PhD studentship: Reading and ISIS
18 Dec 2014




PhD studentship available:
"ATmospheric Oxidation of MIxed organic films on aqueous droplets studied by Neutron reflectometry and infra-RED absorption spectroscopy (ATOMINRED)."


Lead Supervisor: Christian Pfrang, University of Reading, Department of Chemistry. Email:

Co-supervisor: Maximilian W. A. Skoda, ISIS, STFC, Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory

The project will provide unprecedented insight into the fate of mixtures of surface-active organics on water droplets in the atmosphere. By linking the sensitivity of neutron reflectometry (NR) with the chemical specificity of infra-red absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS) we will be able to quantitatively compare nitrate radical, NO3, initiated oxidation of single component and two component surfactant layers in terms of the atmospheric lifetimes of the organic films as well as the fate of reaction products which is of key importance for the ability of the water droplets to grow and form clouds. These first simultaneous NR and IRRAS experiments intimately linked to model development will allow extrapolation to complex atmospheric systems. This studentship is an excellent training vehicle and will deliver unique experimental data (to our knowledge no kinetic data on oxidation of binary atmospheric surfactant mixtures have been reported to date) as well as essential input to atmospheric models currently being developed with the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) to better establish the fate of organic components highly relevant for secondary organic aerosol

formation. This cross-disciplinary project spans its impact from the large-scale facility community via experimental scientists to modellers. The studied surfactants are proxies of meat-cooking emissions and Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) biodiesels, so that beneficiaries include food-production and energy-generation industries as well as the general public through better-informed emissions control and improved air quality.

Training opportunities:

Integral to this project are frequent individual training stints at ISIS (min. 3 months in total), MPIC (2-4 weeks p.a.), neutron beam time experiments at large-scale facilities and tailored workshops on key tools/methods.

Student profile:

This project is suitable for students with a degree in chemistry, physics or a closely related physical science.

The Scenario website: