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World-Leading Doctoral Scholarship in Chemistry & Physics / Physics & Chemistry: Materials discovery and quantum phenomena in transition metal oxides through unconventional synthesis routes


   School of Chemistry

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  Dr Alexandra Gibbs, Dr Andreas Rost  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Transition metal oxide-based materials have provided some of the most enigmatic and useful phenomena studied in recent decades. Examples include ionic conduction (lithium-ion batteries), high-temperature superconductivity (ultra-high-efficiency power transmission, currently used for kilometres of cables at CERN), ferroelectrics (low-energy-consumption computer memory), and piezoelectrics (energy harvesting). Given the vast chemical composition space available, this is a research area with extremely high potential to discover new materials for the modern world. These discoveries will not only be relevant for information technologies and sustainability, but also give fundamental insights into the mechanisms driving material behaviour.  

Many of the physical properties of such materials are explored by the ‘quantum materials’ community, which focuses on materials in which properties are primarily driven by quantum-mechanical effects going beyond those in e.g., semiconductors. Unfortunately, the discovery of these phenomena can be significantly hampered by ‘group-think’. Certain topical classes of compounds and standard synthesis methods tend to dominate the activities of researchers. This close-knit communal focus and expertise built up through generations allows rapid advances in understanding but can sometimes hold back discovery of areas and material classes with genuinely new phenomena. 

This project seeks to break through such entrenched structures. Harnessing the potential of overlooked synthesis methods will open up areas of chemical parameter space in which conventional methods have failed. We will combine this methodology with newly available high-throughput and microcrystal characterisation techniques in Physics. The studentship will exploit the unique capabilities of the groups of Dr Gibbs (chemistry) and Dr Rost (physics), providing an exceptional added value by realising a research programme impossible without such a firmly integrated collaboration.  

The successful candidate will be embedded in the University’s interdisciplinary Centre for Designer Quantum Materials. On the chemistry side the focus lies on the synthesis, physical properties and structure-property relationships of classes of materials in so-far little-explored areas of materials chemistry with effectively no characterisation of physical properties to date. This includes non-centrosymmetric platinum-group metal oxides (with the platinum-group metals being Ru, Rh, Pd, Os, Ir and Pt). Such oxides have the potential to display properties such as ferroelectricity as well as  complex topological and magnetic phases but only a few examples are known. Another area of interest is oxides of the abundant lighter transition metals such as iron and titanium. Here controlling the oxidation states of the transition metals by using alternative synthesis methods allows access to materials that can’t be found with standard procedures.  Structural and chemical characterisation is performed using the wide range of techniques available in St Andrews (including variable-temperature and custom atmosphere x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, elemental and thermal analysis and solid-state NMR) and external facilities. 

The physics component of the project will take advantage of the recently developed bespoke micro-crystal measurement capabilities as well as the new high-throughput physical property characterisation equipment now available to firmly establish the properties of the aforementioned materials. With these advances it is possible to measure a wide range of properties including transport, magnetisation, dielectric properties and specific heat / magnetocaloric effect. The available equipment covers a temperature regime spanning five orders of magnitude (1000 K down to 10 mK) and magnetic fields up to 15 T. In addition the supervisors have a strong track record in a variety of facility based neutron scattering techniques (e.g. at ISIS) and high magnetic field measurements above 15 T (e.g. at the high field magnet labs in Nijmegen, Dresden and Tallahassee). 

This scholarship is ideal for candidates with either a solid-state chemistry or condensed-matter physics background and an interest in interdisciplinary work between these fields. The studentship will be supervised jointly by Dr Alexandra Gibbs in the School of Chemistry and Dr Andreas Rost in the School of Physics and Astronomy. The successful applicant will also be embedded in the Centre for Designer Quantum Materials (https://www.quantummatter.co.uk) and be a member of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Materials (https://www.quantummatter.co.uk/qm-cdt). 

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship are very welcome and may be addressed to Dr Alexandra Gibbs or Dr Andreas Rost via email to [Email Address Removed] and/or [Email Address Removed] respectively. 

Please see https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/pgstudents/stleonards/postgraduate-degrees/world-leading/ for application details.

For general information about PhD courses see https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/chemistry/prospective/pgr/ or e-mail [Email Address Removed] or [Email Address Removed] for more information regarding PhD opportunities at St Andrews. We encourage applications for the EaSiCAT Centre for Doctoral training (http://www.criticat.co.uk) and from Chinese nationals through the St Andrews CSC Scheme (https://csc.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/). There are opportunities for self-funded PhD students to make use of the St Andrews Handsel Scheme to fund the difference between home and international fees.


Funding Notes

This is a World-Leading Doctoral Scholarship in Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy, open to worldwide applications with fees and stipend covered as detailed here: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/pgstudents/stleonards/postgraduate-degrees/world-leading/

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