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Robotic automation of microfluidics for nanomaterials discovery


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 17 April 2020
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Competition funded
Source of funding
Research council
Dr Kejun Wu and Professor Shane Xie
Additional supervisors
Dr Chengxu Zhou
School of Chemical and Process Engineering, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Microfluidic platforms are miniaturized systems that enable experiments to be conducted at the scale that is orders of magnitude smaller than those which typical laboratory equipment is capable of. Conventionally, the discovery of chemicals and materials with optimal performance toward task-specific applications is mainly performed by trial-and-error methods which are time and labour consuming and cost-extensive. The microfluidic platforms offer an alternative way for target-oriented materials screening and synthesis with extremely small reagent consumption and waste, higher speed and efficiency of reaction, and higher degree of parallelization in a limited laboratory space. In this context, the possible performance of microfluidics has been demonstrated through its application to the synthesis of polymers, active pharmaceutical ingredients and nanomaterials. Though these are good examples to reveal the power of miniaturization, most microfluidic platforms used are not conceived with the flexibility to perform a varied array of reactions without some measure of redesign and human intervention to set up the required unit operations and carry out the reaction when varying the process variables. In this project, by integrating with a robotic automation system, the robotically reconfigurable flow apparatus would be capable of handling parallel and multi-steps processes and optimizing multiple process variables that could affect the properties of targeted nanomaterial. It would utilize the high-accuracy, high-flexibility robotic system to recognize, capture, and set up the modular unit operations continuously with little to no human intervention.

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

<p>The project aims to develop a novel microfluidic strategy that can be integrated with automation/robotic system, in order to integrate all the steps required for materials discovery (i.e. &lsquo;synthesis-purification-analysis-optimization&rsquo; cycle) while substantially reducing the necessary materials consumption and manual effort and offer a clear path to scale-up synthesis.</p> <p>You will work closely with PhD students and Postdoctoral Research Associates with strong background in reaction engineering, materials synthesis, robotics, and autonomous systems in the team under the supervision of Dr Kejun Wu in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, Prof Shane Xie in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Dr Chengxu Zhou in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds.</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 research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;Robotic automation of microfluidics for nanomaterials discovery&rdquo; as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Kejun Wu</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 6.0 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.

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

<p><strong>UK/EU</strong>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;Engineering &amp; Physical Sciences Research Council Studentship&nbsp;for 3.5 years. A full standard studentship consists of academic fees (&pound;4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant (&pound;15,009 in Session 2019/20) paid at standard Research Council rates. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.&nbsp;&nbsp;Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.</p>

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

<p>For further information regarding your applicant,&nbsp;please contact Doctoral College by email:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;or by telephone: + 44 (0) 113 343 5057</p> <p>or</p> <p>For further information regarding the project,&nbsp;please contact Dr Kejun Wu by email:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

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