A funded PhD project is currently available in Dr Karen Edler’s group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, in collaboration with Dr Andrew Jackson & Dr Nikolaos Tsapatsaris (ESS, Lund, Sweden) to work on the self-assembly of surfactants in deep eutectic solvents.
Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES) resemble ionic liquids but are formed from an ionic mixture instead of being a single ionic compound. Hydrogen bonding between the two components lead to a large eduction in freezing point meaning the mixture is liquid at room temperature. DES share with ionic liquids properties which make them highly desirable as “green solvents”; having very low volatility, being in general non-flammable, and having a wider liquid temperature range than molecular solvents. In addition DES can be made from common cheap, non-toxic species, unlike ionic liquids which are usually based on highly toxic nitrogen containing cations. In this project we will investigate the self-assembly of surfactant micelles in DES. Although surfactant micelles are commonly used in water to template porous materials such as silica, many other materials of potential interest cannot be synthesised in such solutions due to the reactivity of the inorganic precursors with water. DES in general have been shown to be good solvents for a range of inorganic precursors, used currently in electroplating. DES may therefore also provide an environment where small catalytic amounts of water are available and micellar templates can assemble but which allow slower reaction rates for inorganic precursors and so greater control over the nanomaterials produced. However, so far no work has been done on micelle formation in DES so the initial task in this project will be to study the properties of a range of micelles in DES, and understand the changes observed when small amounts of water are added.
This is a multidisciplinary project combining physical chemical techniques for nanostructure characterisation with some modelling and development of sample environment. The DES and micelles will be characterized using surface tension, viscosity, light scattering, thermal behaviour (DSC), and via small angle neutron and X-ray scattering. Wide angle neutron scattering, quasielastic neutron scattering and molecular modelling will be used to study the DES solvent structure and effects of water addition. X-ray and neutron reflectivity will be used to probe surfactant structures at the surface of DES solutions. We also plan to build sample cells for the neutron experiments which will allow water addition to a sample during a measurement and help to design a cell for simultaneous DSC and scattering measurements. Since this is a collaborative project between the UK and Sweden the student will spend some time during their PhD working in Sweden, in the European Spallation Source (ESS) laboratories in Lund. The student will also be expected to travel to neutron and synchrotron X-ray facilities in the UK, France and possibly the USA or Australia as part of their PhD work.
The available funding will cover fees for a UK/EU based student, and a standard stipend to cover living expenses for 3.5 years. Students from outside the UK/EU must be able to cover the cost of overseas student fees to be able to be considered for this position. A first class or 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials or Physics is required. The studentship is available to start from June 2014 but must start by 1st Oct 2014.
Information on how to apply can be found at http://people.bath.ac.uk/chske/CVacancies/CVacancies.html