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DTA - Shining the light on bio-inspired fibres and fabrics

   Department of Materials

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  Dr A G Dumanli-Parry, Dr S Jones, Dr C Jones  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Textiles and the fashion industry are seen to be the 4th largest sector that has a significant impact on climate change (UKRI, 2020) with textile wet processing identified as a major cause of environmental pollution (Amutha K, 2017).

Traditional methods of applying colour to textiles, through the use of dyes or pigments, consume large quantities of energy (electricity and thermal) water and chemicals (Haji and Naebe, 2020). These production processes involve pre-treatments such as bleaching and scouring, followed by dyeing and printing, completed with finishing, which all present a variety of environmental implications. These include, but are not limited to, the impact of effluent in local rivers and human health (Cao et al., 2020; Shi et al., 2020; Tavangar et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2021). Furthermore, the poor colour fastness of some of these colorants, natural or synthetic, present further challenges

This project aims to explore application of colours onto textiles through integrating colloidal blocks and self-assembling polymers that form structural colours inspired by nature. Fibres reflecting light through structural interference of light show great potential in the textile industry due to their unique dye-free optical properties (Jones et al., 2020, Dumanli et al, 2016). Inspired by the sensing–actuation mechanisms from touch sensitive mimosa púdica plants (Su B, et al 2015) and the brilliant colours produced by the pollia condensata berries (Vignolini et al 2012) this project is aiming to fabricate structurally colored fibres and fabrics using colloidal matter that can be spun through colloidal suspensions using coaxial spinning so that the structural colours can be preserved over time and can be fastened onto the textiles. In order to achieve this, we will use a variety of building blocks including cellulose derivatives, as well as cholesteric polymers, carbon-spheres and functional nanoparticles that can assemble into a photonic structure and provide a unique colour palette.

This interdisciplinary research project, combines polymer science, advanced characterisation and textile technology through the following aspects:

 1.      Manufacturing and characterization of nanoscale materials

The project involves colloidal matter production, studying the self assembly based material production, emulsion polymerisation and, liquid crystalline states of matter. An integral part of the project is also focused on developing innovative material manufacturing routes such as co-axial electrospinning, melt electron writing and bulk fibre spinning.

2.      Design of functional and sustainable textile materials

The results from the colloidal mater manufacturing and fibre spinning stages will be used in advanced characterisation techniques (advanced microscopy, spectral analysis and mechanical testing). These results will be the basis of the design studies for the textile technology used (weaving knitting or printing)

3.      Advanced characterisation methods

The project underpins a fundamental science aspect in terms of understanding the colloidal matter interactions, optical properties of fibres and textiles, microstructure, mechanical and colour fastness properties.

Academic background of candidates

A minimum 2.1 honours degree, preferably first class; Subject background ideally in, but not limited to

  • Polymer Science, Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Materials Science with Textile Technology

 At the University of Manchester, we pride ourselves on our commitment to fairness, inclusion and respect in everything we do. We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and identities, and encourage you to bring your whole self to work and study. We will ensure that your application is given full consideration without regard to your race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age, marital or pregnancy status, or socioeconomic background. All PhD places will be awarded on the basis of merit.

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year EPSRC DTA CASE studentship with Airbus. Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
Start date: September 2022


• Amutha, K., 2017. Sustainable Fibres and Textiles 347–366.
• Cao, X.L., Yan, Y.N., Zhou, F.Y., Sun, S.P., 2020. Journal of Membrane Science 595, 117476.
• Dumanli, AG and T Savin - Recent advances in the biomimicry of structural colours, Chemical Society Reviews, 45 (24) 6698-6742, 2016
• Haji, A., Naebe, M., 2020. Journal of Cleaner Production 265, 121866.
• Jones, C., Wortmann, F.J., Gleeson, H.F., Yeates, S.G., 2020. RSC Advances 10, 24362–24367.
• Su B, Gong S, Ma Z, Yap LW, Cheng W. Mimosa-Inspired Design of a Flexible Pressure Sensor with Touch Sensitivity. 2015;11(16):1886-91.
• Tavangar, T., Karimi, M., Rezakazemi, M., Reddy, K.R., Aminabhavi, T.M., 2020. Chemical Engineering Journal 385, 123787.
• UKRI (2020) Circular economy centres to drive UK to a sustainable future, UKRI (online):, 11/06/2021
• Vignolini S, Rudall PJ, Rowland AV, Reed A, Moyroud E, Faden RB, et al. Pointillist structural color in Pollia fruit. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012;109(39):15712-5.
• Zhang, X., Du, X., Ke, Y., Zhang, Y.-G., Xu, Z.-K., 2021. Journal of Membrane Science 119821.
• 2021. 77–91.
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