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A Novel Variable Stiffness Soft Materials for Smart Deployable Structures

Project Description

This project studies a novel polymeric smart material that possesses variable stiffness properties for the application to tailored actuation devices. In recent research, smart electroactive polymers have been extensively used for the construction of different electrically driven actuators. One the goal is to design and manufacture composite materials with desired properties in terms of stiffness and/or maximal actuation strain at a given electric field. The project will firstly investigate the constitutive modelling for a smart composite materials constructed embedding variable angle fibers in a polymeric matrix. Subsequently, an optimization routine will be programmed to tailor the varying fiber trajectories to design, for instance, the desirable and smart structural behavior of flat variable stiffness panel made of this novel composite. This new type of smart material system can be widely used for the deployable structures with the applications in satellite and robotics.
This research is expecting to propose a completely new type of smart soft composite materials, and will make a substantial contribution to the knowledge and technologies on the mechanics, modelling and optimal design of electroactive composite materials for the research community and industrial partners. A preliminary research work had been successfully completed to approve the feasibility of this project. Extensive existing knowledge in structural modelling, experimental testing and composite materials will also be a solid foundation for this project, which is expected to complete within 3.5 years to 4 years


You should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.

Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master’s degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

Funding Notes

Full awards, including the Tuition fee and maintenance stipend (Approx. £14,777 in 2018/19), are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.


Applications should be made online at:

Please note the following when completing your online application:

The Programme name is Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering with an October 2019 start date.

In the "Research proposal and Funding" section of your application, please specify the project title, supervisors of the project and copy the project description in the text box provided.

Please select “No, I am not self-funding my research” when asked whether you are self-funding your research.

Please quote “project ID” when asked "Please provide the name of the funding you are applying for".

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