University of Cambridge

Fully-Funded (Home/EU Rate) PhD Candidateship (Fixed Term)

Closing Date
WorkplaceCambridge, East of England, UK


Job Opportunities


Fully-Funded (Home/EU Rate) PhD candidateship (Fixed Term)

Funding: Diamond/ISIS Pulsed Neutron Spallation Source/EPSRC Supervisors: Dr Rachel Evans from University of Cambridge and Dr Nathan Cowieson from Diamond Light Source Ltd

This project will be run jointly between the University of Cambridge and Diamond Light Source, co-located between the two sites, with years 1 and 4 in Cambridge, and years 2 and 3 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site in Oxfordshire

Solar-thermal fuels capture and store solar energy in the strained bonds of photoswitchable materials, which can then be released as heat on the application of an external stimulus. This project seeks to develop solar thermal fuels based on lyotropic liquid crystals (LLCs) prepared from azobenzene photosurfactants. The key focus will be to understand how cooperative intermolecular interactions between molecules in the LLC assembly can increase the photon energy storage density. This will be achieved by investigating the relationship between structural organisation, and the kinetics, energetics and heterogeneity of photoswitching process. This knowledge will lead to the identification of new design rules to generate more efficient solar thermal fuels with potential in off-grid energy storage. In this project, you will synthesise novel light-sensitive photosurfactants and investigate their assembly into LLC phases using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), polarised optical microscopy and calorimetric methods. You will work alongside scientists at Diamond to design and build a sample holder and irradiation chamber to enable in-situ investigation of light-induced structural changes to LLC phases by SAXS, gaining valuable experience in programming (e.g. Python) and electronics. Advanced infrared spectroscopy (X-ray IR microspectroscopy, time-resolved infrared) will be used to map the heterogeneity and kinetics of the photoswitching process.

This project will be run jointly between the University of Cambridge and Diamond Light Source.

This studentship provides an opportunity to develop new synchrotron and neutron facility capabilities and apply them to scientifically challenging research topics and and an environment in which to form research networks outside the immediate supervisory team. Two other studentships will run simultaneously with this one under the same arrangements.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available up to 4 years in the first instance.

Applicants should have (or expect to be awarded) an upper second or first class UK honours degree at the level of MSci, MEng (or overseas equivalents) and should meet the EPSRC criteria for UK/EU residency and liability for ’home rate’ fees. The on-line application system is available at . Further information on the application process is available from Rosie Ward ( remw2 [at] cam[.]ac[.]uk ).

Informal enquiries about this studentship can be made to Dr Rachel Evans, rce26 [at] cam[.]ac[.]uk

Please quote reference LJ22457 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, West Cambridge






12 February 2020

Closing date

31 March 2020


In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 180706.

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