PhD opportunities in materials and structures

The Materials and Structures research group offers PhD study opportunities across our areas of research interest. PhD study typically takes 3 to 4 years full-time to complete.  On occasion research studentships are available and these are always advertised on the University Jobs webpages and

However, we welcome well-qualified and highly motivated graduates to study with us and have listed below a number of project areas available for self-funded fee-paying research students.

For further information about PhD opportunities in our research group please contact Dr Andreas Chrysanthou via email on this link. For general enquiries about PhD research and for an application form please contact research admissions on

Areas of study

  • Natural fibre composites for automotive applications (G.Ren and A.Chrysanthou). The automotive industry aims to use more eco-friendly materials from sustainable sources; natural fibre composites made from flax and hemp fibres are ideal candidates for such applications. The project aims to extend the strength of these materials by modifying the surface of the natural fibres in order to improve the bond between the fibres and the matrix resin. In addition to surface modification, the project will involve processing, property evaluation (tensile and impact properties), scanning electron microscopy, etc.
  • Ultra-high-temperature ceramics for leading edges in hypersonic aircraft (A.Chrysanthou and Y. Xu). Hypersonic aircraft are expected to fly at a velocity of 13,000 miles per hour (Mach 20) and the leading edges are expected to experience temperatures close to 2000°C. Ultra-high-temperature ceramics (UHTCs) are the main candidates for such applications, however, they are very difficult to process (to consolidate). The project will focus on self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS) to produce and consolidate for such extreme applications.
  • Development of sealants for solid-oxide fuel cells (A. Chrysanthou). One of the main research topics in the development of solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) concerns the sealant that can hermetically seal the electrolyte and the interconnect materials. This is rather challenging as the sealant needs to join together a metal to a ceramic. The study will investigate the development of a new sealant with self-healing properties and in addition to the sealing operation will involve thermal cyclic tests and examination using scanning electron microscopy.
  • Enhanced damage tolerance design of airframe structures (Y. Xu). The project focuses on the identification of the effective fatigue crack growth driving force using both the experimental and the finite element simulation approaches. Near-tip crack behaviour under the spectrum loading will be investigated in detail. Crack closure concept will be used to separate the extrinsic and intrinsic resistance to fatigue crack growth. The results will be used in developing the next generation damage tolerance design algorithm for the transport industry.
  • Damage characterisation of composite laminates under low-velocity in-plane edge impact (Y.Xu). A dominant weakness of this material configuration is the low velocity impact damage which may be introduced accidentally during manufacture, operation or maintenance of the component. The objective of the project is to fill the gap through a thorough investigation of the key damage features of laminated carbon fibre reinforced composite components under in-plane edge impact.  The project is aimed at establishing an improved design philosophy via investigating relationships among impact energy, damage mechanisms and their impact on residual strength and local instability. The proposed work is a further development of the previous work on impact damage characterisation of carbon fibre reinforced epoxy laminates at University of Hertfordshire and will find its direct application to aerospace industries.
  • Structural health monitoring with the latest sensor technology and damage identification method (Y.Xu). The process of implementing a damage detection strategy for engineering infrastructure is referred to as Structural Health Monitoring (SHM). The proposed project focuses on its key technical challenge concerning the detection, location, and characterization of structural damage via examining changes in structural vibration response with the latest sensor technology and damage-identification methods. Experimental and numerical studies will be carried out on composite laminates embedded with sensors. Issues of particular interest include the stability of load reconstruction at inaccessible locations, level of sensitivity of modal parameters to small flaws, and the development of statistical models to enhance the SHM process.
  • Recycling of silt from construction waste (A. Chrysanthou). The recycling of construction waste is fairly common with aggregates of various sizes being successfully separated. The only part that cannot be currently recycled is silt which is a fine residue of 2-63μm in size and it has to be dumped in landfill. The project will investigate various ideas to recycle silt and use it as a primary raw material for the production of novel eco-friendly compressed earth blocks, bricks, etc.
  • Alternative materials for offshore wind energy turbine blades (G.Ren).
  • Nanoparticle applications in biomedical applications (G. Ren).
  • Radioactive waste management (G. Ren).
  • Next-generation High-performance Thermo-Chemical Materials (TCMs) for Grid-level Renewable Energy Storage (Y.Tian)
  • Nano-structured Aerogel-PCM Composite for Energy-efficient Buildings (Y.Tian)
  • Recycling Industrial Waste Heat through Cascaded Recovery (Y.Tian)
  • Compact Metal-foam Reactor for Hydrogen Production in Hydrogen-powered Vehicles (Y.Tian)
  • Vibration Analysis (D.Montalvao)
  • Experimental Modal Analysis (D.Montalvao)
  • Materials for Dental Medicine Devices (D.Montalvao)
  • Very High Cycle Fatigue (D.Montalvao)