PhD Studentship - Development and application of Raman spectroscopy based methods for trace-level detection of explosives

University of Southampton

United Kingdom

June 30, 2022


PhD Studentship - Development and application of Raman spectroscopy based

methods for trace-level detection of explosives

Chemical Biology, Diagnostics & Therapeutics

Location: Highfield Campus Closing Date: Thursday 30 June 2022 Reference: 1782222EB

Supervisory Team: Prof Sumeet Mahajan (University of Southampton), Dr Niall Hanrahan (University of Southampton), Dr Alastair Clark (Smiths Detection)

Dr Luca Marmugi (Smiths Detection)

Project description

Explosives and their precursors are a serious threat for defence and security in both military and civilian contexts: trace vapour detection of explosive compounds or precursors is still beyond the reach of current Explosive Trace Detectors (ETDs). These often rely on mechanical sampling (‘swabbing') with subsequent desorption and analysis, which is impractical in many settings and impossible with any concealed or wrapped explosive inaccessible to sampling. These limitations affect the currently available ETD-ready technologies: lack of sufficient sensitivity, incompatibility with use outside of laboratory settings, possibility of evading operational requirements or a combination of these limitations make real-time vapour trace detection of explosives an unmet capability.

Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy is an ultra-sensitive molecular ‘finger- printing' technique in which the University of Southampton has a world-leading and extensive track-record (https: // www. In this project we propose the development and application of a novel concept based on SERS for the sensitive direct detection and identification of explosive trace vapours. We will combine the sensitivity and selectivity of SERS with innovative concepts for the signal enhancement and the sampling geometry. We also want to develop a laboratory prototype that would be a precursor to an instrument that could be deployed in the field. This project will be a step towards realisation of a novel class of explosive trace detectors fulfilling a vital need in defence and security and beyond.

In this fully-funded interdisciplinary PhD opportunity the student will learn and develop advanced spectroscopy techniques, analysis methods as well as rapid prototyping approaches (e.g. 3D printers and laser cutters) for device development. The student will have the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers at Smiths Detection to develop potential designs for field conditions. Training in all areas of the PhD as well as opportunities for professional development will be available but enthusiasm to work in a dynamic and interdisciplinary collaborative environment is desirable.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. Sumeet Mahajan, Email:

Entry Requirements

An undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree or equivalent) in Chemistry or Engineering or allied subjects/relevant disciplines. Enthusiasm to work in an interdisciplinary environment with a strong interest or background in either analytical spectroscopy, data analysis and/or device development/prototyping is highly desirable. Training in all areas of the PhD and professional development opportunities will be provided.

Closing date : As soon as a suitable candidate is found but no later than 30th June for standard entry in Sept 2022

Funding: The project is fully funded for 3.5 years for UK students and full tuition and an enhanced stipend of £16,062 tax-free per annum will be provided.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online selecting “PhD Chemistry (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Sumeet Mahajan under the Topic or Field of Research.

Applications should include :

Personal Statement

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online: https: // www.

For further information please contact:


About the employer

One of the top research universities in the U.K., the University of Southampton is best-known for its innovative learning system. The university is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Originating from Hartley Institution in 1862, Southampton...