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Understanding the loss of atmospheric chlorine atoms

Project Description

To build the first instrument capable of measuring the loss rate of chlorine atoms in the atmosphere and to deploy this in London and the Cape Verde islands as part of a €1.6M European Research Council project. The data will then be used to advance our knowledge on the importance of chlorine in controlling air quality and climate.

Tropospheric oxidants are responsible for the degradation of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, and so determine Earth system processes including: the lifetime of climate gases such as methane; the production of secondary pollutants such as ozone and particles that impact on air quality; and the deposition of chemicals to ecosystems. Chlorine atoms (Cl) are the least understood of these atmospheric oxidants, with current estimates of their role ranging varying by 3 orders of magnitude. This failing in our knowledge of atmospheric chemistry is due to a lack of measurements. In this project you will develop and deploy a new field instrument that will help to address this problem and in turn help to reduce uncertainties in global air quality and climate models.

In order to accurately represent atmospheric Cl chemistry we need to understand both how Cl atoms are produced and lost. The initial focus of this PhD project will be to develop a new instrument to directly measure the loss rate of Cl atoms in the atmosphere. Instruments to measure loss rates of the atmospheric oxidants. Such as OH, have previously been developed by Dr Edwards and others, and have been influential in identifying other significant uncertainties in our understanding of atmospheric chemistry. A laboratory based technique for measuring oxidant loss rates has recently been developed in Dr Terry Dillon’s chemical kinetics group in the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories (WACL), in collaboration with Prof Timo Gans in the York Plasma Institute. The studentship will work closely with Dr Dillon to transfer this laboratory method into one that can be deployed in the real atmosphere.
In order to provide a direct test of our understanding of Cl atom reaction pathways in the real atmosphere, field measurements will then be made in both clean and urban environments. The clean environment will be at the WACL observatory on the islands of Cape Verde in the Tropical Atlantic ( The urban environment will be at one of the new NERC Air pollution supersites in London. These observations will represent a major contribution to the study of atmospheric oxidation chemistry, and will enable chemical model simulations to be run as part of the wider project to challenge and explore the true impact of Cl on processes important for both air quality and climate.
The large instrument development component of this PhD project means the successful candidate will have excellent practical / physical laboratory skills as well as a background in the physical sciences (e.g. Chemistry, Physics). Computer programming experience, for both instrument control and data analysis, will be advantageous but significant training will be provided as part of the project (see Training section below).
All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.
In addition to the departmental iDTC training, funding is available to support additional project related training such as the National Centre for Atmospheric Science Atmospheric Measurement Summer School ( and Introduction to Scientific Computing course (, and the SOLAS Summer School ( Funds are also available for a research visit to the group of Dr John Crowley at the Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie, Mainz, Germany, as part of an extended field deployment.

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: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

Value: Studentships are fully funded for 3 years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-19), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables.
Eligibility: Studentships are available to any student who meets the EPSRC eligibility criteria: View Website


• Applicants should submit an application for a PhD in Chemistry by 9 January 2019
• Supervisors may contact their preferred candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors may nominate up to two candidates to the assessment panel
• Candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York on 13 or 15 February 2019
• The Awards Panel will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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