PhD project: Is high pressure the end of hydrophobicity?

Project description

You have heard quite often phrases like ‘oil and water do not mix’. A few years ago we discovered, totally unexpectedly that under relatively modest pressure methane (oil) mixes with water (Pruteanu et al. Sci.ADv. 2017). Attempts to model the behaviour failed completely to detect any mixing, highlighting a fundamental inadequacy in widely-used currently available computer models (Pruteanu et al., J.Phys.Chem.B 2019). Further investigations combining the first high pressure neutron diffraction measurement of a binary fluid mixture and very long first-principles quantum mechanical calculations revealed this behaviour is associated with an unexpected dipole moment being acquired by the non-polar methane molecule (Pruteanu et al., J.Phys.Chem.Lett. 2020).

This situation raises the question as to whether pressure-induced solubility is a property of methane alone or common to other simple molecules. In this project we will use a broad range of experimental and computational techniques to determine and understand the behaviour of similar systems.

Experimentally, we will use Diamond Anvil Cells and a combination of Raman spectroscopy, quantitative imaging and direct observation to identify potential mixing in a range of other simple molecules (nitrogen, oxygen in water). We will determine the structure of any newly-found mixtures using primarily neutron diffraction and real-space structure-solving methods (Reverse Monte Carlo), and use computational first principles calculations to increase the accuracy of data fitting as well as gain complementary information on the electronic changes in the systems.

The ideal candidate should be enthusiastic about the use of a combination of experimental and theoretical/modelling techniques to understand liquid condensed matter under extreme conditions .

Project supervisor

The project supervisor welcomes informal enquiries about this project.

Find out more about this research area

The links below summarise our research in the area(s) relevant to this project:

What next?

More PhD projects