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Computational modelling of tribonanoprinting: harnessing tribochemistry for novel nano-manufacturing


Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

About the Project

As part of an international research collaboration on ‘Tribology as an Enabling Technology’, this PhD focuses on a new idea for 3D printing. Tribology is the engineering science of friction, wear and lubrication of surfaces in contact, and tribology research is usually directed towards solving problems such as reducing friction to improve energy efficiency, increasing friction to improve traction, or reducing the wear and degradation of materials. This project instead embraces the creative aspects of tribology and how it could be used as a novel technique for advanced manufacturing of 3D structures for e.g. flexible electronics, nanodevices, and microelectromechanical systems.

Lubricants typically contain special additives that respond to the contact of the moving surfaces by reacting with the surfaces to form protective or functional films, known as tribofilms. Recent research using atomic force microscopy has demonstrated that this film formation can be highly localised, opening up the potential for a novel approach to 3D printing on the nanoscale. Exploring and developing this idea is one of the key themes of the Tribology as an Enabling Technology programme, and is being tackled via both experiment and modelling.

The aim of this PhD opportunity is to develop the computational modelling capability to understand the tribonanoprinting process from a theoretical perspective. This will complement the ongoing experimental work by providing insight into the underpinning mechanisms involved in creating a printed track and making predictions of its material properties. This in turn will help to open up the nanoprinting process to allow printing of a range of other more useful materials, for example through embedding nanoparticles, and enable optimisation of the process. The modelling will require a multiphysics approach, requiring consideration of contact mechanics, fluid and particle transport, and constitutive modelling of the printed materials, for which we propose to exploit a data-driven approach. The PhD will involve collaboration with materials scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and data-driven modelling experts at Caltech, USA, and it is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in scientific computer code development.

The overall research collaboration is a partnership between the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, involving Caltech, NTNU and the Max Planck Institute (Germany), and you will be expected to participate in the project meetings of the whole consortium. We are looking to start the PhD as soon as possible, but have flexibility in the start date.


Funding Notes

A highly competitive School of Mechanical Engineering studentship offering Academic Fee at the Home Fee rate of £4,600 (for Session 2020/21) plus Maintenance matching the EPSRC rate of £15,285 (for Session 2020/21) per year for 3 years.
This opportunity is open to UK applicants only. All candidates will be placed into the School of Mechanical Engineering Studentship competition and selection is based on academic merit.

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