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A crystal engineering approach for novel Pickering formulations with controlled release properties


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK only
Competition funded
Source of funding
Doctoral training partnership
Professor Brent Murray and Dr Elena Simone
Additional supervisors
Dr Anwesha Sarkar
School of Food Science and Nutrition
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This PhD project aims at developing novel sustainable, biocompatible multiphase formulations (e.g., emulsions, foams) for the controlled release of active ingredients, applying a unique crystal engineering approach. Multiphase formulations are used for pharmaceutical and agrochemical applications as carriers for hydrophobic active ingredients. Since these colloidal systems are often thermodynamically unstable, surfactants or solid particles (Pickering stabilizers) are added to increase kinetic stability. Solid particles provide better stability and enable tuning of stabilizing properties via control of particle size, shape and wettability. Most Pickering stabilizers used for pharmaceutical and agrochemical formulations are synthetic polymers, whose wettability is tailored via chemical manipulation of their molecular structure. These compounds present poor biodegradability and might be harmful to humans; therefore, the use of natural particles such as cellulosic materials or flavonoids would be a valuable alternative. In order to preserve their natural state, these materials should not be altered chemically, but a crystal engineering approach can be used to optimize their stabilizing efficiency. This project will develop such approach and apply it to the design of novel sustainable, biocompatible, and stimuli responsive multiphase formulations for the encapsulation and controlled release of active ingredients. <br /> The project will be mainly experimental but it will also include a molecular modelling component. Experimental work will involve the controlled growth and characterization of Pickering crystals using a wide range of techniques including electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and photoelectron spectroscopy (surface chemistry characterization), polarized and Raman microscopy. The thermodynamic stability of different crystal structures will be assessed with dynamic vapour sorption, hot stage microscopy and differential scanning calorimetry while the crystal behaviour at the interface of multiphase formulations will be characterized via confocal microscopy and x-ray radiography/tomography. Multiphase systems prepared will be characterized using light scattering, confocal and electron microscopy techniques and the kinetics of release will be measured using adsorption behaviour in a range of substrates and fluorescence techniques. Molecular modelling using the Attachment Energy model will be performed in order to understand how molecular interactions affect crystal surface chemistry.

<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 research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is A crystal engineering approach for novel Pickering formulations with controlled release properties as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Elena Simone</a> as your proposed supervisor.</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>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<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 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 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>This 3.5 years EPSRC DTP award will provide tuition fees (&pound;4,600 for 2020/21), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (&pound;15,285&nbsp;for 2020/21), and a research training and support grant of &pound;5,000.</p>

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

<p>Applicants should contact Dr Elena Simone directly (;if they wish to discuss the project.&nbsp; Any enquiries about the application procedure can be sent to <a href=""></a>.</p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>