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Exploring Hydrothermal Synthesis as a Route to Functional Materials - Industrial Placement

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The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe’s largest research organisations. We’re trusted to support, enable and undertake pioneering projects in an amazing diversity of fields. Through world-class facilities and people, we’re driving ground-breaking advances in science, technology and Engineering. 

STFC is one of nine organisations that have been brought together to create UK Research and Innovation (UKRI); a new organisation with a vision to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.

Each year we offer opportunities to undergraduate students to gain practical experience, working alongside technical experts at the forefront of scientific research. We offer an invaluable experience with exposure to world class science and technology, and the opportunity to develop working relationships that continue well after your placement has finished.

STFC consists of several distinct departments which each focus on a different specialism within science, technology, innovation and support, yet work together to achieve STFC’s grand ambitions. Different departments may look for placement students with similar skills, so you should consider which role/s are most suitable to you, and apply for up to two of these. 

The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences. It is owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

A diverse team of more than 20 scientists, postdoctoral researchers and students, the Crystallography Group at ISIS carries out a wide variety of personal and collaborative research using neutron scattering across a range of disciplines including physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering. The Group is responsible for the operation of 9 neutron diffraction and imaging instruments at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, which are used by UK and international Academic and Industrial researchers. In a typical year the Group supports around 200 user experiments across its instruments. Generally speaking these experiments investigate the crystal structures of materials and how the atomic arrangement influences their bulk properties.

About the Role

Before any material’s structure and properties can be studied, it must be synthesised, and the choice of synthesis route may have a profound effect on both structure and properties. In this role you will be responsible for developing hydrothermal synthesis routes to a range of functional materials.

Hydrothermal synthesis involves chemical reactions carried out in aqueous solution in a sealed vessel above the boiling point of water. A more general term is solvothermal synthesis wherein the reaction takes place at temperatures above the boiling point of the chosen solvent. These methods can be considered more “gentle” than traditional solid-state synthesis and as such are ideal for targeting nanostructured and metastable materials. Furthermore, an array of parameters, including solvent, pH, time, temperature, choice of precursor and co-reagents, can be tuned to fully explore the possible synthesis products.

This project will involve:

  • Use of the Crystallography Group’s state-of-the-art microwave reaction rig (as well as more traditional synthesis equipment) to explore the hydrothermal or solvothermal synthesis of a range of materials
  • Characterisation of synthesis products using X-ray diffraction and other techniques available in the ISIS Materials Characterisation Laboratory
  • Reviewing existing literature to identify target materials and suitable reaction conditions
  • Once the necessary training has been completed, you will design and carry out your own synthetic chemistry experiments
  • You will gain confidence working safely in a chemistry laboratory, develop excellent record-keeping and communication skills, and learn about the importance of innovative synthetic chemistry in meeting the demand for functional materials in our modern society
  • You will be exposed to a wide range of research activities spanning chemistry, physics and materials science and have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the Crystallography Group’s research program.

Organization Description

UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, and a vision to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. 

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation, and our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world.


  • At university, enrolled on an undergraduate degree course and required or have requested to take a year out of studies to gain experience within industry (S)
  • Right to live and work in the UK (S)
  • Working towards a degree in chemistry, materials science or a related subject (S)
  • Achieved an A/B grade A-level  (or equivalent) in Chemistry (S)
  • Strong desire and proven ability to work and learn independently (S&I)
  • Experience working in a shared laboratory environment (I)
  • Excellent time-management and planning skills (I)
  • Ability to work effectively in a team (I)
  • A creative and proactive approach to problem solving. (I)


  • Knowledge of chemical synthesis techniques (S&I)
  • Experience using laboratory-based characterisation techniques (S&I)
  • Knowledge of X-ray diffraction (S&I)
  • Ability to use scientific software (Excel, Origin, Matlab, etc) to present and analyse data (S&I)
  • Excellent record keeping and communication skills (I)
  • General understanding of chemical safety and the principles of COSHH assessments. (I)


Exploring Hydrothermal Synthesis as a Route to Functional Materials - Industrial Placement - IRC250855

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Number of vacancies: 
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