PhD Vacancies

PhD vacancies for 2018 entry

Applications are invited for full-time PhD studentships in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, for 2018 entry.

These are DfE-funded studentships for 3 years of full-time research, covering tuition fees at the home rate plus a stipend of £14,553 per annum.


Academic criteria: Candidates must hold a minimum of 2.1 honours in a relevant subject. Candidates with a 2.2 honours degree and a suitable MSc may also be considered.

Residency criteria: only UK residents, as defined by the University’s Postgraduate Office, are eligible for DfE funding.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted via the University’s online applications portal. Only applications submitted via the portal will be accepted. The closing date is 16th March 2018. Applications must be complete by this date ie the application and with all the required supporting documentation must be uploaded to the portal. Enquiries For general enquiries, including queries about the application process, contact Karen Moore in the first instance. For more detailed information about the projects, contact the named supervisor.

Computational design of porous liquids - Prof. Jorge Kohanoff and Prof. Stuart James

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available to start immediately, but not beyond September 2018, at the Atomistic Simulation Centre, School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen's University Belfast (QUB), to conduct computational research in the field of Porous Liquids (PL). This is part of a modelling-experiment collaborative project between QUB, the University of Liverpool, and University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina.

Porous materials (e.g. zeolites and MOFs) have long been used as natural agents for filtration, purification, and separation of gases. A limitation of solid porous materials is that gas molecules have to diffuse through the rigid framework in order to enter and exit the reactive regions. This often requires the application of relatively high pressures, and cannot be used in continuous flow. An alternative strategy that originated from QUB is to synthesise liquids in which a host component, such as a cage, has intrinsic porosity that can discriminate between gas molecules based on their size and shape (e.g. methane vs hydrogen or ethane). Being liquids, such materials are amenable to continuous flow separations. These materials have recently been demonstrated - N. Giri et al., Nature 527, 216-220 (2015), showing an eight-fold increase in solubility for methane. We are now pursuing second generation PLs. The goal is to improve the uptake and transport properties while maintaining a simple, inexpensive and robust synthesis protocol.

This project will focus on the computational modelling of candidate PLs to develop a basis for synthetic design. We will also probe how different gases interact with the various components of the system with a view to potential applications in industrial separations processes. Synthesis and measurement work based on the findings will be conducted within the James and Cooper groups at QUB and Liverpool.

Hybrid Electrolytes for Solid-State Batteries in Electric Vehicles - Dr Peter Nockemann

Batteries have become crucial for a wide range of applications, including consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and stationary energy storage for grid stabilisation (peak shaving), which is essential for the inclusion of renewable (wind or solar) energy sources. Current battery technologies (e.g. lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride, lithium-ion) have a number of limitations and do not satisfy market demands in terms of their flammability (they can leak or ignite rapidly), temperature range, capacity and rate to recharge. Therefore, it is vital to develop cost-effective solutions for batteries with improved energy densities, cycle lives and safety levels.

In this project, we aim to investigate and further develop a new type of battery electrolytes: polymerised ionic liquid/graphene composites, which conduct larger cations than Li+, such as Na+, Mg2+ and (potentially) Al3+. The polymer electrolytes will overcome some of the limitations of inorganic solid-state electrolytes in terms of higher flexibility and processability, facilitating scale-up and enabling large-scale applications. Moreover, polymerised ionic liquids offer high ionic conductivities and charge-transfer resistances of current developments.

This interdisciplinary project between CCE and Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. The student will be trained in materials synthesis and their multi-technique characterisation, including full electrochemical screening, in addition to PXRD, SEM/TEM, IR/Raman spectroscopy, XPS and solid-state NMR spectroscopy. Where applicable studies at synchrotron facilities (Diamond, ESRF Grenoble) will be carried out. In the final stage, the student will learn to test the developed electrolytes in a lab-scale battery. The project is supported by an industrial partner, who will provide the student access to battery manufacturing facilities as a part of PhD training.

Development of comprehensive transport phenomena-based model for assisting in postharvest management of fruits and vegetables - Dr Aditya Putranto

For more details about this project, please contact the named supervisor.

Synthesis and studies of porous liquids - Prof. Stuart James

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available to start immediately, but no later than September 2018, within the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. The project involves organic and/or inorganic synthesis of novel types of host compounds and/or extended porous solids which can be rendered liquid through melting, dissolution or dispersion to form liquid phases with permanent porosity (see Nature 2015, 527, 216-220). Porous liquids are a new type of material with a range of interesting properties and potential applications. Porous materials have traditionally been limited to solids (e.g. zeolites and MOFs) and have found many large scale applications such as for the purification and separation of gases. We have shown that with careful molecular design it is possible to prepare liquids which also exhibit permanent porosity. This enables them to be used in continuous flow applications, which is not possible for solids. This PhD project will explore the synthesis of new types of porous liquids and investigate their properties, especially their abilities to dissolve and transport gases of important in industry and in carbon capture such as CO2, CH4, C2H6, C2H4, N2, O2 etc. The synthesis may involve mainly organic or inorganic compounds and some leeway can be given depending on the preferences of the student. The student should have a strong motivation for synthetic chemistry and its associated analytical techniques (e.g. NMR, PXRD etc) as well as an ability to learn new physical techniques such as gas solubility measurements. Prof. James welcomes informal enquiries by email prior to the deadline.

PhD positions available at the Bryden Centre