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The Characterisation of Carbon Deposits using Modern Surface Science and Bulk property Analytical Techniques.


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Wednesday 03 May 2023
Reference:  ENG1636

Industrial partner: Innospec

University of Nottingham supervisors: Dr. David Scurr and Prof. Colin Snape

The impact of carbon-based deposits on climate change and human health is the driver for legislation, fuel technology change and engineering improvements. The carbon species produced by the internal combustion engine have various impacts on emissions and despite many years of research are still not fully understood. Recent work at Nottingham1-3 has shown a paradigm shift in the understanding of these deposits and has had subsequent impact in their reduction.

The work has informed industry produce to develop mitigation chemistries to be produced and thus reduce emissions. The project is a unique opportunity to use very sophisticated surface science techniques such as Orbitrap 3D secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The study will involve carbon material from across the powertrain vista, road, rail, off road, marine, and standing. The material will be associated with injector deposits, filter deposits to enable emission reduction and soot, especially those associated with respiratory inflammation cardiovascular health problems and premature mortality. The information regarding the structure of these species will be used to invent mitigation strategies for the benefit of all. Though the work is focussed on carbon this is a unique opportunity to learn to use and interpret data from “state of the art” instrumentation yielding important portability skill sets.

The University of Nottingham is a World leading research institute. It is ranked 7th seventh in the UK for research Power, which takes into account a combination of the quality of our research, its international impact, critical mass and sustainability. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) 90%* of our research was classed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) and 100%* of our research is recognised internationally.


1. “Spatially Resolved Molecular Compositions of Insoluble Multilayer Deposits Responsible for Increased Pollution from Internal Combustion Engines” Max K Edney, Joseph S Lamb, Matteo Spanu, Emily F Smith, Elisabeth Steer, Edward Wilmot, Jacqueline Reid, Jim Barker, Morgan R Alexander, Colin E Snape, David J Scur., ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 12 (45), 51026-51035, 2020.

2. “Internal Diesel Injector Deposit Chemical Speciation and Quantification Using 3D OrbiSIMS and XPS Depth Profiling”, Joseph S Lamb, Jim Barker, Edward Wilmot, David J Scurr, Colin E Snape, Emily F Smith, Morgan R Alexander, Jacqueline Reid. SAE International Journal of Advances and Current Practices in Mobility,2020,349 364

3. “Molecular formula prediction for chemical filtering of 3D OrbiSIMS Datasets”  Max K Edney, Anna M Kotowska, Matteo Spanu, Gustavo F Trindade, Edward Wilmot, Jacqueline Reid, Jim Barker, Jonathan W Aylott, Alexander G Shard, Morgan R Alexander, Colin E Snape, David J Scurr. Analytical chemistry,94,11,4703-4711

The stipend rate for the academic year 2022/23 from the EPSRC is £17,668. This stipend will rise with inflation each academic year. The exact rate for 2023/24 subject to confirmation from EPSRC. In addition, students receive a stipend enhancement of £3,750 per year which amount to a total of £21,418 (non-taxable) per year in 2022/23.

We would like you to start in October 2023. Applications are welcome from graduates with a relevant STEM or engineering background. You will work closely with your industry sponsor giving you plenty of opportunity to gain more industry experience.
Informal enquiries may be sent to Dr David Scurr ( Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.  

Please apply here

When applying for this studentship, please include the reference number (beginning ENG and supervisors name) within the personal statement section of the application. This will help in ensuring your application is sent directly to the academic advertising the studentship. 

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

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