PhD position - Molecular engineering of green polymer-surfactants by microfluidic SAS

Context & Job description

Project title: Sustainable molecular design of green polymer/surfactant systems with adaptive microfluidics

This project seeks to investigate the phase behaviour and non-equilibrium properties of a new class of naturally-derived polymers, and their interaction with a model surfactant in solution.

We will employ recent advances in microfluidics coupled with small angle neutron and x-ray scattering to enable the complex phase mapping of the parameter space, which includes polymer architecture, and concentration of both polymer and surfactant, as well as temperature. We will then employ microfluidics to interrogate non-equilibrium, flow and kinetic processes, relevant to the practical application of such polymer-surfactant complexes in emulsification and removal of immiscible fluids.

The industrial partner for this project is Procter & Gamble, a world leading formulations company, and our focus will be in the discovery of sustainable and high efficiency formulations, in terms of (i) replacing conventional polymer additives, with naturally derived polysaccharides of precise architectures and functionalities, (ii) reducing the temperature required for emulsification (e.g. in cleaning processes) and (iii) improving the efficiency of the emulsification process (thereby reducing the concentration of active ingredients), and this reduce their environmental footprint.

Small angle-neutron and x-ray scattering (SANS and SAXS resp.) play a key role in establishing the fundamental knowledge (beyond empirical correlations) of such model formulations, increase the agility and resilience of this multi-billion £ industry and enable the next-generation of high-performance, greener, and tailored complex fluids.

Further information may be obtained from Dr. Lionel Porcar (, tel +33 476 207 025) and from Prof. Joao Cabral, tel +44 207 594 7791

Expected profile

  • Degree allowing enrollment for a PhD (such as MSc, MEng, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent) in physics, materials science, chemistry chemical engineering, or closely related science
  • A background in experimentation and soft matter/polymer science is desirable, and knowledge of scattering would be an advantage; expertise in data analysis, data science, automation, control and optimization would be advantages.
  • Manual skills and rigorous attention to detail are essential in this work environment
  • Proficiency in English (a proof of upper-intermediate level must be included in the application. Applicants  originating  from  native-English-speaking  countries  can  apply  without  the  need  for  proof  of level. An official degree conducted in English will be also accepted as a proof).
  • Compliance with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie mobility rule: candidates may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than twelve months in the three years immediately before the date of recruitment.
  • At the date of recruitment, early-stage researchers must be in the first four years of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • Candidates must satisfy eligibility criteria according to the partner university requirements for PhD enrollment.

More details about the application procedure on

Working conditions

The successful candidate will be enrolled at Imperial College London (London, UK) and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 3-month secondment at Procter and Gamble (UK) and 3 months at Imperial College London. Furthermore, a varied pedagogical training programme will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project. Tuition fees of £4435 per year, will be paid for by Imperial College London if the applicant is a UK/EU national residing in the UK for the past 3 years.

More details on the InnovaXN programme on

Company description

InnovaXN is a Horizon 2020 MSCA COFUND programme providing an opportunity for 40 industrial companies to work with 40 PhD students, performing advanced research and exploiting the unique characterisation techniques of the ESRF and ILL. Through collaborations with industry, innovation will be the central theme of the programme. This will provide a unique cross academic-industry science setting, secondment opportunities and society-relevant research, training the future key researchers able to tackle major research and societal challenges.

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