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CDT in Metamaterials: Artificial Magnetic Conductor Surfaces for Conformal Antenna Design Ref: 3884

This studentship with the University of Exeter is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) 

  • Closing soon
  • Closing date: 31 Jul 2020
  • United Kingdom | University of Exeter
  • Date posted: 25 Jun 2020
  • Job type: Research facilities
  • Disciplines: Materials science  | Engineering & instrumentation

About the award

Statement of research

Supervisors: Prof J Roy Sambles, Prof Alastair P Hibbins

External partner:  Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL)

Metamaterials are a rapidly developing area of modern physics and technology that have enormous potential. This has been created in part by the realisation of extraordinary negative index material, leading to perfect focussing, zero-index materials with infinite internal wavelength as well as Harry Potteresque ‘cloaking’.

This project will take the existing excellence in Metamaterials research at Exeter to go on to explore entirely novel structures for applications at microwave frequencies. The work forms part of a very strong collaboration with, and is fully sponsored by, the UK Government agency, Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (Dstl).

Fundamental physics underpins all fast data handling and communications, from microwaves with mobile phones to light in optical fibres as well as imaging devices such as Radar. The next generation communications devices (5G and 6G) and Radar will use higher microwave frequencies, some pushing up to THz. All these technologies rely on source and detector antennas but many of these can be bulky (for example TV aerials) and there is a need for ‘flat’ antennas which may be placed directly on metallic surfaces such as on autonomous vehicles, aircraft or ships. However physics dictates that such metallic surfaces (electric mirrors) will kill the antenna signal as the reflected signal from the metal will be in ant-phase with that emitted from the antenna. Over the past decade to overcome this we have helped develop a range of metallic metasurfaces, which act as ‘magnetic’ mirrors (Artificial Magnetic Conductors, AMCs). This means that radiating antennas may be placed directly upon them without loss of performance. Unfortunately such AMCs generally only function well over a narrow frequency range which limits their applicability.

This demanding project will take these metasurface ideas much further by exploring the wide range of options with single and bilayer patterned surfaces potentially combined with high permeability spacer materials to provide novel lightweight low profile antenna AMCs. These will be designed to allow antennas to operate on curved as well as flat metallic surfaces and over an increased bandwidth.

The work involved ranges from very fundamental physics, through modelling and on to device design, fabrication and testing. The successful applicant must have a very good degree in Physics or Electrical Engineering and be a UK or EU National.

The studentship is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Our aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

The 4 year studentship (value approx. £105,000) is externally funded by an industry partner. It is of value around £105,000, which includes £13,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £16,500 per year for UK/EU students.

Eligible candidates: UK and EU nationals only due to industry sponsor requirements.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, and prospective students can consider projects from a wide variety of fields:

  • Acoustic and Fluid-dynamical Metamaterials
  • Biological and Bio-inspired Metamaterials
  • Graphene and other 2D Materials, and related Devices
  • Magnonics, Spintronics and Magnetic Metamaterials
  • Microwave Metamaterials
  • Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites
  • Optical, Infra-red and THz Photonics and Plasmonics
  • Quantum Metamaterials
  • Wave Theory and Spatial Transformations

Please visit to learn more about our centre and see the full list of projects that we have on offer this year.

The studentship is subject to funding availability.

About XM2
Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials with applications in many technology areas: energy storage and improved efficiency, imaging, communications, sensing and the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Since 2014, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) recruited over 80 PhD students. Learn more about our science and training approach:
The first year of the studentship includes an assessed, stand alone project, and a substantial programme of training. Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops, together with creativity events and conference-style meetings. The cohort will also be expected to disseminate their results to the international community via high-impact publications and international conferences. They will spend time working with our academic and industrial partners.  Full details of the programme are available here.

The University of Exeter combines world class research with excellent student satisfaction. It is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Formed in 1955, the University has over 20,000 students from more than 130 different countries. Its success is built on a strong partnership with its students and a clear focus on high performance. Recent breakthroughs to come out of Exeter’s research include the identification and treatment of new forms of diabetes and the creation of the world’s most transparent, lightweight and flexible conductor of electricity. Exeter is ranked amongst the UK’s top 10 universities in the Higher Education league tables produced by the Times and the Sunday Times. It is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.

How to apply
Eligible applicants: UK and EU nationals only.

Applications are made to the Metamaterials programme for a PhD in Physics/Engineering. We invite candidates to specify their project(s) of interest at the time of application.
Please send your application consisting of ALL items listed below to Please note, incomplete applications cannot be processed.

  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken.
  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project you are applying for;
    – Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;
    – Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).
  • The contact details of two academic referees.

Application procedure

Applications will normally be reviewed within two weeks of receipt.

Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  • Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  • Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  • Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  • Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  • Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).


Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an entry interview to assess fit to the CDT concept. This will be held prior the academic interview with the supervisors and will normally be undertaken by a panel of 3 people, including a current postgraduate researcher or post-doc in Physics or Engineering.

Interviews are expected to start within two weeks upon application receipt. It is therefore advisable to apply as soon as possible.

Please email if you have any queries about this process.


Application deadline: 30th June 2020
Number of awards: 1
Value: Approximately £105,000, including research and travel budget, tuition fees and annual taxfree stipend (approx. £16,500 per year payable to UK or EU students only).
Duration of award: per year
Contact: Dr. Isaac Luxmoore (Admissions Tutor)


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University of Exeter

At the University of Exeter we combine teaching excellence and high levels of student satisfaction with world-class research at our campuses in Exeter and Cornwall. We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Our success is built on a strong partnership with our students and a clear focus on high performance

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