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Novel, rate-sensitive material to reduce head injuries

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Theobald
    Dr S Soe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Head/brain injuries in sport are becoming increasingly commonplace, creating the potential for a societal shift away from ‘risky’ physical activities (e.g. cycling, snow sports, American football, equestrian). Such an outcome would potentially see generations losing the health and well-being benefits that are widely associated with sporting participation.

Current head protection solutions (i.e. helmets) operate effectively within a narrow range of testing parameters, as prescribed by a ‘Standards committee’. Expanding this range of testing conditions – and so making them more effective during every-day use, is currently constrained by a lack of appropriate materials. This PhD focusses on developing a new material that will enable helmets to perform effectively across a range of testing conditions that better represent common impact scenarios.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an emerging technology that provides opportunity to fabricate complex geometrical structures, which are unachievable using conventional techniques. This PhD will lever expertise within the university to exploit this technique, with the PhD candidate identifying an appropriate material to achieve a unique material-structure combination that achieves a helmet liner that performs more effectively over a wider range of impact scenarios. Finite element analysis will then be used to iteratively analyse new design concepts, developing analytical outputs that can then be used to computationally evaluate the likelihood of head/brain injury. Our advanced suite of materials characterisation and AM machines, plus the extensive experimental facilities both within the University and Charles Owen (our industrial partner), will then enable fabrication and testing of promising designs. After 3.5 years, it is expected that the student will have identified a suitable material-structure combination for achieving effective energy-absorption following ‘vertical’ impacts.

It is anticipated that the outcomes from this PhD will feed into the wider efforts of the team to establish a new helmet material, which can outperform traditional solutions. The PhD candidate will work within a dynamic laboratory environment, benefitting from close collaborative links with both industry and other universities. This PhD will leave the candidate well-positioned for a career in either industry or academia.


You should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.

Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master’s degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

Funding Notes

Full awards, including the Tuition fee and maintenance stipend (Approx. £14,777 in 2018/19), are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.


Applications should be made online at:

Please note the following when completing your online application:

The Programme name is Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering with an October 2019 start date.

In the "Research proposal and Funding" section of your application, please specify the project title, supervisors of the project and copy the project description in the text box provided.

Please select “No, I am not self-funding my research” when asked whether you are self-funding your research.

Please quote “PT-DTP2-2019” when asked "Please provide the name of the funding you are applying for".

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