Students eligible for UK Research Council funding are welcome to apply to the 4-year (1 year MRes + 3 years PhD) fully funded projects summarised below. These projects are not usually available for international applicants. We strongly advise early applications.

Applications from international students are welcomed - please choose projects from the list for self-funding students.  More information about funding eligibility can be found here.

The projects listed below are for October 2018 entry.  

Fully-Funded 4 Year CDT Projects - for UK applicants

An Auxetic Heart Patch Based on Well-Defined Conductive Oligomers

Supervised by Prof Molly Stevens (Materials, Imperial College) and Prof Martin Heeney (Chemistry, Imperial College)

Funding Confirmed! This project is still available.

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide. There are few therapeutic options available following myocardial infarct as cardiac tissues possess relatively low reparative and regenerative capabilities, imposing a global socioeconomic burden. Biomaterial-based strategies are being sought in the search for a much needed, innovative and timely solution. Polymer-based electroactive biomaterials have been traditionally hindered in cardiac applications because of issues concerning their biocompatibility, ability to withstand the strenuous and dynamic environment of cardiac tissues, and incapability of influencing cardiac cells following infarct.

Within this Plastic Electronics CDT studentship led by Profs Molly Stevens and Martin Heeney, we will use powerful in-house designed synthetic approaches to end-functionalised, homogenous, and electroactive conjugated oligomers, to form electroresponsive cardiac scaffolds. These materials will be formulated into the first electroactive auxetic patch capable of withstanding the native physiological cardiac environment. The unique patterning of the patch enables extension in both directions under strain to match the motion of the heart. It is envisaged that this work will have a major impact on clinical interventions towards the treatment of cardiac disease.

The ideal student has a strong background in organic chemistry, biomaterials research, and electronics, with a track record of undertaking interdisciplinary research. Pro-active and enthusiastic students are greatly recommended to apply.

For more information, contact Prof Molly Stevens: m.stevens@imperial.ac.uk

Enzyme-Free Biomarker Sensing with Organic Electronics

supervised by Dr Christian Nielsen (QMUL)Dr Matteo Palma (QMUL) and Dr Sahika Inal (KAUST)

New project!  Funding confirmed - this project is still available!

Organic bioelectronics focuses on the interaction between electroactive materials and biological systems, addressing a variety of stimulation and sensing applications such as in-vivo drug delivery and neural interfacing. The organic electrochemical transistor (OECT) is a particularly useful device configuration for bioelectronic sensing. OECTs can effectively transduce ionic signals into electronic signals, although no selectivity towards specific biomarkers is present in a conventional setup. Currently, any additional functionality or selectivity is incorporated by a device engineering approach, for example through incorporation of ion-selective membranes or by modifying a device electrode with specific enzymes and consequently relying on the sensing of the enzymatic hydrogen peroxide production.

This project aims to create new specifically tailored electroactive materials with lock-and-key type functionalities built in to the three-dimensional structure to construct bioelectronic materials and devices with selectivity and specificity towards important biomarkers. This is a step change in both bioelectronic materials and device development in that we are proposing to design and synthesise completely new polymeric architectures and subsequently use them to fabricate highly selective bioelectronic devices without relying on additional modifications such as enzyme-functionalisation or incorporation of specific membranes.

Preferably, the applicant would have a degree in chemistry with experience in synthetic organic chemistry.

Circularly polarised photodetectors based on induced chirality in polymer/small molecule blends

Supervised by Prof Alasdair Campbell (Physics, Imperial College) and Dr Matt Fuchter (Chemistry, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available.

Right- and left-handed circularly polarized (CP) light involves photons in the two different spin states. CP light is the basis of long distance optical quantum telecommunication (quantum cryptography), optical quantum computing, and optical spintronics. It can also be used in the detection of chiral biomolecules, including protein folding and chiral molecular labels, and medical tomographic imaging. CP photodetectors are a novel area in organic electronics, allowing the creation of highly compact, integrated devices with advantages over their bulky inorganic counterparts.

To create such organic CP photodetectors, we propose a novel approach involving induced polymer chiroptical absorption (circular dichriosm). This is achieved by blending a (normally achiral) polymer with a chiral small molecule. It will allow the creation of high bandwidth CP photodetectors with tunable wavelength range from the UV through the visible to the NIR using pre-existing high performance polymeric semiconductors. The device performance of CP photoFETs and photodiodes will be explored, along with the optical, electronic and materials properties of the novel chiral polymer/small molecule blends. The project will involve new collaborations with the photonics and nanoplasmonic groups in Imperial Physics, and with the University of Sheffield in developing new fast CP spectroscopies.

This project would suit a student with any applicable physical science/materials science background. Appropriate undergraduate degrees may include Chemistry, Physics, Materials, etc.

For more information, contact Prof Alasdair Campbell: alasdair.campbell@imperial.ac.uk 

Controlled Superstructures in vacuum-deposited Organic Semiconductors

Supervised by Dr Sandrine Heutz (Materials, Imperial College) and Prof Martin Heeney (Chemistry, Imperial College)

Funding Confirmed! This project is still available

The functionality of organic semiconductor thin film devices depends in most cases to a significant way on the microstructure of the film and the orientation of the molecules. One the one hand, this poses a challenge on the field, on the other hand, the ability to combine materials with very different functional and structural properties in a single device is unique to molecular systems and presents a wealth of opportunities that have so far not been fully exploited.

The goal of this project is to investigate the microstructure of molecular blends and to find ways to obtain regimes favouring isolated molecules, superstructures and phase separated domains. The application focus is on molecular spintronics and organic solar cells, given similar material systems and characterisation techniques, but different microstructural requirements. The PhD student will be able to employ a range of unique in-situ and ex-situ characterisation techniques to determine the microstructure during thin film growth and post-deposition to correlate microstructure with device properties.

Given the close connection of microstructure and device performance for many organic electronics devices, we see many synergies with other PE-CDT research projects and areas of research in organic electronics, as well as high relevance for industry partners.

This project would suit a candidate with a background in Materials, Chemistry or Physics, ideally having done their Master thesis on the microstructural characterization of advanced functional materials.

For more information, contact Dr Sandrine Heutz: s.heutz@imperial.ac.uk

Ferroelectric-enhanced photovoltaics: synthesis and study of photovoltaic-ferroelectric nanocomposites

Supervised by Dr Joe Briscoe (Engineering & Materials Science, QMUL) and Prof James Durrant (Chemistry, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

This project proposes to produce and study photovoltaic devices which incorporate ferroelectric nanostructures in order to enhance carrier separation and device efficiency. Ferroelectric materials possess an internal electrical polarization which leads to electric fields within the material, which can extend into coupled materials up to ~100 nm from the surface of the ferroelectric. This has previously been shown to lead to enhanced photocatalytic activity and photovoltaic performance. However, in the
case of photovoltaics, the addition of ferroelectric layers is detrimental due to their insulating nature, and may not be able to influence the full device thickness.

To address this, this project will develop nanostructured ferroelectric films that will be incorporated into photovoltaic devices. The nanostructuring of the ferroelectric will allow it to be combined intimately with the photovoltaic, enhancing interactions, and also will allow carrier transport to bypass the ferroelectric, removing the insulating barrier. Device fabrication and testing will be supplemented by transient spectroscopy to develop understanding of the impact of the ferroelectric component on carrier dynamics. This understanding will then be used to design optimized device structures with the overall aim of producing devices with enhanced efficiency to demonstrate an effective new strategy toward highefficiency photovoltaics.

Applicants would ideally have a condensed matter physics or physical chemistry background, with a good understanding of semiconductor theory. Ideally they would also have had experience or knowledge of photovoltaic devices and/or ferroelectrics. Practical experience of solution-based chemical synthesis or spectroscopy would be desirable, but not essential.

For more information, contact Dr Joe Briscoe: j.briscoe@qmul.ac.uk

NB: The MRes year will be undertaken at Imperial College, then the student will transfer to QMUL for the PhD

Funding confirmed

Pump‐push‐probe spectroscopy for identification and elimination of trap states in hybrid perovskites

Supervised by Prof Laura Herz (Physics, Oxford University) and Prof Michael Johnston (Physics, Oxford University)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Hybrid metal halide perovskites are promising semiconductors for next-generation solar cells now achieving power conversion efficiencies in excess of 22%. However, perovskite cells currently still suffer from sub-bandgap trap states that can act as non-radiative recombination centres, reducing device efficiencies.

While the presence of traps in these materials has been inferred from charge-carrier recombination kinetics, their causes and nature are still largely unknown. Computational simulations have predicted the energies of specific point defects, however, matching experimental evidence for specific trap depths is more elusive.

This project will address this issue by implementing a new spectroscopic technique, optical-pump-THz-probe-IR-push transient photoconductivity spectroscopy, to monitor de-trapping processes that are stimulated by a short laser pulse whose photon energy is matched to the trap depth. Standard optical-pump-THz-probe techniques already in operation will be extended by a third pulse of tunable photon energy that is used to “push” charges from trap states back into the conduction or valence bands.

We will build on the resulting trap identification to develop processing protocols to remove specific hurdles to the adoption of perovskite as photovoltaic light-harvesters. We will target lead-free tin perovskites that currently exhibit dominant defect-related charge recombination, and mixed-halide perovskites for silicon tandems that suffer from trap-mediated halide segregation under illumination.

We expect the applicant to have at least a 2.1 degree in Physics or Chemistry, to have an interest in taking up advanced laser spectroscopic techniques and to be able to work well at an interface with those engaged in developing and processing new materials.  

For more information, contact Prof Laura Herz: Laura.Herz@physics.ox.ac.uk

NB: The MRes year will be undertaken at Imperial College, then the student will transfer to Oxford University for the DPhil

Funding confirmed

Spontaneous surface patterning for switchable photonics

Supervised by Dr João T. Cabral (ChemEng, Imperial College) and Prof Paul Stavrinou (EngSci, Oxford University)

This project has now been filled so is no longer available.

Nano-structured surfaces exhibit unique optical, physical, mechanical and electronic properties. While conventional lithography-based nanofabrication techniques, are generally low throughput and costly for large area patterning, bottom-up methods, including self-assembly and surface instabilities of soft materials offer attractive routes in terms of performance and switchability. Amongst these, mechanically-induced wrinkling provides a versatile platform for highly-ordered structures formed upon compression of laminates due to the mismatch between the mechanical properties of a thin film and its compliant substrate. Multiaxial strain fields readily yield topographical patterns down to a few nm is size, with independently tunable wavelength and amplitude. These surfaces have great potential as diffractive optical elements, tunable lasers, resonators etc, and potentially for very large scale integration. The project will combine experiments and modelling to fabricate novel optically active surfaces and evaluate their potential as photonic materials, reaching sub-wavelength dimensions.

This project would suit a candidate with a degree in physics, engineering, physical chemistry or materials, interested to work in collaboration with a global industrial partner (Procter & Gamble).

For more information, contact Dr João Cabral: j.cabral@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed - this project is part-funded by Procter & Gamble

Charge transfer kinetics and energy offsets at hybrid perovskite / organic interfaces

Supervised by Prof James Durrant (Chemistry, Imperial College) and Prof Ji-Seon Kim (Physics, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Organolead hallide perovskites are attracting increasing attention for low cost photovoltaic power conversion, as well as LED’s and photodetectors. Organic interlayers are proving particularly effective for selective electron and hole extraction from the photoactive layer. In addition it has recently reported that integrated perovskite/organic solar cells where one interlayer comprises a low bandgap organic donor / acceptor junction can result in enhanced long wavelength solar harvesting and enhanced device performance. However the kinetics of interfacial electron transfer at perovskite / organic semiconductor interfaces, and the energetics of such interfaces, remain poorly understood. This project will focus on the use of a range of transient techniques available in the Durrant group to study the charge carrier dynamics in such interfaces, including the use of transient photovoltage and photocurrent optoelectronic measurements and transient absorption spectroscopies. These measurements will be complimented by the use of photoelectron, and other, spectroscopies available in the Kim group to determine the energetics of these interfaces, with the aim of developing quantitative energetics / structure / function relationships for such interfaces.

This project is in collaboration with Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.

This project would particularly suit a physicist, physical chemist or electrical engineer. A strong physical training will be important both to understand the techniques employed, and the physics of the devices studied.

For more information, contact Prof James Durrant: j.durrant@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed

Plant-on-a-Chip: Monitoring Disease Response in Living Plants with Printed Sensors

Supervised by Dr Firat Güder (Bioengineering, Imperial College) and Dr Tolga Bozkurt (Life Sciences, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Food security is a major concern worldwide. Plant diseases caused by filamentous plant pathogens (fungi and oomycetes), bacteria, viruses, and nematodes cause hundreds of billions of pounds in annual loses and severely impact subsistence agriculture. Pattern recognition receptors in plants recognize pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) at the cell surface and initiate a cascade of signalling events leading to PAMP triggered immunity. Our understanding of the mechanisms of activation of plant immunity is quite limited although a number of chemical signals are known to play a role as part of the immune reaction. In this project, we will develop plant growth chips with printed electrochemical sensors to detect and quantify chemical signals in living plants in real-time upon activation of plant immunity. These sensors will be designed to detect defence related fluctuations in living plants that can be scaled-up to perform high-throughput screens and will substantially accelerate cloning of new immune receptors.

The applicant should ideally have a background in electroanalytical techniques and printed sensors, and an interest in learning plant biotechnology. 

For more information, contact Dr Firat Güder: f.guder@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed

Organic Bioelectronics

Supervised by Prof Ji-Seon Kim (Physics, Imperial College) and Prof George Malliaras (Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

A recent trend in neuromorphic engineering involves the use of devices based on organic electronic materials. This is largely motivated by the attractive characteristics organic devices offer in interfacing electronics with biology. Key advantages of organic-based materials include their compatibility with low cost processing on large area, mechanically-flexible substrates that can be conformal to the body as well as the tunability of their properties via blending and chemical synthesis. The aim of the proposal is to develop organic-based composites and implement neuromorphic device architectures suitable for the processing of biological signals with a view towards applications in the field of wearable electronics, health monitoring, and neural prosthesis.

This project is in collaboration with Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.

This project would suit a candidate with a degree in physics, engineering or materials (or physical chemistry).

For more information, contact Prof Ji-Seon Kim: ji-seon.kim@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed

Towards in-vivo electrochemical imaging with flexible, light-addressable organic semiconductor electrodes

Supervised by Dr Steffi Krause (School of Engineering and Materials Science, QMUL), Dr Oliver Fenwick (School of Engineering and Materials Science, QMUL) and Dr Christian Nielsen (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

High-resolution mapping of chemical activity of cells on surfaces is important for the understanding of biological processes. We are aiming to develop the first flexible and biocompatible electrochemical imaging chip for in-vivo imaging of cell activity. The groundwork for this will be laid by this PhD project by developing novel organic semiconductor coatings suitable for high-resolution photocurrent imaging and measurement of cell-signaling processes such as cell impedance, cell surface charges, release of metabolites and neurotransmitters.

Preferably, the applicant would have a degree in chemistry (specialization in physical chemistry/electrochemistry), physics, materials science or a related subject with experience in physical/electrical measurement.

For more information, please contact Dr Steffi Krause: s.krause@qmul.ac.uk

Funding confirmed

NB: The MRes year will be undertaken at Imperial College, then the student will transfer to QMUL for the PhD

2D functional inks for flexible optoelectronics

Supervised by Prof Milo Shaffer (Chemistry, Imperial College) and Prof John de Mello (Chemistry, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Exfoliated 2d nanomaterials offer multiple beneficial physicochemical and functional properties in a format that can be prepared as an ink and printed to form flexible electronic devices. Graphene has attracted enormous interest but lacks a straightforward band gap, meaning it can only be conveniently used as a conductive material. Other 2d materials, such as Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs), offer a well-defined band gap, suitable for transistors, photodetectors, or emitters. By preparing and combining inks based on this palette of materials, device applications can be developed. To maximise the performance, the exfoliation process must be optimised, since the TMD properties depend on the degree of exfoliation and the lateral size of the layers, as well as their inherent structure.

Thomas Swan & Co. are developing a range of functional inks based on 2d materials. This project will explore the application of these inks to thin film electronics, linking the nature of the ink, through the deposition process, to transport properties and then device performance. The project will involve detailed characterisation using a range of advanced microscopy and scattering methods to determine the nature of the ink, establish protocols for patterned film (and hybrid film) deposition, and finally design/evaluate protoype devices. By iteration with the team at the company, new optimised materials will be developed, providing a rapid route to real world application.

The project combines various aspects including an understanding of the physical chemistry of colloidal systems to optimize these unusual inks, materials processing and characterization of thin films, and an appreciate of device physics. The student could have a background in physical/materials chemistry or physics. The emphasis of the project would likely be adjusted to build upon the strengths of the successful candidate.

For more information, contact Prof Milo Shaffer: m.shaffer@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed - this project is part-funded by Thomas Swan 

Printable Perovskite Solar Cells

Supervised by Prof Henry Snaith (Physics, Oxford University), Prof Natalie Stingelin (Georgia Tech and Materials, Imperial College), Dr Martyn McLachlan (Materials, Imperial College) and Dr Laura Miranda Perez (Oxford PV)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Perovskite solar cells have emerged as contenders to main-stream silicon PV. The first product likely to be manufactured is a perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cell, which in laboratories already exceed 25% efficiency, and promises to deliver manufactural modules with efficiencies ultimately capable of surpassing 30%. Since the target of that first technology is highest efficiency, cost of manufacturing is not absolutely critical, and combinations of both solution and physical vapor deposition or sputter coating are perfectly acceptable. However, ultimately, the lowest cost perovskite solar module will be an all-printed thin film technology, monolithically coated on glass or plastic substrates. The main challenges to achieve are highly uniform coating via methodologies compatible with high volume manufacturing, and using solvent and ink compositions which are toxicologically scalable. Within this project, the PhD student will develop inks and the printing methodologies of ink-jet printing and slot-dye coating to deliver completely printed perovskite solar cells at the highest efficiency. Challenges will include developing benign solvents for both the perovskite and organic charge extraction layers, and the realization of multi-layer coatings for multi-junction cells. This project will be in close collaboration with Oxford PV Ltd. and make some use of their coating and module structuring capabilities.

This project would suit an applicant with a degree in Physics (applied), Chemistry, Materials Science or Chemical Engineering, who is motivated to do highly experimental work.

For more information, contact Prof Henry Snaith: Henry.Snaith@physics.ox.ac.uk

NB: The MRes year will be undertaken at Imperial College, then the student will transfer to Oxford University for the DPhil

Funding confirmed - this project is part-funded by Oxford Photovoltaics

Atomic engineering of bulk and surface polarisation for enhanced solar energy conversion

Supervised by Prof Aron Walsh (Materials, Imperial College) and Prof James Durrant (Chemistry, Imperial College)

This project has been filled so is no longer available

Electric polarisation of crystals can influence the generation, stability and transport of electron and hole charge carriers in photochemical processes. The polarisation may be at the surface (due to intrinsic surface dipoles or extrinsic chemical modification layers) or in the bulk (due to a non-centrosymmetric crystal structure with the presence of ordered polar domains). The benefits of lattice polarisation for electron-hole separation have recently been suggested in solar cells, including metal oxides and metal halides such as CH3NH3PbI3. There have been several reports on performance enhancements for photoelectrochemical processes, but understanding of the underlying physical phenomena are limited.

In this project, we propose to use quantum-mechanical materials modelling to quantify polarization features and provides routes for atomic engineering of these and related phenomena in semiconducting materials. We have been developing a range of bespoke tools to separate surface, interface, and bulk contributions to absolute electron energies (ionisation potential and electron affinity) in solids [e.g. Nature Materials 12, 798 (2013) and Phys. Rev. B 95, 125309 (2017)], which will be applied to a range of topical inorganic systems and extended to organic and hybrid compounds.

This project would be suitable for a graduate from a chemistry, physics or materials science degree, with an interest in computing, semiconducting materials, quantum mechanics, and energy.

For more information, contact Prof Aron Walsh: a.walsh@imperial.ac.uk

Funding confirmed