PhD in Many-body quantum transport methods for modelling piezoresistive devices

A fully-funded three-year joint PhD studentship at Royal Holloway, University of London and the National Physical Laboratory is available starting immediately, and is open to applicants from the European Economic Area.

This is a project in close collaboration with the IBM TJ Watson (USA) and IBM Rueschlikon (Switzerland) research laboratories, with the aim of using and developing electronic structure and quantum transport calculation methods for the study of advanced materials with complex strongly correlated electron systems.

Computer clock speeds have not significantly increased since 2003, creating a challenge to invent a successor to CMOS technology able to resume performance improvement. In this project the electron transport characteristics of an entirely new low-voltage approach, the piezoelectric transistor (PET), will be investigated theoretically by evaluating the conductance of piezoresistive materials in contact with metal electrodes in a device setup. In the PET design a gate voltage applied to a piezoelectric material drives the compression of a piezoresistive thin film such as SmS or SmSe, inducing a metal-insulator transition corresponding to the ON/OFF switching of the device ( This low-power technology is one of the top contenders for emerging portable distributed sensor networks, which form an important component of the big data revolution.

The first goal of this project is to advance the quantum transport methods, as implemented in the Smeagol code, to describe the many body effects that determine the conductance through piezoresistive materials. The used formalism is based on the density functional theory (DFT), combined with the non-equilibrium Green’s functions (NEGF) technique and the dynamical mean field theory (DMFT). Developments will also be included in the CASTEP software, one of the most-used codes on UK national high-performance computing (HPC) facilities.

The second goal is to apply the newly developed methods to metal/piezoresist nanodevices, and to pass the results to the experimental partners at IBM to drive the device design. Further collaborators in the project include the CASTEP developers group (UK), Nano-bio spectroscopy group in the University of the Basque Country (Spain), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), University of Augsburg (Germany), and Kings College London (UK).

The successful candidate should have a degree in physics, at the equivalent level to a UK MSci. A strong education in condensed matter physics, quantum mechanics and electronic structure of solids would be an advantage as will excellent computer programming skills.

Royal Holloway is based in an attractive leafy campus close to London

The National Physical Laboratory sits at the intersection between scientific discovery and real world application. It is based in a unique, purpose-built research environment, located in beautiful surroundings on the edge of Bushy Park, south-west London with a host of onsite facilities

Applications must be made using the Royal Holloway web site

For further details, please contact Professor Keith Refson ( and Dr. Ivan Rungger (


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