HDR Scholarship - Investigation of alkanethiolate self-assembled monolayers on palladium through correlative electrochemical and atom probe tomography analysis

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Investigation of alkanethiolate self-assembled monolayers on palladium through correlative electrochemical and atom probe tomography analysis'.

Project Supervisor

Associate Supervisor


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

There is significant potential for nanotechnology-based on surface modification and functionalisation using self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), such as molecular electronics and biosensors. SAMs add chemical functionality and thermodynamic stability to surfaces of relatively simple inorganic nanostructures and make it possible to connect them to more complex systems, e.g. biological nanostructures such as proteins. Another key example is alkanethiol-protected palladium (Pd) nanoparticles, which have been used as hydrogen sensors because of the ability of Pd to absorb large amounts of hydrogen. Innovative development of such technology relies on controlling the interfacial chemistry between the metal substrate and SAM and requires a detailed understanding of the structure-property relationships at the molecular and atomic scales where most characterisation techniques are limited by the combination of chemical detection and spatial resolution.

Project aim

Opportunities for innovative applications of SAMs in nanotechnology are diverse and plentiful due to the ability of SAMs to modify the interfacial properties of nanostructures by rational design. The aim of this project is to understand the fundamental mechanisms behind SAM formation on contemporary metallic substrates such as palladium that are regarded to have considerable significance by offering vast potential for surface modification and control.
In this project, Deakin’s state-of-the-art atom probe tomography facilities will be used to investigate the three-dimensional structure of the interface between the metal substrate and the SAM with high chemical sensitivity and near-atomic spatial resolution, and provide necessary information about the mechanism of the surface monolayer formation, in this case, alkanethiolate SAMs on Pd.
Furthermore, this project will harness the recently developed graphene-encapsulation protocol [1, 2, 3, 4] for preparation of solution-based atom probe specimens. This will allow liquid samples to be maintained under ultra-high vacuum and will make APT analysis of Pd nanoparticles in alkanethiolate solution feasible for the first time. The physical principle on which APT relies (field evaporation of surface atoms/molecules) provides information about binding energy and thus has the potential to produce information about the strength of the bond between the monolayer and the substrate, which cannot be accessed by other imaging techniques. This will be correlated with advanced electrochemical measurements as a function of alkanethiol carbon chain length.

  • [1] V.R. Adineh, C. Zheng, Q. Zhang, R.K.W. Marceau, B. Liu, Y. Chen, K.J. Si, M. Weyland, T. Velkov, W. Cheng, J. Li, J. Fu; “Graphene‐Enhanced 3D Chemical Mapping of Biological Specimens at Near‐Atomic Resolution”,  Advanced Functional Materials (2018), 28, p. 1801439.
    [2] S. Qiu, V. Garg, S. Zhang, Y. Chen, J. Li, A.S. Taylor, R.K.W. Marceau, J. Fu; “Graphene encapsulation enabled high-throughput atom probe tomography of liquid specimens”, Ultramicroscopy (2020), 216, p. 113036.
    [3] S. Qiu, C. Zheng, V. Garg, Y. Chen, G. Gervinskas, J. Li, M. Dunstone, R.K.W. Marceau, J. Fu; "Three-dimensional chemical mapping of a single protein in the hydrated state with atom probe tomography", Analytical Chemistry (2020), 92, pp. 5168-5177.
    [4] S. Qiu, C. Zheng, Q. Zhou, D. Dong, Q. Shi, V. Garg, W. Cheng, R.K.W. Marceau, G. Sha, J. Fu; “Direct imaging of liquid-nanoparticle interface with atom probe tomography”, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2020), 124, pp. 19389-19395.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Monday 1 February 2021


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,600 per annum tax exempt (2021 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500 - $1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate currently residing in Australia (domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship).
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • BEng(Hons), BSc(Hons) or MSc (preferred) in materials engineering, materials science, chemistry, or physics
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct scientific research through either refereed journal publications or excellent project marks
  • English language requirement - IELTS minimum 6.5, with no band below 6
  • Evidence of strong oral and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated initiative and ability to work independently and to meet deadlines
  • The candidate would preferably have basic sills in electrochemistry and prior experience in spectroscopy and microscopy (atom probe tomography and/or electron microscopy is desired)

How to apply

Please apply using the expression of interest form


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Ross Marceau

Dr Ross Marceau
Senior Research Fellow - Advanced Characterisation (Institute for Frontier Materials)
Email Ross Marceau
+61 3 522 72183