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Understanding the electromechanical switching behaviour of porous ferroelectric ceramics

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, March 25, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Informal queries should be directed to Dr James Roscow ()

Introducing carefully structured porosity into ferroelectric ceramics is an effective way of achieving a favourable balance of piezoelectric and dielectric properties for sensing and energy harvesting applications. In recent years, it has been demonstrated that by controlling the porous microstructure piezoelectric coefficients comparable to those of dense ferroelectric ceramics can be achieved. A significant proportion (>50%) of the bulk piezoelectric response in these materials is related to ferroelectric/ferroelastic domain motion at the sub-grain level in response to externally applied electric or mechanical fields. Zero stiffness pores contained within a ferroelectric ceramic matrix are therefore likely to alter the electromechanical switching behaviour due to a change in localised mechanical clamping. Whilst the majority of work to date has focussed on the benefits of porosity with regards to an improved balance of properties, this project will investigate how structured porosity alters the local mechanical clamping and the functional properties of the matrix itself. This understanding will be vital to develop the next generation of piezoelectric composites that utilise porous ferroelectric ceramic matrices.

During this project, porous ferroelectric ceramics will be fabricated from well-studied systems, e.g. lead zirconate titanate and barium titanate, with a range of porosities and pore sizes. Freeze casting will be used to obtain excellent control over the porous microstructure and the successful candidate will be encouraged to explore and develop novel processing methods to improve the microstructural control.

The materials will be characterised in terms of their microstructure using techniques including x-ray diffraction, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Electrical properties (e.g. piezoelectric, dielectric and polarisation- and strain-field behaviour), will be characterised using facilities at the University of Bath. The use of synchrotron x-ray diffraction methods to probe bulk structures will be encouraged. This regime of experimentation will be used to inform on the effects of porosity across a range of length scales and develop new analytical and numerical models to aid with the design and fabrication of porous and composite ferroelectric materials for a variety of applications.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or non-UK equivalent) in materials science, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, or a similar discipline. English language entry requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding, see

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

This project is eligible for inclusion in three funding rounds, subject to funding availability. Application deadlines: Wednesday 27 November 2019, Wednesday 29 January 2020 & Wednesday 25 March 2020. Early submission is advised. A full application must have been submitted before inclusion in a funding round.

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020

Funding Notes

UK and EU candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University Research Studentship which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 3.5 years.

How good is research at University of Bath in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 61.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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