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PhD student in soft matter physics

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : jeudi 12 août 2021

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General information

Reference : UPR22-THICHA-001
Workplace : STRASBOURG
Date of publication : Thursday, July 22, 2021
Scientific Responsible name : Thierry Charitat
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2021
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic


Nature produces water-based lubrication systems that far surpass the best man-made devices [1]. Biological contacts, such as the articulating cartilage surfaces of hips or knees, often operate under severe conditions (i.e. high load and low speed), corresponding to the regime of boundary lubrication. In this regime, direct contact between surfaces can be prevented by a nanometre-thick boundary lubricant that attaches to the solid surfaces, thereby significantly reducing the coefficient of friction down to 0.005-0.02 for human joints. This PhD project aims to better understand the role of phospholipid bilayers in biolubrication, using model systems composed of supported phospholipid bilayers.


We have developed an original experimental set-up, coupling the precise tribological characterisation of the system with the measurement of the velocity of the molecules in the lipid layers [2]. This combination of velocimetry and tribology experiments on well-controlled model systems will give us the unique opportunity to address the question of the location of the sliding plane. The work in this project will focus on three major axes:

(i) improving the experimental set-up to work with humidity controlled or fully hydrated samples;
(ii) analysing the influence of various physico-chemical parameters on the lubrication properties;
(iii) compare the experimental results with simulations based on molecular dynamics (in collaboration with colleagues from the Institut Lumière Matière in LYON).

[1] M. Urbakh, J. Klafter, D. Gourdon, and J. Israelachvili, Nature, 430, 525–528 (2004).
[2] L. Fu, D. Favier, T. Charitat, C. Gauthier, and A. Rubin, Rev. of Sci. Instrum. 87, 033903 (2016).
The candidate should be a physicist with a strong background in soft condensed matter and good knowledge in biology and physical chemistry. He/she should also have an interest in experimental development. Finally, he/she should be independent, able to work in a team and should have a good level of English.

Work Context

The PhD will be carried out in the framework of the ANR Banana-Slip project. The work will take place at the Charles Sadron Institute, in the M3 team (Physics of Membranes and Soft Matter) composed of 2 CNRS researchers, 3 teacher-researchers and 1 ITA. The PhD will be supervised by Thierry Charitat, in close collaboration with Pierre Muller and Fabrice Thalmann (M3 team, ICS) and Anne Rubin (MIM team, ICS).

Constraints and risks

Use of Class IV Laser

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