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Laser Induced Forward Transfer (LIFT) for manufacture of miniature bespoke metallic structures for micro-surgical applications (EPS2022/15)


   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Prof D P Hand, Prof RL Reuben  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Within the Applied Optics and Photonics Group at Heriot-Watt there is ongoing research focused on the manufacture of functionally graded shape memory alloys, using Laser Induced Forward Transfer (LIFT), a flexible “direct write” process that allows materials to be controllably deposited at the microscale. LIFT is driven by rapid laser heating (using nanosecond (or shorter) laser pulses to eject material from a thin film of donor material onto a support substrate. We have been exploiting this process to generate alloyed mixtures of metals, with a particular focus on shape memory alloys (SMAs). We plan to combine this with highly localised thermal tailoring of SMA material parameters. Our Functionally Graded LIFT (FG-LIFT) concept is to use laser pulses to sequentially “print” thin “sub-voxels” of alloy films onto a substrate, in order to construct voxels each consisting of a number of sub-voxel layers of slightly different composition.  By altering the laser parameters, subsequent thermal treatment will be used to provide control of interdiffusion within and between voxels providing very tight localised control of composition. 3D microstructures will hence be constructed by continuing to add additional voxels.

The overall aim is to develop a novel manufacturing process suitable for a new generation of instruments for microsurgery i.e. devices that can manipulate, grasp and cut inside the human body at a scale not currently possible.

The PhD student appointed will initially work alongside an established researcher, who is focused on the development of a process that incorporates sufficient control for generating tailored shape memory alloy layers. The student will then investigate approaches to scaling up the process to fabricate exemplar actuation components. The project will include the use of various short pulsed high power lasers and materials analysis using optical and scanning electron microscopes, x-ray diffraction (XRD) and Energy Dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX). 

We are proud that Heriot-Watt University has very recently received the 2021 Queen’s Anniversary Prize for pioneering research in the frontier science of photonics. The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are the highest national Honours available to the UK’s further and higher education sector. Heriot-Watt University was selected for its ground-breaking and sustained research that has helped advance photonics technology in the last five decades. This PhD project will contribute to this legacy.

How to Apply

1. Important Information before you Apply

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:

(a) in ‘Study Option’

You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Chemistry PhD, Physics PhD, Chemical Engineering PhD, Mechanical Engineering PhD, Bio-science & Bio-Engineering PhD or Electrical PhD as appropriate and select September 2022 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)

(b) in ‘Research Project Information’

You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the potential supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.


Funding Notes

There are a number of scholarships available which offer funding from between 3 and 3.5 years at an average stipend rate of £15,000 per year.
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