PhD project: Using spin echo reflection grazing incidence scattering and spectroscopy (SERGIS/GINSES) to probe the mechanical properties of interfacial thin films

Project description

The reflection of neutrons  is a very powerful technique to probe the structure and dynamics of interfacial thin films on the nanometre to micron length scale and the nanosecond to microsecond time scale. To date most experiments have focussed on interpreting the specular reflectivity, which provides a projection of the density profile onto the direction perpendicular to the interface. Cellular membranes are in ceaseless motion, and this dynamic behaviour is crucial for their biological function. The off-specular scattering of neutrons provides a means to probe the energy of these membrane undulations and lipid flip-flop processes. Spin-echo techniques can be used to encode for dynamic processes on the sub-nanosecond to microsecond timescale but can also directly encode for lateral correlations on the 100 nm length scale, that should be the structural signature of these undulations. In this project, these advanced experimental techniques will be developed to extract data that can be compared to mechanical models of varying degrees of sophistication. This project could involve a period of secondment at ISIS (the UK's neutron spallation source) and will definitely involve experiments at both ISIS and the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble.

[1] R. M. Dalgleish, et al., Physica B: Physics of Condensed Matter, Volume 406, Issue 12, p. 2346-2349 [2] O. Holderer et al., Journal of Physics: Conference Series 528 (2014) 012025

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