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PhD– Simulation of multiferroic thin film materials

MN-13 PhD– Simulation of multiferroic thin film materials for next generation data storage.

Contract Type: Full-time/Fixed Term

Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork invites applications for a 4 year PhD position to begin on October 1st 2020. The project involves first principles simulations of thin film complex metal oxides with electric and magnetic properties (multiferroic materials) for potential data/memory storage applications. This stimulating PhD studentship is part of Dr. L. Keeney and Dr. M. Nolan’s new Science Foundation Ireland supported Frontiers for the Future project.

As miniaturisation of electronic devices continues, existing memory technologies are approaching their physical storage limitations. Multiferroic materials, possessing simultaneous ferroelectric and ferromagnetic memory states, have been road-mapped as leading contenders for enabling beyond CMOS data storage, whereby coupling between the ferroelectric and ferromagnetic states permits energy-efficient switching of memory states and enhanced logic densities. The unique advantage of these advanced materials is that a technology that exploits simultaneous ferroelectric and ferromagnetic memory states allows for multi-state storage devices. No such devices presently exist however as single-phase room temperature multiferroics are exceedingly rare and their material properties are currently limited. Therefore, the design and development of a room temperature multiferroic material was a significant output of our recent research. The overarching aim of this project is to advance the state of the art in this material system to demonstrate that it can be exploited for future data storage applications. Earlier work focused on non-epitaxial 100nm films. The grand challenge now facing the MFs community is demonstrating whether these unique multiferroic properties persist at the thicknesses required for nano-electronics, sub-10nm epitaxially grown. We now know that a key driver for ferromagnetic behaviour is ordering of the magnetic cations within the structure, and the focus of this project is on optimising magnetic cation ordering in thin films synthesized on epitaxial substrates to ensure well defined MF films with the correct orientation and strain levels. 

Key Duties and Responsibilities

The project aims to develop new, ultra-thin (sub-10nm) multiferroic materials and to investigate the key parameters responsible for optimum and reproducible multiferroic response with a combined activity in simulation and experiment. The PhD student will focus on modelling of layered-structured Aurivillius phase thin films using first principles simulations on high performance computing systems. Of interest in this project are the composition, cation distributions, defects, and substrate effects. Machine learning will also be used in assessing different compositions. Collaboration with the researchers in the project team and external collaborators will be an important part of the project. The candidate will disseminate project results in peer-reviewed publications and at national and international conferences.

Essential Criteria

  • The successful candidate for the position will have their undergraduate degree in chemistry, physics or materials science
  • Students must have attained a 2:1 or higher in their undergraduate degree in order to be eligible for the studentship.
  • Demonstrable background in quantum chemistry, computational chemistry or computational physics.
  • The candidate must be highly self-motivated, be able to demonstrate initiative and have a desire to learn.
  • The candidate must possess good scientific writing and communication skills.

Desirable Criteria

  • A Master’s degree in chemistry, physics or materials science.
  • Exposure to machine learning and Python programming
  • Prior experience in first principles simulations
  • Prior experience in using high performance computing infrastructure

Informal enquiries concerning this studentship can be made to: Dr. Michael Nolan (email

An annual student stipend of €18,500 applies for the successful candidate of this position. Yearly University academic fees at the EU PhD rate will be paid by the Tyndall National Institute.

Application Instructions

Step 1 - Click here to download the Application form and indicate the Job Reference MN-13.

Step 2 - Return the completed Application form, together with your CV and motivation letter to

Postgraduate applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence of English language proficiency as per UCC regulations ( Certificates should be valid (usually less than 2 years old) and should be uploaded with their application. In special circumstances the panel may consider a prior degree in English (e.g. Master thesis written in English) as evidence of English language proficiency.

Please note that Garda vetting and/or an international police clearance check may form part of the selection process.

The University, at its discretion, may undertake to make an additional appointment(s) from this competition following the conclusion of the process.