Job offer

Research Fellow in High-Resolution SPM Imaging of Organic Semiconductors

Dept/School/Institute Name, College Name: School of Chemistry
Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK
Full time starting salary is normally in the range £34,980 to £44,263 with potential progression once
in post to £46,974
Grade 7
Full Time
Fixed Term Contract up to June 2026
Closing Date: 19th February 2024

UOB general information
People are at the heart of what we are and do. We want to attract outstanding, inspirational, and talented people, support them to succeed, and celebrate their success. Working at the University of Birmingham gives you access to the best financial and physical resources, a beautiful campus and an intellectually stimulating and diverse community. Our sector leading development programmes have made this a place where staff can thrive and recognition by Athena Swan, Stonewall, and Two Ticks demonstrates our commitment to supporting talented people from all backgrounds.

The School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham is a vibrant and thriving academic community, with over 100 academic and research staff, 20 professional services staff and over 600 students. With a strong focus on our four Research Themes of Energy, Sustainability, Environment and Health, and a number of interdisciplinary Interest Groups, the School has ambitious plans to grow research activity and are in an exciting period of growth: major investment from the University have delivered a state-of-the-art research building (opening in 2024), and new multi-million-pound high-performance computing facilities, which will ensure UK- leading compute capability.

We are looking for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to work in the area of experimental nanoscience at surfaces. The post holder will join the Group led by Prof. Giovanni Costantini in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. For over 20 years, the CostantiniLab has been exploring the fundamental interactions and properties of functional molecular units on solid surfaces as well as developing novel cutting-edge methods for characterising these systems at the molecular and atomic scale. The project will be based on the innovative methodology – electrospray deposition combined with scanning tunnelling microscopy, ESD-STM – recently developed by the Costantini Group (see for example Sci. Adv., 2018; Adv. Mater., 2020; JACS, 2021; ACS Nano, 2022; Adv. Funct. Mater., 2023). The aim of the project is to apply the high precision and rigour of surface science – in particular the ultimate spatial resolution of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) – to solve analytical problems that are intractable with any other current characterisation technique. A specific emphasis will be on studying functional organic semiconductors used in organic electronics, photovoltaics, sensing and thermoelectric applications. As such, this project holds the potential to yield groundbreaking outcomes of high fundamental and applied impact.
The postholder will be responsible for all aspects of the project which will include sample preparation by ESD, scanning probe microscopy (SPM) measurements and analysis and interpretation of the SPM data. Training will be provided in some of the component techniques but demonstrable experience in a number of aspects pertinent to the research project is required. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the project and the extensive network of collaborations by the Costantini Group with world-leading synthetic, device and theoretical groups across the globe (e.g. at the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Stanford University, Peking University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Tech, etc.), this role offers an outstanding opportunity to deepen one’s knowledge of organic semiconductors and their application in materials and devices, as well as to work in close cooperation with the main players in the field. The closing date for applications is 19th February 2024 – please note that we reserve the right to close this vacancy early once a sufficient number of applications have been received.]

For further information please contact Prof Giovanni Costantini, g.costantini@bham.ac.uk

PhD project: Visualising Molecular Doping in Conjugated Polymers

A fully funded 3.5 years PhD position in the field of experimental nanoscience at surfaces and molecular imaging of conjugated polymers is available in the group of Prof. Giovanni Costantini at the University of Birmingham.
About the research: Conjugated polymers have become promising options as active materials for the next generation of energy conversion and (opto)electronic devices. To enhance the performance of these materials, molecular doping is a crucial process. This involves introducing small molecule “impurities” into the polymer matrix to increase the charge carrier density and modify the energy levels, thereby influencing its (opto)electronic properties. However, there is still limited understanding of the molecular doping mechanism. Fundamental questions remain mostly unanswered about the impact of doping on charge transport, the dopant miscibility and the dopant’s positioning within the polymer host. Developing a molecular-scale picture of the doping mechanism is therefore of paramount importance for further progress and design of novel and efficient materials.

About the project: The Costantini Lab has recently demonstrated that a combination of scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and electrospray deposition (ESD) can be used to deposit intact conjugated polymers in ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) and to acquire sub-molecular resolved images, revealing their composition and structure at a level that is impossible with any other present analytical technique (e.g. Sci. Adv., 2018; Adv. Mater., 2020; JACS, 2021; ACS Nano, 2022; Adv. Funct. Mater., 2023). In this project, the ESD-STM technique will be applied to study the interaction of small molecule dopants with conjugated polymers at the sub-nm scale. The aim is to establish the exact location, conformation, and interaction between dopants and host polymers as well as the extent of disruption to the polymer microstructure caused by doping. Scanning tunnelling spectroscopy (STS) will further be used to measure the local electronic structure of dopant-polymer complexes and to correlate this with their structural characteristics. Since this type of information cannot be achieved with any other present analytical technique, this project has the potential to deliver pioneering results of high fundamental and applied impact.

What we offer: The successful candidate will have access to a unique ESD-STM equipment to perform world- leading research. They will learn how to operate state-of-the-art sophisticated experimental setups working closely with senior researchers and experts in the field. They will be fully embedded into the highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment of the Costantini Lab. Their work will be firmly rooted in experimental nanoscience at surfaces, but will ultimately be directly applied in the design and development of new and efficient polymer-dopants systems. The project will be in collaboration with world leading synthetic groups at the University of Cambridge (UK), University of Oxford (UK), Stanford University (US), Peking University (China), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (US) and Georgia Tech (US).

Who we are looking for: Motivated students are welcome from various backgrounds, including physics, chemistry, engineering, and material science. However, we are particularly interested in applications from students with a strong preference for hands-on experimental work, not shy of operating, optimising (and sometimes repairing) complex experimental instruments involving mechanical, electronic and vacuum technology and know-how. A strong drive and curiosity for understanding the deep origins of physical and chemical processes and phenomena is essential. Applicants with previous experience in scanning probe microscopy and/or surface science are particularly welcome.

Funding for this position is open to UK and international applicants and the 3.5 years studentship will start as soon as possible from January 2024. Enquiries and informal applications should include a C.V. and be addressed as soon as possible to Prof. Giovanni Costantini (g.costantini@bham.ac.uk).