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Design principles for active solids

Department of Physics

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Dr Anton Souslov No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisory team:
Lead supervisor - Dr Anton Souslov (Department of Physics)
Co-supervisors - Dr Apala Majumdar (Department of Mathematical Sciences), Prof David Bird (Department of Physics)

Soft materials surround us and compose us. Biological functions rely on active components embedded in soft biological matter. For example, muscles move because molecular motors convert chemical energy into work. Recently, a research area has emerged to understand the fundamental laws governing active materials by embedding energy-consuming components into solid structures and fluids [1,2,3]. The broad goal is to design a new class of biomimetic materials that can move, and which sit at the intersection of materials science and soft robotics.

The specific aim of this project is to understand the fundamental laws and design principles behind smart materials that can process information, store energy, redistribute it through mechanical waves, and convert this energy into useful work. In active materials, activity can be at odds with spatial and temporal order due to a wide range of instabilities. The project would aim to design large-scale ordered structures, for example by making active solids from elastic media or via dynamical effects, such as synchronisation of rotating or oscillating constituents.

A related aim is to consider the efficiency of active materials in the presence of disorder and dissipation. Biological materials are highly disordered, and fabrication techniques limit order in synthetic matter. Moreover, active materials consume energy even at rest, whereas equilibrium matter does not have that disadvantage. Therefore, in order to create a functional material, efficiency gains from active components must overcome upkeep losses. Evolution streamlines a variety of active biological matter, including cell components and tissues, to work robustly and efficiently. Can synthetically designed soft materials approach and surpass the efficiency of biological matter?

The tools necessary to answer such questions include analytical calculations and numerical simulations of the laws governing scales from the microscopic constituents to the coarse-grained continuum. The research will be performed within the Physics Department at the University of Bath, in close collaboration with Anton Souslov (Web: , Email: [Email Address Removed] ) and his soft matter theory group. In addition, the student’s career development will be supported through numerous training opportunities including the Bath Doctoral College, summer schools, and presentations at research conferences. Collaborations with other research groups at the University of Bath and within the UK as well as international experimental and theoretical collaborations with groups at top universities, including in France and in the U.S., will be particularly encouraged.


Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019.

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University Research Studentship which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£14,777 in 2018-19) for a period of up to 3.5 years.


[1] A. Souslov, B. C. van Zuiden, D. Bartolo, and V. Vitelli. Topological sound in active-liquid metamaterials. Nature Physics 13, 1091–1094 (2017).
[2] D. Banerjee, A. Souslov, A. G. Abanov, and V. Vitelli. Odd viscosity in chiral active fluids. Nature Communications 8, 1573 (2017).
[3] Marchetti, M. C. et al. Hydrodynamics of soft active matter.
Reviews of Modern Physics 85, 1143–1189 (2013).
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