Trapping Ultra-Relativistic Quasiparticles in Dirac Materials - Physics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2943

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Professor Mikhail Portnoi
Professor Volodymyr Kruglyak

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
The last decade has witnessed a spectacular rise of Dirac materials – condensed matter systems with charge carrier behaviour resembling that of ultra-relativistic particles. A range of quantum relativistic effects such as Klein tunneling, suppression of backscattering, atomic collapse, Zitterbewegung an unconventional quantum Hall effect were observed without the use of powerful accelerators in table-top experiments with graphene, the recognised star of Dirac-Weyl materials. However, the same physics, which underpins fascinating transport and optical properties of Dirac semimetals reduces their potential applicability to digital electronics. Namely, due to the Klein phenomenon, it is (almost) impossible to stop or trap a charge carrier therein. The aim of this theoretical PhD project is to devise the methods of confining massless charge carriers in Dirac materials by inhomogeneous external fields and strain. We will mostly focus on two-dimensional (2D) Dirac semimetals such as graphene or surface states of topological insulators. 

One of the promising directions is trapping massless 2D particles in smoothly decaying magnetic quantum dots. This part of the project builds upon the synergy between the expertise of the primary supervisor, Professor Portnoi, in the theory of Dirac-Weyl materials and that of the second supervisor, Professor Kruglyak, who is an expert in theoretical and experimental nanomagnetism, able to provide the necessary insight into realistic experimentally attainable magnetic field profiles. 

Another research direction will be a study of the so-called zero-energy states in Dirac-Weyl semimetals– the states at the apex of the Dirac cone. The density of states of free particles vanishes for these states, and their pseudospin is not well defined. Therefore, massless Dirac fermions can be trapped at zero energy in carefully designed electrostatic potentials. We will elucidate how the many-body effects can assist this trapping and how an external magnetic field can “untrap” these confined states.

Entry Requirements
The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.