Development of a novel methodology for X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy depth profiling of thin films and coatings

In collaboration with ThermoFisher Scientific, this project will develop an innovative methodology for X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) depth profiling for thin films and coatings which diverges from traditional ion beam sputtering.

Start date

1 October 2023


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

Thermo Fisher Scientific/University of Surrey matched funding

Funding information

Funding covers a stipend of £20,000 pa (tax free) and UK “home” tuition fees for 3.5 years. Funding is available to cover travel, conferences and consumables. Eligibility follows standard research council rules and include UK/Irish citizenship or ordinary residence within the UK for 3 years prior to the funding commencing, but please note that in the latter case only home fees will be covered.


X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) is the primary technique employed to determine the chemical composition of material surfaces, with an analysis depth of approximately 5 nm. To determine the chemical composition of the material beyond this depth, XPS has been combined with ion beam bombardment for over 50 years. This allows repeated material removal and analysis to build up a depth profile of the chemical composition as a function of depth for thin films, coatings and other engineered surfaces.

This project will develop a completely new methodology and approach to XPS depth profiling. The new approach uses cutting-edge technology and you will be working on-site with research scientists and engineers to develop this new technique at ThermoFisher Scientific in East Grinstead, Sussex.

Initially, the work will involve becoming knowledgeable in the theory and experimental use of XPS for the analysis of different materials. Then, the project will combine both scientific instrument innovation at ThermoFisher Scientific with studying electromagnetic radiation-material interactions using a range of advanced materials characterisation techniques, including electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and XPS at the University.

The work will involve studying various thin films and coatings for applications such as quantum computing, optoelectronics, tribology and corrosion protection. This exciting project offers the possibility of being at the forefront of both scientific instrument development and the fundamental scientific understanding of electromagnetic radiation interactions with material surfaces.

Eligibility criteria

Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

Candidates must meet Surrey graduate entry requirements which include holding at least an upper second-class degree or equivalent qualifications in a relevant subject area such as physics, chemistry, materials science or engineering. A master’s degree in a relevant discipline and additional research experience would be an advantage.

We are committed to supporting female, Black, Asian, or minoritised ethnic communities (sometimes referred to as BAME) that are currently under-represented. All candidates must be permanent UK resident for fee purposes.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Engineering Materials PhD programme page.

In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

There is no fixed deadline - applications will close once post is filled.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Mark Baker
10 AB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686294

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