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Development of advanced materials for enhanced head protection

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Theobald
    Dr S Soe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Dr Peter Theobald and Dr Shwe Soe lead a research team focussing on understanding and developing new solutions that better protect the head/brain.

In collaboration with Charles Owen – a leading equestrian helmet manufacturer, they have patented a series of novel materials. Their work is internationally respected, being the only non-US group to attract funding from the prestigious Head Health Tech programme, which aims to reduce head injury prevalence in contact sport.

The research group now comprises a series of PhD students and a post-doctoral researcher, focussing on researching and developing novel solutions for a range of helmet sectors. Common to all our activities is the use of additive manufacturing, which provides scope to realise the complex geometrical designs that are honed to achieve high-performance, established via computational (ie finite element analysis-based) simulations.

We have also developed a suite of new experimental rigs, which enable us to evaluate the mechanical viability of any new materials that could be incorporated into this workflow.

This PhD will focus on developing a novel liner for equestrian helmets, to better protect the brain. This innovation could replace the foam-based liner of existing helmets, which is the key component in absorbing energy during a fall.

The relatively narrow range of impact energies that helmets can absorb is a limitation of current materials, meaning this PhD will focus on developing a solution that can actively absorb energy during a greater range of typical fall scenarios. This means that the liner requires strain-rate dependant behaviour (ie viscoelasticity).

This PhD will utilise existing finite element analysis models of the brain, to establish a new material-structure that will provide effective protection from a range of impacts common within equestrian. This solution will out-perform existing materials by extending the performance range beyond those currently demanded of the testing standards. It is anticipated that this novel solution will combine a novel geometric structure, manufactured using a new-to-sector, viscoelastic material.

Programme of research

During this PhD, the successful candidate will:
•at month 9, have prepared a literature review of the current viscoelastic materials used in protection
•at month 18, prepared their first academic paper identifying the idealised material for equestrian head protection
•at month 30, prepared their second academic paper proposing a prototype solution.

Academic criteria

Applicants for research PhDs are expected to have one or both of the following:
•a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject;
•a relevant master’s degree qualification or equivalent.

Funding Notes

Tuition fee support - Full UK/EU tuition fees

Maintenance stipend - Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum


Applicants for these awards must have a home or work address in the relevant area* of Wales (East or West) at the time of their application for funding and enrolment.

Applicants must:
•have the right to work in the UK on completion of the scholarship
•be classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student
•satisfy the respective admissions criteria.


If you wish to apply, please follow this link for your now live KESS PhD opportunity:

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