PhD Opportunity: Piezoelectric nanowires and polymers for implementing novel micro electro-mechanical (MEMS) sensors

PhD Supervisor: Dr Enrico Mastropaolo

Application Deadline: Open until position filled

Funding Availability: Open to UK/EU/Overseas applicants. Studentships will cover University fees (at UK/EU or overseas rate), plus a stipend for 3.5 years at the enhanced EPSRC rate (£14,640 for 2013/14). 

Research Area: Integrated Micro and Nano Systems 

Project description:

The integration of nanomaterials into polymers for developing novel hybrid Smart Materials is attracting great attention within the international research community.  Smart Materials change their properties in response to external stimuli so that they can be used for detecting changes in the surrounding environment (for example, temperature or humidity variations could possibly be detected as a change in shape or colour).  Smart Materials have enormous potentials for application in every-day life gadgets (smartphones, clothes), biology (cell detection), medicine (drug delivery), electronics (flexible ICs), etc.

The integration of novel Smart Materials into the fast-growing field of micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) enables a range of innovative applications in different scientific and technological areas (i.e. biomedics, robotics, oil engineering, environmental science, food security, etc.). 

In this context, the PhD project aims first to develop hybrid Smart Materials made from piezoelectric nanowires and polymers.  Piezoelectric materials generate an electric field when subjected to mechanical strain and, vice versa, react with a mechanical strain when subjected to an electric field.  The embedding of nanowires into polymers targets primarily the need of flexible materials for next-generation bendable portable electronic devices. 

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The second aim of the project is to use the developed hybrid Smart Materials for the implementation of efficient and low-cost MEMS actuators/sensors.  The nanowires will be grown on a range of supporting polymers thus targeting a various range of applications (e.g. wearable energy generators – artificial muscles, biomedical sensors and robotics – soft robots). 

The project involves growth of nanowires, study of their mechanical and electrical properties, nanowires integration in polymer materials and design/fabrication of electro-mechanical devices.  The successful applicant will gain experience in micro and nano fabrication technology, finite element simulations, molecular dynamics, techniques for material characterization, MEMS design and testing.  The student will work in the cleanroom laboratory of the Scottish Microelectronics Centre and join the vibrant research environment of the Institute for Integrated Micro and Nano Systems and will benefit of different collaborations with other Research Institutes in the School of Engineering and with the School of Chemistry.

Eligibility and qualifications:

Applicants must be of outstanding academic merit: a first class or upper second class honours undergraduate degree (or International equivalent) is the minimum qualification requirement.

To undertake this research, we are seeking a motivated candidate with a degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering, or a cognate discipline.

Some knowledge in VLSI technology, MEMS sensors/actuators or chemistry is desirable but not essential.  Ability in carrying out experimental work and collaborating effectively with researchers in chemistry is required. 

Please apply through the Apply link below

Select the Research Area referred to in the advert and clearly state on your application form which project you are applying for and the relevant supervisor.

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