Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Trace Halogenated ORganics analyser and archiver (THOr)

   Department of Chemistry

About the Project

This project will develop and commission the new Trace Halogenated ORganics analyser and archiver (THOr) on the UK large research aircraft (FAAM-146, and test the instrument onboard the aircraft. THOr is a state-of-the-art GC-ToFMS system which will offer high-frequency and high-resolution measurements of an unparalleled range of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and a historical archive for retrospective analyses of future newly identified species. THOr is inspired by NCAR’s Trace Organic Gas Analyser (TOGA,, and will accurately quantify key components for our understanding and monitoring of primary pollution, tropospheric ozone production and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. Importantly, it will also add the capability for measurement of stratospheric halogenated gases to the atmospheric chemistry instrumentation of the aircraft.

THOr is part of a £49 million investment in the FAAM-146 by UK Research and Innovation to fund a five-year programme known as the FAAM Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) which started in April 2021 and is due for completion in March 2026. The MLU aims to significantly enhance the performance of the research facility.

Experimental Approach

THOr will combine cryogen-free preconcentration and a multiplexed gas-chromatography (GC) system coupled with a high resolution ToF mass-analyser. This will allow near-real-time samples of the complex mixture of trace organic gases in atmospheric air to be separated and de-convoluted. Ultimately, this combination of capabilities will result in the quantification of >100 species, spanning an extensive volatility range and chemical functionality. Any unknown or untargeted VOCs can be analysed retrospectively. Identifying these unknowns amongst the huge array of other VOCs will be facilitated by the combination of chromatographic separation and high-resolution mass capability of the instrument. THOr will be the most advanced airborne GC-MS system in the world and is expected to enable new avenues for atmospheric research in reactive trace gases.


The THOr project will be undertaken by a team of technical experts in WACL, supported by partners in Colorado and Switzerland, and the PhD student will become an important part of this team. The PhD will begin some months after the start of the project, in-order for the project to wind-up to a state where the student can immediately begin working on developing key technologies required to deliver the project.

The team will deliver modular systems, which combine to form the completed instrument. The PhD student will work with each modular system step-wise; testing and developing each module and documenting performance before moving into the next module and finally combining the system. THOr will become a completely automated system and will output a large amount of data.

The project will require the development of an exciting range of skills, and the student will be encouraged to contribute to all aspects of the project, supported by a world class technical team. These skills range from; engineering, 3D modelling, manufacture, electronics and interfacing to computer hardware and software; analytical chemistry method development and mass spectrometry; software data analysis, visualisation and atmospheric chemistry. We therefore welcome applications from across all of the sciences.

Once the instrument is tested in the lab, it will be integrated into a flight rack and certified for use on the FAAM-146. The final year of the project will focus on test flying the instrument to check performance and automation of the data work-up. It is very likely that, once tested, THOr will be rapidly deployed on the FAAM-146 for a field campaign study. The student would then have the expertise gained from the build process of THOr, to lead its operation in the collection of data as part of this field campaign.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills: 

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:  

For more information about the project, click on the supervisor's name above to email the supervisor. For more information about the application process or funding, please click on email institution

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2023. Induction activities may start a few days earlier.

To apply for this project, submit an online PhD in Chemistry application:

Applications may close early if a suitable candidate is found.

Funding Notes

Fully funded for 3.5 years by NCAS and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£17,668 for 2022-23), (ii) tuition fees at the Home rate, (iii) funding for consumables.
The studentship is available to any student who is eligible to pay tuition fees at the home rate: View Website


You should hold or expect to receive at least an upper second class degree in a relevant sciences related subject
Applicants should submit a PhD application to the University of York by 30 April 2023.
Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone or web-chat for interview.
Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the decision by email.
Applications may close early if a suitable candidate is found.

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

Email Now

Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs