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Graphene mediated erosion resistant protection for wind turbine blades (Advert Ref: RDFC19-R/EE/MCE/ELMARAKBI)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Ahmed Elmarakbi
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

In collaboration with Applied Graphene Materials UK Ltd (, the Northumbria University is looking for a PhD candidate to develop and design new graphene related materials with high erosion resistance for wind turbine blade. Wind turbine blades are predominantly made using fibre reinforced composite materials. While these materials offer high specific strength and stiffness combined with excellent fatigue performance they also have some inherent weaknesses and drawbacks being sensitive to environmental factors such as heat, moisture and UV. In addition the composite structures are sensitive to foreign body impact during use i.e. rain, hailstones which has been demonstrated to cause significant erosion on the leading edge of the blades exposing fibres of the underlying structure, leading to resultant reduction in efficiency through increased drag (an approximately 5% reduction in annual energy production). The protection of the leading edges of wind turbine blades is an active area of research with new blade designs and manufacturing techniques being introduced as blade sizes increase. Graphene nano-platelet (GNP) coatings offer a unique solution to this problem addressing several aspects of composite degradation and protection. GNP modified coatings have been demonstrated to significantly reduce water uptake and enhance corrosion resistance. It is proposed in this project to explore the degree to which the use of Graphene nano-platelets might be introduced into a coating for composite wind turbine blades and deliver enhanced environmental protection. Specific attention will be given to understanding the degree of protection and mechanism of action that GNP’s might deliver to impact of rain droplets and hail. As expressed above there is evidence to suggest that GNP’s might substantially reduce environmental degradation but little is understood in relation to the mechanical contribution GNP’s might make to resistance of rain droplet impact. Further the study will explore the degree to which the environmental impact and mechanical impact seen on exposure are related.

Main challenges:
• Creating barrier properties to restrict water ingress not to prevent corrosion but to reduce the impact on water uptake in the composite and reduced Tg with the subsequent degradation that may occur at the fibre matrix interface;
• The need to develop a molecular mechanism within the film for stress dissipation on impact.
• Tailoring the interaction between graphene and the polymer and crosslinked network developed on curing.

The Principal Supervisor for this project is Professor Ahmed Elmarakbi.
The Second Supervisor is Mr William Weaver (Applied Graphene Materials).

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (RDFC19-R/EE/MCE/ELMARAKBI) will not be considered.

Start Date: 1 March 2020 or 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 p.a.)


1. Elmarakbi, A., Bertocchi, F., Cristiano, F., Innocente, F., Ciappa, A. and Villaro, E. “Method of Forming Graphene Nanoplatelets, Graphene Nanoplatelets So-Obtained and Composites Comprising Said Nanoplatelets” Graphene Flagship, UK/EU Patent No. 1615688.7. International No. WO 2018/051095/ PCT/GB2017/052712 (22nd March 2018).
2. Elmarakbi, A. and Azoti, W. (2018) “State of the Art of Graphene Lightweighting Nanocomposites for Automotive Applications” Experimental characterization, predictive mechanical and thermal modeling of nanostructures and their polymer composites. Edited by Francesco Marotti De Sciarra and Pietro Russo. Elsevier, Oxford, United Kingdom, Chapter 1, pp. 1-23, ISBN: 978-0-323-48061-1
3. Elmarakbi, A. and Azoti, W. (2018) “Mechanical Prediction of Graphene-based Polymer Nanocomposites for Energy-Efficient and Safe Vehicles” Experimental characterization, predictive mechanical and thermal modeling of nanostructures and their polymer composites. Edited by Francesco Marotti De Sciarra and Pietro Russo. Elsevier, Oxford, United Kingdom, Chapter 4, pp. 159-177, ISBN: 978-0-323-48061-1
4. Azoti, W. and Elmarakbi, A. (2017) “Multiscale Modelling of Graphene Platelets-based Nanocomposite Materials” Composite Structures. Vol. 168, pp. 313–321.
5. Azoti, W. and Elmarakbi, A. (2017) “Constitutive modelling of ductile damage matrix reinforced by platelets-like particles with imperfect interfaces: Application to graphene polymer nanocomposite materials” Composites B. Vol.113, pp. 55-64.
6. Elmarakbi, A., Azoti, W. and Serry, M. (2017) “Multiscale Modelling of Hybrid Glass Fibres Reinforced Graphene Platelets Polyamide PA6 Matrix Composites for Crashworthiness Applications” Applied Materials Today. Vol. 6, pp. 1-8.

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