a) How does the project fit with the scope of CDT Applied Photonics?
Fluorescence spectroscopy is a powerful technique for optical detection of chemicals at very low concentrations. The target analyte molecules (which may be in the form of a vapour or very dilute solution) interact with a fluorescent sensor film or surface, and the resulting photophysical/chemical interaction leads to a change in efficiency, wavelength or lifetime of the fluorescence. Trace chemical sensing therefore needs a combination of optical instrumentation and suitable sensor materials. To be able to discriminate between different analyte molecules requires instrumentation that can distinguish small differences in photonic response arising from their different binding interactions with the sensor material(s).
(b) What are the key academic and industrial research questions the project aims to answer?
Such sensors may be applied to detect trace vapours of explosives, drugs or environmental pollutants; we will investigate how to interrogate arrays of fluorescent sensor materials to achieve trace chemical detection approaches that are both sensitive and selective.
(c) Where is the novelty of the project, and in what industrial / academic context?
In this project we will combine novel fluorescent materials and novel spectroscopic methodologies for the selective detection of explosives, drugs and their precursors.
(d) What is the methodology to be used, and what will the student actually be doing?
We will use spectroscopic techniques to spectrally and temporally characterise and optimise the sensor response, both in terms of limits of detection and discrimination of target analytes from distractant molecules
(e) What makes this a doctoral thesis project rather than a shorter piece of work?
The project will involve strands of cleanroom fabrication, spectroscopic studies, and some instrumentation and materials development.
The candidate will have, or expect to obtain, a 1st or 2:1 honours degree in physics, chemistry or a related subject.
Background in materials interdisciplinary science
An interest in optical sensing / photophysics
Knowledge of photophysics and spectroscopy