Imperial College London and University College London

PhD Studentships
Department of Materials and London Centre for Nanotechnology

Duration: 48 months (starting on 1st October 2019)

The Department of Materials jointly with the London Centre of Nanotechnology has a number of four-year fully-funded studentships available. This funding requires you to be a home student*. Successful applicants will be registered at either Imperial College London or University College London.

The PhD programme offers training in the application of state-of-the-art characterisation techniques to materials challenges in key thematic areas of societal importance such as Energy, Information Technology, Nanomaterials, Healthcare, Security, Environment and Transport. Each project will involve experts at both University College London and Imperial College London and you will spend time at both sites during your project. You will also have a three-month placement at a leading international university, research institute or industrial partner. Specially designed training modules in characterisation will be interwoven with your PhD research project, and you will receive professional development training delivered by our award-winning Graduate Schools. Our training philosophy is that our graduates will provide the innovation and creativity required to lead the world in the development, characterisation and manufacture of new materials, making a significant contribution to the quality of life of future generations.

Project Title:

The crystal structure of graphitic carbon as a function of its compositions and associated materials

CDT Theme: Magnetic Materials

Project Supervisors:

Supervisor 1: Dr. Dominic Papineau (UCL): e-mail:

Supervisor 2: Dr. Sarah Fearn (ICL): e-mail:

Research project abstract: The heteroatomic and molecular compositions of graphitic carbon are known to affect its crystal structure and inhibit the formation of graphite or books of graphene sheets. However, exposure to high temperature regimes, especially in contact with materials that contain redox-sensitive elements, can lead to the depletion of molecular functional group bonded to graphitic carbon, thereby eventually forming graphite. What are the detailed relations between crystal structure and molecular or heteroatomic compositions of graphitic carbon? The influence of various materials on the conversion of graphitic carbon into graphite is poorly understood, although it is important for a number of applications in graphene nanotechnology and materials surface reactivity. We will investigate this problem using a correlated microscopy approach that combines micro-Raman spectroscopy and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to image the changes in the compositions of graphitic carbon under different conditions. This research will contribute to the development of an advanced characterization approach of graphitic carbon in contact with various materials and to the determination of its molecular and atomic compositions. One of the objective will be to reconcile the variably-shaped Raman D-bands and G-band of graphitic carbon with heteroatomic and molecular compositions determined by ToF-SIMS. This will yield a more comprehensive understanding of the variable characteristics of Raman spectra for graphitic carbon. Some graphite specimens will come from the oldest sedimentary rocks on Earth, thereby also relate to the origin of life.

Involvement of partners: The project requires the involvement of both UCL and ICL Dr. Dominic Papineau manages a micro-Raman laboratory and curates a collection of graphitic carbons in the Department of Earth Sciences at UCL and also has access to the nano-fabrication clean lab in the LCN at UCL. Dr Sarah Fearn is an expert in ion beam characterisation, and is also associated with the development of a new High 5 plasma ion beam instrument at ICL. While some nano-fabrication by Focused Beam will take place at UCL, all of the high-resolution ion beam chemical characterization to be done in the PhD project is based at ICL. Opportunities with LA-ICPMS for characterization will also arise from new collaborations with King's College London, which is newly part of the LCN. This PhD student opportunity will enhance collaborative and cross-institutional links.

The candidates should hold, or be expected to achieve, a Master's degree in addition to a Bachelor's degree (or equivalent) at 2:1 level (or above) in Earth Sciences. The research project is entitled "The crystal structure of graphitic carbon as a function of its compositions and associated materials", which encompasses the fields of Material Sciences (magnetic and crystalline materials), Physics (spectroscopy and surface analysis with photons, ions, and electrons), Chemistry (carbon cycle and organic molecules), Earth Sciences (origin of life and Earth history), and Exobiology (biosignatures). Students will take taught courses at both UCL and ICL during the first three-months period and will participate in activities organisted by the Centre for Doctoral Training in the Advanced Characterisation of Materials.

To make informal enquires please contact Dr Dominic Papineau at

Applications will be handled in two stages:

Stage 1: Send a full CV, including the marks (%) for all (undergraduate) modules completed to date, the names and contact details of two referees, as well as a cover letter to Claire Smithson at UCL Applications that do not provide all this information will not be considered.

Stage 2: Suitable applicants will be interviewed and, if successful, invited to make a formal application.

* European Union nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least five years prior to starting a PhD studentship. Overseas students with full funding are welcome to apply.

Closing date: Ongoing until post is filled

Both ICL and UCL are committed to equality and valuing diversity. Both are Athena SWAN Silver Award winners and Stonewall Diversity Champions. ICL is a Two Ticks Employer, and is working in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people. UCL holds a race equality bronze award.

posted: 10 July 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.