An investigation into the development of formaldehyde-free electroless copper plating

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU/International)

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

For further details contact: Prof A Cobley, Dr G T-P Azar, Prof V Vitry 


Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably qualified graduates with a strong background in chemistry/electrochemistry for a fully-funded PhD studentship.

Project details

Electroless copper utilises formaldehyde as a reducing agent to deposit pure copper. However, formaldehyde is an upper respiratory tract carcinogen and for many years an alternative has been sought.

There has been investigation on alternative reducing agents (e.g. glyoxylic acid, sodium hypophosphite, Fe(II)) but all have their drawbacks. Although there has been some work on boron-based reducing agents for electroless copper (e.g. DMAB) they are not widely used because they require closer control of the operating conditions. However, they offer interesting possibilities for the reduction of copper whilst the addition of boron is not detrimental to electrical properties. Copper-boron alloys are also widely known to resist oxidation. The project will also investigate the use of other reducing agents that are less problematic from a health and safety perspective such as reducing ‘sugars’.

This PhD project will build on the expertise of the University of Mons in the use of boron-based reducing agents and Coventry University on Electroless Copper plating and the utilisation of reducing sugars. This co-tutelle programme will give you the experience of different scientific environments, different cultures, and help you expand your professional network.


Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU/International).


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

The PhD will be a co-tutelle with University of Mons. The successful applicants will receive training at both Coventry University and University of Mons in a wide range of deposition techniques, electrochemical tests, and surface characterisations. By experiencing and living in 2 different countries the PhD will also provide the student with a wide cultural experience and they will receive a PhD from each institution.

Candidate specification 

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average. 
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

For further details see:

Additional requirements
  • It is essential that applicants have a background and practical experience in chemistry.
  • It would be desirable if the applicants had expertise and practical experience of electroless plating, electrochemistry and the deposition of thin films. In addition good working experience of electrochemical analysis methods and the ability to use a range of surface characterisation methods would be highly regarded.
  • The candidate must be able to demonstrate experience of safe working practises in a chemical laboratory. 
  • The candidate should exhibit analytical thinking and be self-motivated and curious.
  • Good communication, presentation and writing skills. The candidate should be keen to publish.
  • Excellent team skills and able to work in a multi-cultural research group. 
  • Applicants with publications will be highly regarded.

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Prof. Andrew Cobley.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

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