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CDT in Metamaterials: Effect of Material Conductivity and Architecture on Electromagnetic Surface Wave Propagation Ref: 3917

The studentship is co-funded by TWI Ltd and the University of Exeter. It is part of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials

  • Closing soon
  • Closing date: 30 Jul 2020
  • United Kingdom | University of Exeter
  • Date posted: 25 Jun 2020
  • Job type: Academic: PhD/MSc
  • Disciplines: Materials science  | Metrology & measurement science 

About the award
Statement of research

Supervisors: Professor J Roy SamblesProfessor Alastair P Hibbins, University of Exeter

External Supervisor: Dr Jasmin Stein, TWI Ltd

The SurFlow™ technology recently developed and patented by TWI (GB2522344A and US10090715B2) offers a great solution for replacing wired communication in complex systems, such as vehicles. For example, today’s luxury cars contain 1,500 copper wires, totalling ~1 mile in length. In addition, with electrification and automation of vehicle complexities will increase even further.

SurFlow™ is a technology where the composite structure itself is used for data communication. Information is carried by electromagnetic surface waves (See Figure 1) and data speeds are three times faster than standard Cat5e Ethernet cable, and because the signal is bound to the structure, it is much more secure than Wi-Fi.
In order to make a composite compatible for surface wave propagation the composite needs to have a dielectric layer on one side and a conductive layer on the opposite side. The main function of the conductive later is to reflect electromagnetic waves that have been introduced to the composite with the correct incident angle to the opposite surface of the composite. The function of the dielectric layer is to create an interface for the signal to propagate. Both the resin and the composite are dielectric materials. However, they have difference dielectric permittivity, which creates the required interface for the signal propagation.

The understanding of the effect of the change in the dielectric permittivity is critical when deciding whether an existing structure is compatible with SurFlow™. The study mainly focuses on glass fibre composites with different resin types. These will be thermoset resin and thermoplastic resins, hence of relevance to, for example, aerospace and automotive industries. Resins with varying dielectric permittivity will be used for the assessment. Experiments will be carried out in an anechoic chamber to eliminate any interference and reflected airwaves.

The successful applicant will benefit from the expertise of the R&D team responsible for the SurFlow™ technology, led by Dr Jasmin Stein, combined with cutting edge academic insight from researchers at the University of Exeter.  As part of Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation, Profs Hibbins and Sambles have been studying surface waves in the microwave and RF regime for nearly 20 years.  Their work is associated with the control of energy propagation through local control of the surface impedance boundary condition. This is achieved either with surface patterning, through regular, random or spatially-graded geometries, or via the use of overlayers.

This project will be a mix of analytical, numerical, fabrication and characterisation work, and a will be suited to applicants that are keen to work on industry problems with a rigorous academic approach.  The successful candidate will be keen to engage with all aspects of the project, be strongly motivated to lead their own investigations, have excellent computational and experimental skills, and able to communicate information clearly to a broad audience.

The objectives of this PhD project are to

  • Understand the effect of dielectric/composite interface on the signal propagation;
  • Understand the effect of composite/conductive layer interface on signal propagation;
  • Understand the effect of conductivity of the carbon fibres on the out of plane evanescent filed distribution;
  • Understand the effect of conductivity of the carbon fibres on the signal incident angle;
  • Understand the effect of carbon fibre weave architecture on the signal propagation;
  • Understand the effect of carbon fibre on airwave leakage and electromagnetic interference;
  • Develop an electromagnetic surface wave propagation model at meso-scale level (interface).

The student would be involved in the following activities:

  • Carry out a literature review on electromagnetic surface wave propagation and the effect of conducting materials;
  • Experimental design, including design of experiments approach, and set-up;
  • Develop a method for evaluating the out-of-plane evanescent field distribution;
  • Explore the effect of the interface between the dielectric and the conductive composite on the evanescent field and the signal propagation
  • Explore the effect of the carbon fibre architecture on the signal propagation
  • Develop an EMSW propagation model, which consists of material conductivity, and interface properties.

About the studentship
The 3.5 year studentship is co-funded by TWI Ltd and the University of Exeter. It is part of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials.

It is of value around £114,000, which includes £10,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £17.200 per year.

The student will be expected to spend the first 6 months of their research and training programme in Exeter, and the remaining 80 % of their research work subsequently at TWI under supervision of staff there. Joint supervision from Exeter academics and TWI staff will take place via weekly in person and/or video conference meetings. Much of the early work will be literature review and learning how to model the electromagnetic response of the structures to be explored.

The studentship is subject to funding availability.

About TWI Ltd
TWI Ltd is a world leading research and technology organisation. Bases in the UK, North America, South East Asia, China, Australia, Central Asia, India and the Middle East see 800 staff provide technical support in joining and technologies such as material science, structural integrity, NDT, surfacing, electronic packaging and cutting. Services include generic research, contract R&D, technical information, consultancy, standards drafting, training and qualification. TWI offers a single, impartial source of service for joining engineering materials.

TWI is internationally renowned for its multidisciplinary teams that implement established or advanced joining technology solving problems at any stage – from initial design, materials selection, production and quality assurance, through service performance and repair

About the CDT in Metamaterials (XM²)
XM² is the doctoral training programme of our Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation at the University of Exeter. We provide scientific knowledge as well as transferable and technical skills training to all our students to prepare them for careers within and outside of academia.

In 2014, we started off as a £12 million Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Metamaterials, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC/EP/L015331/1), the University of Exeter and industry.

The PhD students learn together in targeted courses, self-driven activity groups, and exposure to industry to gain scientific background knowledge beyond their areas of expertise, and to equip themselves with transferable professional skills such as creative thinking, project management, and leadership.

XM2 now consists of more than 60 active PhD students (Postgraduate Researchers, PGRs) from the UK, the EU and beyond, who are training in a stimulating, challenging yet supportive cohort-based environment. Since 2018, over 30 graduates went into employment in industry and as postdocs in Higher Education Institutions in and outside of the UK.

About the University of Exeter
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

Application criteria
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.

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • 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).

You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

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: Total value of more than £110,000, including research and travel budget, tuition fees and annual tax free stipend (approx. £17,200 payable to UK or EU students only).
Duration of award: per year
Contact: Dr. Isaac Luxmoore (Admissions Tutor)


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