Numerical modelling and optimisation of auxetic metamaterials for hydrophobicity

   Materials and Engineering Research Institute

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  Dr Emma Carter, Prof Andy Alderson, Dr James Spendlove  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Industry and Innovation Research Institute (I2Ri) draws on talents, expertise and facilities across Sheffield Hallam University. The vision is to be the leading provider of applied research excellence delivering materials, computing, science and engineering innovations meeting the development needs of industry.

This project is part of a Graduate Teaching Assistants scheme, in which the successful applicant will undertake certain teaching duties associated with the student experience, in addition to working towards a PhD qualification. They contribute to up to 180 hours of support for research or teaching related activity per academic year. This activity forms part of the scholarship award and there is no additional payment.

PhD Research Topic

Auxetic metamaterials are materials which have been designed to have a microstructure which exhibits a negative Poisson’s ratio – they expand widthwise when stretched along their length. An ongoing EPSRC research project at SHU is investigating Wettability of Auxetic metamaterials and has analytically modelled the relationship between the designed geometry of the microstructure, Poisson’s ratio, and the resulting water droplet contact angle under varying strains (and therefore different geometry configurations). This complements the work done by project partners at the University of Edinburgh who are carrying out the micro-fabrication and physical testing of droplets on auxetic structures.

This follow-on project will focus on developing numerical models validated by the analytical models already done at SHU and physical experiments carried out in Edinburgh and then used to perform muti-objective optimisation of the micro-structure geometry for Poisson’s ratio, contact angle and contact angle hysteresis. Computer modelling of water droplets on structured surfaces is challenging due to the high computational cost, so an important part of this project is to compare different numerical modelling methods for developing and validating a model of a water droplet on a micro-structured surface. Both CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and FEM (Finite Element Method) approaches will be investigated to find the best tool for modelling a static and falling droplet on a fixed auxetic structure and one under dynamic strain. These will then be used for optimisation of an auxetic metamaterial for wetting properties which may have applications in drug delivery, performance clothing, self-cleaning surfaces and underwater impact behaviour.

As well as being supported by the 3 academic supervisors and existing PDRA at SHU, the project will run alongside the EPSRC project, allowing collaboration with the PDRA and PhD student and other academics at the university of Edinburgh, and also potential wider collaboration with the Mechanical Metamaterials Special Interest Group of the EPSRC UK Metamaterials Network.


Applicants should hold a 1st or 2:1 Honours degree in a related discipline. A Master’s degree in a related area is desirable. Experience in CAD and numerical modelling (either FEA or CFD) is desirable. Experience in one or more of: ANSYS Fluent, Open FOAM, LS-DYNA or Surface Evolver would be particularly advantageous. We are offering this as a full-time PhD scholarship. We welcome applications from all candidates irrespective of age, pregnancy and maternity, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, or marital or civil partnership status. We particularly invite candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic British students.

Information for International applicants

We have a mandatory English language requirement of IELTS 7 with a score of at least 6.5 in all test areas, or equivalent language qualification, for all applicants to whom English is not their first language. This qualification should have been taken within the last two years.  

Further information about equivalent English language qualifications can be found here

Generally, the shortfall between the Home and International fee, currently around £10,300 per year, will need to be covered by the student for the duration of the studentship. As part of the Sheffield Hallam PhD scholarship programme, additional funding may be made available to assist International students with this fee gap. This additional funding is limited, though, and will only be offered to exceptional International applicants. Allocation of this additional funding will be based on information obtained through the standard GTA recruitment process, and no additional application will be required.

How to apply

We strongly recommend you contact a member of the supervisory team before making an application.

To apply for this GTA scholarship, please use our online application form.

You must ensure that you upload:

1. A letter of intent (1 page maximum) detailing why you are interested in the project and how your experience and background can make you the best candidate for this project. Please also identify potential areas you can contribute to within the teaching departments associated with this project. (Please upload this in place of a proposal)

2. Two letters of reference, one must be from an academic and both must be dated within the last 2 years (if you are not able to collate these by the application deadline please include referee details and these can follow afterwards).

3. Copy of your highest degree certificate (if available).

4. Non-UK applicants must submit IELTs results (or equivalent) taken in the last two years and a copy of their passport.

The closing date for all applications is 11:59pm (UK time) 12 May 2023. Ensure that applications are submitted before the deadline as late applications will not be accepted.

Interviews are scheduled for: 6 June 2023 onwards

Further information about our research degrees can be found here

An Overview of the GTA scheme can be found here

The Conditions of the Award can be found here

Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

The GTA scholarship is for three and a half years full-time study and provides full home tuition fees (£4,596 for 22/23) and an annual stipend at the living wage foundation rate (£18,178 for the academic year 22/23). This stipend payment will increase annually based on the rate set by the living wage foundation for the duration of the scholarship. GTA scholarships are open to Home and International applicants. Please be aware that the bursary will cover only the Home fee. International applicants please see details above for shortfall between the home and international fee.

Where will I study?

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