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Super flexible electronics for wearable smart healthcare applications (Advert Ref: SF19/EE/MCE/LI)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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Dr Y Li , Dr B Xu Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Micro/Nano sensors (MEMS/NEMS) and network technologies in future engineering domain have been significantly developed in the last decade. Recent developments in electronics, MEMS and NEMS have asked for stretchable/super-flexible devices that can sustain harsh mechanical deformations, for advanced applications such as wearable healthcare sensors and actuators (S&A), soft robotics, and foldable devices e.g. e-paper, solar panels etc. And major challenges and opportunities associated with such technologies are focusing on using new materials and innovative fabrication process.

In this project, the aim is to create stretchable/super-flexible devices by utilizing soft functional materials, deploying original approach by exploring the novel integration methodologies and mechanisms.

The focus will be on innovative soft material printing/patterning methodologies e.g. pinning/slippery microfluidics, to achieve an integrated multilayer devices with electro-luminescent responsive stimuli polymers (materials), optical responsive materials such as liquid crystal (chemical/physical transition) and conductive polymer materials (such as ionic hydrogels, PEDOT:PSS composites etc.).

The work packages will include theory studies and simulations, material characterisation, innovative soft material processing, as well as product design engineering.

Key technologies used in research work packages are:
• Theory and Simulation: FEA (ABAQUS, ANSYS, COMSOL)
• Materials characterisation: SEM, AFM, Electrical testing Probe station, Profilometer, Ellipsometry
• MEMS/NEMS design: K-layout, AutoCAD/Inventor, Solidworks
• Micro/nano fabrication process: Lithography, soft-lithography, RIE, CVDs, printing, packaging, integration, SAM, anodization/oxidation, Sol-Gel
• Product design: product development, rapid prototyping, ergonomics, sustainability and ethics-based design.

Project is expected to involve multidisciplinary collaboration within Northumbria University, as well as external partners such as University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, MEMSstar, etc.

This project will be supervised by Dr Yifan Li.

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/LI) 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.


Flexible Electronics and Transducers with functional soft materials:
D. Wang, N. Cheewaruangroj, Y. Li et al., “Structural confinement induced versatile formation of planar wrinkle pattern and multi-scale surface evolution”, Advanced Functional Materials, 28, 1704228, 2018.
(IF = 15.621, cited 8)
C. Wang, et al. and Y. Li*, “Flexible, strain gated logic transducer arrays enabled by initializing surface instability on elastic bilayers”, APL Materials, 7, 031509, 2019. (IF = 4.296)
X Dai, Y Du, J Yang, D Wang, J Gu, Y Li, et al., “Recoverable and self-healing electromagnetic wave absorbing nanocomposites”, Composites Science and Technology, 174, 27-32, 2019. (IF = 6.309, cited 23)
Y. Liu, Y. Li et al., “Flexible and bendable acoustofluidics based on ZnO film coated aluminium foil”, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Volume 221, 230-235, 2015. (IF = 6.393, cited 18)
Smart Sensors and Actuators:
Y. Fu, J. Luo, N. Nguyen, A. Walton, A. Flewitt, X. Zu, Y. Li, et al., “Advances in piezoelectric thin films for acoustic biosensors, acoustofluidics and lab-on-chip applications”, Progress in Materials Science, 898, 31-91, 2017. (IF = 25.870, cited 112)
T. Bai, D. Shao, J. Chen, Y. Li, et al., “pH-responsive dithiomaleimide-amphiphilic block copolymer for drug delivery and cellular imaging”, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 552, 439-447, 2019 (IF 6.361).
Y. J. Guo, C. Zhao, X. Zhou, Y. Li, et al., “Ultraviolet sensing based on nanostructured ZnO/Si surface acoustic wave devices”, Smart Mater. Structure, 24, 125015, 2015 (IF 3.543, cited 10).
Y.J. Guo, A.P. Dennison, Y. Li et al., “Nebulization of water/glycerol droplets generated by ZnO/Si surface acoustic wave devices”, Microfluids Nanofluids, Volume 19, Issue 2, 273-282, 2015. (IF 2.437, cited 9)
Product Design and Development:
E. McKenna, Y. Li et al., “Assay assembly and method”. EU/US Patent, Published in 2013,EP20110802771/ US20130252847 A1.

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