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  Dr Steph Forrester, Dr P Fleming  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The use of artificial turf pitches (ATP) is growing worldwide including at the elite level in sports such as association football, hockey and rugby football. The range of ATPs in use today is broadening beyond the widely used 3rd generation systems comprising synthetic fibres and polymeric infills (recycled tyres mostly).

More recent developments have considered a range of alternative systems including specialist hybrid turfs (mix of natural and synthetic), artificial turfs with novel infills, and artificial turfs with no infill. These raise several stimulating research questions around their performance and injury risk, in addition to design and maintenance optimisation, and durability. Current topical areas include player traction with respect to injury risk and the development of alternative, non-polymeric, infills linked to reducing the microplastics originating from ATPs.

Successful students will join the internationally leading Sport Surfaces Research Group at Loughborough University led by Dr Fleming and Dr Forrester. The group has strong links with international governing bodies (e.g. FIFA) and industry (e.g. Labosport). The University campus acts as an outdoor laboratory, supplementing the indoor laboratory facilities, which include motion capture systems and force platforms for biomechanical analysis and a range of industry standard and bespoke sport surface testing devices (e.g. advanced artificial athlete) for mechanical analysis. Successful students will also be part of the Sports Technology Research Group with an international reputation within the broader sports equipment industry.

Topic 1

Modelling the Traction Response of ATPs. This PhD aims to develop a numerical model for the prediction of traction forces generated during player-surface interactions. The complex and viscoelastic nature of the surface fibres and infill, combined with the challenging environment in which to take measurements, means that limited knowledge exists regarding how athletes achieve the traction they require, how the surface contributes to this traction behaviour and what limits of upper and lower traction might be available. A valid model of the traction forces would represent a valuable tool to industry and researchers in the development of safer surfaces and footwear. Industry support and input is anticipated including training and access to specialist R&D facilities.

Topic 2

Design and Performance of Novel Infills and Non-Filled ATPs. The aim of this PhD is to support the development of new high-performance infill technologies. Currently recycled tyres shredded to a size of approx. 2-5 mm are the most popular choice of performance infill material. However, in many countries, these are deemed unsuitable due to thermal properties, possible health risks and concern over these ‘microplastics’ being released into the local environment. There is an industry need to explore and find more sustainable alternatives, i.e. novel non-polymeric infills. The development of novel solutions is restricted by little investigation into the ideal physical and engineering properties of performance infills, which forms the focus of this PhD. Industry support and input is anticipated including training and access to specialist R&D facilities.

Topic 3

Novel instrumentation of Player-Surface Loading. This PhD aims to develop novel methodologies to measure player-surface interactions. Many technologies exist currently that can, to some extent, evaluate player loading by measuring interaction forces transmitted to a force plate, or more contemporary on thin film pressure sensors within a shoe, for example. However, each has limitations in understanding the contact phase loads and pressures and the surface response deformations and detailed strains in the component parts. Detailed measurements of the interaction loads and deformations would support development and validation of more complex numerical models and potentially provide a wholly novel laboratory (and field) method to measure the surface performance. Such new insights would make a major step change in the development of new surface product design and potentially footwear also.


Primary supervisor: Dr Steph Forrester

Secondary supervisor: Professor Paul Fleming

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualification) in engineering or physical sciences subject. A relevant masters degree and/or experience in one or more of the following will be an advantage: mechanical design, materials, biomechanics, finite element analysis.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select ‘Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering’. Please quote reference number: UF-SF-2022

Apply now

Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

UK fee - £4,596 full-time degree per annum
International fee - £25,100 full-time degree per annum
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.

Where will I study?

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