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PhD Studentship - Smart MOFs: applications-based online analysis and optimisation for continuous production of metal organic frameworks

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Monday 31 August 2020
Reference:  1265320DA

Supervisory team:     Adrian Nightingale  and Darren Bradshaw

Project description

We are seeking a talented and motivated scientist or engineer to work on a 3.5 year interdisciplinary PhD in chemical technology which brings together groups from engineering and chemistry and is provided by the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science’s Centre of Excellence in Continuous Digital Chemical Engineering Science.

In this project you will develop new analytical technology to assess the quality of metal organic frameworks (MOFs) produced by flow reactors. MOFs are hybrid microporous solids featuring high-surface areas and tuneable structures, which can be used in a diverse range of applications such as sensing, catalysis, energy storage, drug delivery, and gas storage

One challenge in fully exploiting their exciting properties, is being able to produce industrial quantities of material in a controlled and quality-assured manner. Recent work looking at industrial methods for scalable production of MOFs has led to their production in flow reactors. These allow scalable production with rapid synthesis and high space time yields but they do so “blind” with no way to immediately characterise the produced MOF. All standard methods for analysing MOFs (X-ray diffraction, BET surface area analysis, electron microscopy etc) focus on physical properties and need time-consuming sample preparation and offline analysis. This is highly problematic as it precludes real-time quality assurance when producing materials, and optimisation of reaction conditions when starting production is slow and manually intensive. 

Here we wish to investigate a distinct approach to determining MOF quality that is tailored to scalable MOF production in flow reactors. As most key physical properties of MOFs are prohibitively difficult or impossible to analyse in-flow, this project will develop technology that doesn’t look to analyse physical properties but instead looks to quantify how well the material will perform at its end application. You will therefore develop analysers that can autonomously sample produced MOFs and perform an analytical assay to quantify how well the product will perform at a target application (e.g. catalysis, sensing, absorption etc). You will trial these on MOF flow reactors and use them to investigate automated analysis and optimisation of the MOF synthesis in-flow.

You will be involved in all aspects of the work - from designing, fabricating and initial testing of the technology itself, to its application in flow reactors, and synthesis and analysis of MOF materials. The project is therefore well suited to those with an interest in materials, analytical chemistry, reactor technology, and analytical technology, and would suit graduates with a first degree in chemistry, engineering (chemical or mechanical), physics, or another closely aligned subject.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 31 August 2020 

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,285 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2020-21 “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Adrian Nightingale under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/how-to-apply/postgraduate-applications.page

For further information please contact: feps-pgr-apply@soton.ac.uk 


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