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Growth and characterisation of hard biocompatible coatings for medical implants (Advert Reference: SF19/EE/MCE/BIRKETT)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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Dr M Birkett , Dr J Khaliq Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

International interest in hard, biocompatible materials for use in medical implants is growing at an exponential rate. Joint replacements are now implanted in over a million patients a year worldwide and this number is predicted to increase fivefold by 2030. This interest recently reached an all-time high with the catastrophic failure of the Johnson & Johnson, DePuy metal-on-metal hip implants and subsequent lawsuits of >$4 billion. This incident highlighted the problems associated with high component wear rates and subsequent metal poisoning of the patient. Scientists and engineers are now working hard to develop the next generation of biocompatible wear resistant materials.

As well as having high hardness, these materials must also possess high toughness and scratch resistance, compatibility with the substrate material and chemical stability and biocompatibility. These coatings are usually made by applying materials such titanium onto the substrate using methods such as physical vapour deposition (PVD) and chemical vapour deposition (CVD), and both the material chemistry and structure as well as the processing conditions can have a huge effect on the resulting properties of the coatings.

This multidisciplinary project will focus on the growth and characterisation of hard biocompatible coatings prepared by the magnetron sputtering method, which is a form of PVD. Coatings will be grown with various chemical compositions and thicknesses under varying process parameters such as chamber pressure, cathode power, deposition time and substrate bias and temperature. Once the coatings have been deposited their mechanical and structural properties and biocompatibility will be systematically characterised using techniques such as scanning electron microscope (SEM), nanoindentation, atomic force microscope (AFM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), profilometer, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and vitro cytotoxicity tests.

This project is supervised by Dr Martin Birkett.

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 (e.g. SF19/EE/MCE/BIRKETT) 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

This is an unfunded research project.


1. Villapun Puzas, Victor, CherianLukose, Cecil, Birkett, Martin, Dover, Lynn and Gonzalez Sanchez, Sergio (2018) Tuning the antimicrobial behaviour of Cu85Zr15 thin films in “wet” and “dry” conditions through structural modifications, Surface and Coatings Technology, 350. pp.334-345. ISSN 0257-8972.

2. Birkett, Martin and Penlington, Roger (2016) Electrical resistivity of CuAlMo thin films grown at room temperature by dc magnetron sputtering. Materials Research Express, 3 (7). 075021. ISSN 2053-1591.

3. Birkett, Martin, Penlington, Roger, Wan, Chaoying and Zoppi, Guillaume (2013) Structural and electrical properties of CuAlMo thin films prepared by magnetron sputtering. Thin Solid Films, 540. pp. 235-241. ISSN 0040-6090.

4. Annadurai Anandhan, Shulei Lei, Roman Levytskyy, Aglaia Pappa, Mihalis I. Panayiotidis, Ronald L. Cerny, Oleh Khalimonchuk, Glucode metabolism and AMPK signaling regulate dopaminergic cell death induced by gene (α-synuclein)-Environment (Paraquat) interactions. Molecular Neurobiology, 54(5), 3825-3842 (2017).

5. Katerina Spyridopoulou, Angeliki Tiptiri-Kourpeti, Evangeli Lampri, Eleni Fitsiou, Stavros Vasileiadis, Manolis Vamvakias, Haido Bardouki, Anna Goussia, Vasiliki Malamou-Mitsi, Mihalis I. Panayiotidis, Alex Galanis, Aglaia Pappa & Katerina Chlichlia, Dietary mastic oil extracted from Pistacia lentiscus var. chia suppresses tumor growth in experimental colon cancer models. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 3782 (2017).

6. Georgia-Persephoni Voulgaridoua, Magdalini Kiziridoua, Theodora Mantsoa, Katerina Chlichliaa, Alex Galanisa, Michael I. Koukourakisb, Rodrigo Francoc, Mihalis I. Panayiotidis, Aglaia Pappaa, Aldehyde dehydrogenase 3A1 promotes multi-modality resistance and laters gene expression profile in human breast adenocarcinoma MCF-7 cells. International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, 77, 120-128 (2016).

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