photochemistry.

Generating femtosecond pulses in the deep UV region by conventional means (using thin birefringent crystals) is often extremely inefficient, and this places restrictions on the feasibility and scope of many studies. The rapidly emerging field of hollow-core photonic crystal fibres (HC-PCFs) offers greatly improved (100-1000x) gains in UV generation efficiency. HC-PCFs also provide a light source that is more easily tuned over a wide range of UV wavelengths, and potentially provides much improved experimental time resolution. This opens up exciting new possibilities within the field of ultrafast molecular dynamics.

This project will combine HC-PCF sources with state-of-the art time-resolved photoelectron imaging spectroscopy to study non-radiative energy redistribution in series of systematically substituted molecules. The systems chosen will provide analogues of the chromophores (i.e. the light absorbing centres) found in larger molecules of biological significance. A key focus will be on the interplay between molecular structure, dynamical timescales and photochemical function. The project is well suited to those with an interest in non-linear optics, lasers and spectroscopy. Some software development for data acquisition/analysis will be required and there will be opportunities to gain proficiency with commercial quantum chemistry computational platforms such as Gaussian.


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2019. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). DTP’s are only open to UK/EU applicants. DTP Studentships are only available for students who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 8th February 2019. All successful candidates must commence studies by 1st December 2019 at the very latest.

How to Apply

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:

(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Bio-Engineering & Bio-Science PhD, Chemistry PhD, Physics PhD, Chemical Engineering PhD, Mechanical Engineering PhD or Electrical PhD as appropriate and select October 2019 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’
You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be approx. £14,777 and full fees will be paid, for 3.5 years.

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