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Soft Robotics using Liquid Crystal Polymers

PGR-P-737

Key facts

Type of research degree
PhD
Application deadline
Friday 17 April 2020
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Funding
Competition funded
Source of funding
Research council
Supervisors
Dr Ali Alazmani and Dr Mamatha Nagaraj
Schools
School of Mechanical Engineering, School of Physics and Astronomy
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This PhD project is an exciting opportunity to develop synergy between roboticists in the School of Mechanical Engineering and material scientists in the School of Physics at the University of Leeds.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Traditionally, robots have been used in situations where they do not interact closely with humans - the classical examples being assembly line robots where metal cages protect factory workers from rigid robots that are capable of applying very high forces. However, at present the field is being transformed by a new wave of soft robots that are constructed using a combination of elastomers, fibres and other filler materials. Liquid crystal polymers, known for their reversible and anisotropic deformation and biocompatibility are promising candidates as embedded intelligent material in soft robots. This can offer rich opportunities for conformable, low modulus implantable systems where the material properties of the device can be tuned to match that of the biological tissue.</p> <p>In this PhD, you will explore liquid crystal polymers, biopolymers, imprinted and surface modified polymers and elastomers for soft robotics technologies (i.e. soft actuators and sensors, fabrication techniques) and characterise and utilise them to generate functional soft robots. These enabling technologies will be used for functioning case studies with application in novel healthcare systems (e.g. implantable soft devices). You will have the opportunity to learn a number of experimental techniques vital to soft robotics and soft matter physics such as 3D printing, moulding and vacuum casting for prototype device fabrication, low modulus mechanical characterisation equipment, polarizing optical microscopy, X-ray scattering, dielectric spectroscopy, and electron microscopies.</p> <p>The PhD work will be carried out in the University of Leeds Surgical Technologies lab which is placed in the new &pound;96m integrated facility for engineering and physical sciences with close links to the EPSRC Robotic Facility, NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), and NIHR Surgical Medtech Co-operatives to inform translational road-mapping activities of this PhD.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/mechanical-engineering-research-degrees/doc/apply">University&rsquo;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;Soft Robotics using Liquid Crystal Polymers&rdquo; as well as <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/mechanical-engineering/staff/465/dr-ali-alazmani">Dr Ali Alazmani</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisor. Please also state clearly that your proposed source of funding is &ldquo;EPSRC Collaborative Studentships&rdquo;.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>UK/EU</strong>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;Engineering &amp; Physical Sciences Research Council Studentship&nbsp;for 3.5 years. A full standard studentship consists of academic fees (&pound;4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant paid at standard Research Council rates (&pound;15,285&nbsp;in Session 2020/21). UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.&nbsp;&nbsp;Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding the application procedure, please contact Doctoral College Admissions:<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk">phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk</a>,&nbsp;t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For technical information about this PhD please contact:<br /> Dr Ali Alazmani, Soft Roboticist, School of Mechanical Engineering, <a href="mailto:a.alazmani@leeds.ac.uk">a.alazmani@leeds.ac.uk&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;<br /> Dr Mamatha Nagaraj, Experimental Physicist, School of Physics and Astronomy, <a href="mailto:m.nagaraj@leeds.ac.uk">m.nagaraj@leeds.ac.uk</a></p>


<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>