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Non-periodic structures in metal–organic frameworks


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Monday 15 April 2024
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
Research council
Dr Sean Collins
School of Chemical and Process Engineering, School of Chemistry
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Changing the way we use energy is pivotal in reducing emissions, and understanding the detailed chemistry and structure driving materials technologies offers a key route to energy efficiency. Metal&ndash;organic frameworks (MOFs) show exciting promise for chemical separations as well as in membranes for batteries to fuel cells &ndash; and even as protective coatings for semiconductors used in solar energy and lighting applications. Often the properties of interest in MOFs, from pore structures to chemical functionality, are controlled by the crystal structure. But the details of how individual molecules enter and interact with MOF pores and how MOF structures change upon heating, melting, or interfacing with other materials is often non-periodic, that is, a deviation from the crystal structure.<br /> <br /> This project will develop and apply advanced electron microscopy to probe these important non-periodic structures. The project will include opportunities to explore cryogenic freezing of guest molecules into MOF crystals as well as to examine disordered, amorphous, and liquid phases that emerge in MOFs and MOF composite materials. <br /> <br /> Scanning transmission electron microscopy offers unique insights into the nanometre to atomic scale structure of materials. However, MOFs are often very fragile when exposed to high energy electron beams, posing a significant challenge for electron microscopy of MOFs. At Leeds, we have been developing a suite of techniques for low-dose electron diffraction, spectroscopy, and imaging for MOFs and other beam-sensitive materials [1-3]. This project will build on these tools to gain insight into the fundamental principles of non-periodic structure (and dynamics) in MOFs.<br /> <br /> The project will have a primary focus on structural and chemical characterisation, along with some opportunities to carry out MOF synthesis. The PhD researcher will receive training to drive forward their research using approaches including electron diffraction, pair distribution function analysis, and vibrational and core ionisation spectroscopy. The project will draw on materials science, chemistry, physics, and engineering principles. Applications are welcome from undergraduate degrees in any related field. <br /> <br /> We are keen to support and develop an inclusive community of researchers, with the aim for equity for marginalised researchers. If you are interested, please email Sean Collins ( for informal inquiries.<br /> <br /> [1] A. F. Sapnik et al. Commun. Chem. 2023, 6, 92.<br /> [2] J. Hou et al. Science 2021, 374, 621-625.<br /> [3] S. M. Collins et al. Nano Lett. 2021, 20, 1272-1279.<br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<h2>Additional information</h2> <p>The advanced electron microscopy techniques used in the project will involve the use of equipment at the University of Leeds and the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy (LEMAS) Centre at the <a href="">Bragg Centre for Materials Research</a> as well as national facilities including <a href="">SuperSTEM</a> (EPSRC National Research Facility in Advanced Electron Microscopy) and the <a href="">Diamond Light Source</a> (UK synchrotron facility). Instrumentation at LEMAS includes a new Tescan Tensor dedicated scanning transmission electorn microscope, one of the first two installed in the world, as well as cryogenic plunge-freezing and cryo-transfer, focused ion beam facilities, and capabilities for electron beam spectroscopy, diffraction, and tomography (three-dimensional imaging).</p> <p>This project is part of a European Research Council selected project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), &lsquo;Amorphous Microtructure Imaging at Composite Interfaces in MOFs&rsquo; (AMICI). The PhD researcher will work closely with Dr Collins as well as with post-doctoral research fellows working on adjacent areas of the overarching project.</p> <p>The PhD researcher working on this project will join an enthusiastic and creative team of researchers working across a range of topics from electron microscopy of organic semiconductors and small molecule organic crystals to MOF synthesis. The research group is joint between the School of Chemical and Process Engineering and the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds.&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for <em><strong>PhD Chemical &amp; Process Engineering</strong></em> and in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is <em><strong>Non-periodic structures in metal&ndash;organic frameworks</strong></em>&nbsp;as well as <a href="">Dr Sean M. Collins</a> as your proposed supervisor.&nbsp; Please state in the Finance section that the funding you are applying for is <em><strong>European Research Council (UKRI Frontier Research Guarantee) Studentship.</strong></em></p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. &nbsp;We also advise that you apply at the earliest opportunity as the application and selection process may close early, should we receive a sufficient number of applications or that a suitable candidate is appointed.</p> <p>Please note that you must provide the following documents in support of your application by the closing date of 20 December 2023:</p> <ul> <li>Full Transcripts of all degree study or if in final year of study, full transcripts to date</li> <li>Personal Statement outlining your interest in the project</li> <li>CV</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>A highly competitive European Research Council (UKRI Frontier Research Guarantee) Studentship, offering the award of fees at the UK fee rate of &pound;4,712, together with a tax-free maintenance grant (currently &pound;18,622 for academic session 2023/24) for 3.5 years.</p> <p>This opportunity is open to UK applicants only. All candidates will be placed into the European Research Council Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.<br /> <br /> Please refer to the&nbsp;<a href="">UKCISA</a>&nbsp;website for&nbsp;information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information about you application,&nbsp; please contact the Doctoral College Admissions (Engineering and Physical Sciences) by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about this project, please contact Dr Sean Collins by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;or ny telephone to&nbsp;+44 (0)113 343 2798</p>