Postgraduate research opportunities

PhD Fine and ultra-fine particles in air: electromagnetic and low temperature plasma decontamination

A three year PhD project offered by the High Voltage Technologies (HVT) Research Group, focused on the development of advanced impulsive non-thermal plasma systems for air cleaning and aerosol decontamination operations.

Number of places



1 June 2017


Three years


To be considered for the project, candidate should:

  • Possess a first class or Upper second bEng (Honours), MEng or MSc degree in electrical engineering, physics or a relevant engineering / technology related discipline
  • Have particular expertise and understanding in electro-magnetism and/or bio-physics
  • Be able to demonstrate knowlegde and skills in experimental research
  • Be a UK, EU, RUK and International student

Project Details

Air-borne fine and ultra-fine particles pose significant health and environmental risks. In recent years attention has started to be paid to particles of sizes less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) or even particles with size less than 1 micrometer (PM1). It is known that particles with dimensions less than 3 ยต, can remain airborne for almost unlimited periods of time. Therefore, in the case of enclosed environments (public transport, houses, buildings) there is a significant probability that these particles can be inhaled, increasing the health risk they pose. The engineering challenge is to design an effective technology for removing of air-borne solid particles, liquid droplets or even microorganisms with sizes in this range from air. 

One of the promising technological approaches which can be used for air-cleaning and decontamination operations is based on ionisation and treatment of aerosols and suspended air-borne particulate matter with ultra-short, sub-microsecond plasma impulses. Such high tension (high power, high field) impulses generate electrons, ions and chemically active species, thus electric charge can be transferred to the air-borne particulate matter. An external electric field then can be used to control these charged fine and ultra-fine particles. Moreover, if microorganisms will be subjected to these plasma impulses, their membranes may be damaged by the induced and transferred charges and plasma generated chemically active species can disrupt normal operation of bio-membranes resulting in the death of (potentially pathogenic) microorganisms. Thus, this plasm a technology can be used for the efficient air cleaning and bio-decontamination operations. 

This project will focus on the development of the advanced impulsive non-thermal plasma systems for air cleaning and aerosol decontamination operations. The researcher will also study mechanisms of charge transfer to bio-membranes, induced electro-mechanical and thermal stresses using analytical and computer modelling methods (experience in modelling COMSOL will be an advantage). The project will progress through the design, development and experimental stages, and include analytical and computer modelling. 

Support will be provided by experienced members of staff at the High Voltage Technologies (HVT) Research Group, within the Institute for Energy & Environment. The researcher will conduct studies at the frontiers of low-temperature science and engineering (plasma for environmental, medical and agricultural applications). They will also work in close cooperation with electrical engineers, physicists and microbiologists which provides a unique opportunity to conduct multi-disciplinary plasma-based research project. 

Funding Details

The project is open to self-funded Home, EU, RUK and International students.

Contact us

How to apply

To apply, candidates should email a full CV and covering letter, quoting the name of the project to Ms Maureen Copper.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please email Dr Igor Timoshkin or t: + 44 (0)141 548 2071