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X-ray Spectroscopy Quantification of f-block Electronic Structure

Project Description

Applicants are invited to pursue a fully funded postgraduate studentship in the research group of Dr. Michael L. Baker and Dr. David Mills at The University of Manchester at Harwell, located alongside the Diamond Light Source and ISIS Neutron and Muon Source near Oxford. Manchester at Harwell is part of the UK’s leading science innovation and technology campus situated 20 minutes from Oxford and one hour from London. The selected candidate will conduct state-of-the art X-ray synchrotron spectroscopy measurements to unravel electronic structure of f-element complexes. Compounds composed of f-block elements are utilised in many aspects of society. Lanthanides are exploited for their strong magnetism, catalytic properties and luminescence, while the leading application of actinide elements concerns the use of uranium for electrical energy generation via nuclear fission. The hazards associated with the f-block element fission products will remain unchanged for many thousands of years to come, hence this issue must be addressed. The development of efficient chemical separation methods is hugely inhibited by our lack of knowledge concerning the chemical bonding preferences of actinides and lanthanides. This situation has up to now been largely due to a lack of experimental methods capable of quantifying electronic structure and bonding.
This project takes advantage of recent developments in resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) that provide access to rich electronic structure information for f-block compounds. This work will develop the use of RIXS, to experimentally quantify the nature of lanthanide and actinide electronic structure and chemical bonding. A fundamental knowledge of f-block electronic structure will be generated that is both directly relevant to the decontamination of nuclear waste but will also potentially impact other sectors that exploit f-block elements including magnetism, catalysis and medical imaging.

Contact for further Information:
Dr. Michael L. Baker, (
Dr. David Mills, , (

Funding Notes

This is a 3 year studentship covering all fees and stipend (£14.777 in September 2018).
Open to UK/EU applicants only.
The start date for this PhD prgramme will be September 2019.

Applicants should have or expect a good 2:i honours degree (or an equivalent degree) in Chemistry, Physics or a related discipline. Prior experience in X-ray or neutron spectroscopy is advantageous but not essential. Experience in scientific programming (MATLAB, python etc) would be beneficial.

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