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Development of a new, rate-sensitive material to achieve enhanced brain protection in sport

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, April 19, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Dr Theobald leads a team focussing on understand and developing new solutions that better protect the head/brain. This is highly topical given the risks of head injury (e.g. concussions) that currently surround sports including rugby and soccer. Their work is internationally respected and they are the only non-US group to attract funding from the prestigious Head Health Tech programme, which aims to reduce head injury prevalence in American football.

This PhD focusses on developing a new material that will enable helmets to perform effectively across a range of testing conditions that better represent common impact scenarios. Our approach to designing new head protection solutions focusses on exploiting out 20-year experience in polymer-based additive manufacturing (AM). AM provides opportunity to fabricate complex structures that were impossible to manufacture using traditional techniques. Our approach enables us to design new geometries that achieve improved performance. We have already filed two patents seeking protection for our novel approach.

This PhD aims to utilise our expertise to establish a new material-structure combination, achieving a helmet inner that is more effective at energy absorption over a wide range of impact scenarios. Expertise will be developed in computer aided design software, before using finite element analysis to iteratively assess new design concepts. Our advanced materials characterisation suite will enable development of a comprehensive material model, which can then be realised using our range of high-specification AM machines. Final designs will then be tested in the extensive facilities at Charles Owen (our industrial partner)

PhDs within our research group traditionally follow a timeline such that, when applied to this project:

After month 9, the student will have prepared a comprehensive literature review, establishing a clear understanding of the critical subject matter

After month 18, the student will have successfully identified a suitable material that exhibits the requisite viscoelasticity. This work will be prepared for a publication in an international journal.

After month 24, preliminary data will have been produced that demonstrates favourable performance when combining the selected material, with a geometrical design.

After month 30, an optimal combination of geometry and material will have been established via finite element analysis.

After month 36, the optimised combination of material and geometry will have been experimentally validated and all investigative stages of the PhD will be completed. This will produce the second manuscript to be submitted for publication.

After month 42, the candidate’s thesis will have been submitted and defended.


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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