PhD Studentship Experimentally-based modelling of the hair follicle

Ref: EngSci-nCATS-106
Research group: National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
Deadline: Applications will be accepted at any time until the position is filled.

An average individual has between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on their head. It was shown experimentally that a single hair can support up to 100 grams in weight. Therefore, in theory, if all the hair of a whole head were assembled into a composite bundle they could support over 12 tons—the weight of two African elephants! Hair owes its distinctive mechanical and biophysical properties to a complex multi-scale hierarchical structure. The shaft of the hair is the hard filamentous structure which protrudes from the skin surface while the part beneath the skin is called the hair follicle. Hair has different functions from UV protection through social signalling to thermal regulation and sensory perception. The mechanical and structural characteristics of the hair follicle – skin attachment are believed to play a critical role in most of these functions.

Understanding the mechanics of hair and its sensitivity to external factors such as temperature or humidity is relevant to a number of applications in pharmaceutics (e.g. drug delivery through the hair follicle), consumer goods (e.g. shaving), cosmetics (hair care) or physics-based computer graphics.

The objective of this project is to establish a mechanistic understanding of the hair follicle-skin complex through the development of an image-based and experimentally-validated virtual model of the hair follicle structure incorporating elastic and residual hair extension. Within this research project we aim first and foremost to establish experimentally-based computer models capturing the micromechanics of the hair follicle during hair extension and retraction with special interest on strain rate sensitivity.

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The multi-disciplinary project is composed of three main work packages: 1/ Experimental characterisation of strain fields within the hair and hair-in-skin complex (in-situ micromechanical testing); 2/ Imaging protocols dedicated to the study of hair and hair-in-skin complex mechanics; 3/ Multi-scale constitutive modelling of the hair-in-skin complex.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr. Georges Limbert, nCATS research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 23 81

Apply online by clicking the APPLY button below.

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