Latest self-funded manufacturing PhD/MRes opportunities within the Composites Centre

Successful candidates will have the opportunity to work with the industrial partners, external collaborators and a team of researchers at the Centre in collaboration with the Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute at Cranfield University, aiming to synthesise and manufacture sustainable and functional polymer composites materials for applications ranging from automotive to aerospace . 

Successful candidates will be involved in either a three year PhD or one year MRes via materials synthesis; characterization and mechanical/ electrical properties evaluation and the comparison of developed materials properties with existing state of the art materials for numerous applications.

Candidates will be expected to work with the rest of the team at the Centre and collaboratively with the project’s industrial partners, and to publish the work in high impact materials journals.

Find out more information about the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre

The following opportunities are split into four topic areas, each opportunity is available as a PhD or MRes.

Topic 1 Nanotubes and Graphene based Composites for Advanced Engineering Applications

Graphene/Nanoparticles Reinforced Multi-scale Carbon/Glass Composites for Advanced Aerospace and Automobile Engineering

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Fibre reinforced composites have excellent in plane strength and stiffness and are being used in increasing quantities in aerospace, sports, automotive and wind turbine blade industries. However fibre reinforced composites are weak in their through thickness direction. This weakness can result in parts failing by delamination in service, either from external loads or impact events. The presence of a delamination can seriously reduce the strength and stiffness of a laminate especially under compressive buckling loads, potentially leading to catastrophic failure. We have developed new generation of multi-scale composites using graphene/nanoparticles reinforcement in glass/carbon epoxy composites to increase the delamination resistance. Graphene/nanoparticles, due to its nano dimension, can reinforce the polymer matrix at nanoscale level where the carbon/glass fibres cannot reach. Our research shows that nanoscale reinforcement of polymer matrix used in glass/carbon fibre composites significantly reduces crack propagation in composites, reduce failure due to delamination and significantly improves fracture toughness [Williams et al, Journal of Materials Science 48, 3, 1005-1013, 2013]. In addition it can also increases the electrical conductivity of composites.

As a part of this research project we will develop joint UK projects with aerospace, automotive, marine, and wind turbine manufacturers to implement use of multi-scale composites which can offer the significant advantages for the composites products used in their industries. The use of such multi-scale composites for aircraft components will be explored using the composites manufacturing, carbon nanotube manufacturing and the aerospace and airport research facilities at the school of Aerospace Transport and Manufacturing at Cranfield University.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene based Coatings for Lightening Strike Protection for Aerospace Structures.

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Aerospace industries are switching from metals to polymer composites for achieving overall weight reduction and the accompanying fuel savings. However, CFRPs do not have sufficiently high electrical conductivity to protect the aircraft from direct lightning strike damage and after strike effects like electromagnetic interference (EMI) or electrostatic charging. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are promising materials in this respect due to their extreme electrical conductivity and high aspect ratios combined with very good mechanical strength and heat dissipation capability. We have developed composites that use in-process controlled CNT films directly spun from a CVD reactor, using conventional vacuum bagging technique currently deployed by industry for manufacturing of CFRPs. The composites included hybrid CNTs/carbon fibre polymer composites with CNT films coated on top of carbon fibre laminates, as well as reference samples of pure CNT film/epoxy composites. The preliminary electrical tests indicate that our approach may provide an exciting opportunity to scale up CNTs to large engineering scale architecture and their utilization in multifunctional hybrid composites potentially for aerospace engineering application such as Lightening Strike Protection and EMI shielding.

This PhD project work will involve synthesis of high conductivity and high performance carbon nanotube films using a large scale gas reactor. The high performance carbon nanotube films will be combined with the conventional carbon fibre composites using vacuum bagging manufacturing techniques. The use of such composites for aircraft rudder or aircraft tail components will be explored using the composites manufacturing, carbon nanotube manufacturing and the aerospace and airport research facilities at the school of Aerospace Transport and Manufacturing at Cranfield University.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene based Coatings for Erosion Protection of Helicopter Blades and Aerospace Structures

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Helicopter rotor blades, aeroplane wing leading edge and high-speed vehicles, whose surfaces are usually exposed to sharp and solid sand particles during flying can undergo rapid erosion process. Extreme conditions like flying in dessert and sandy/dusty environments may even speed up the erosive wear process resulting in more damage. Carbon Nanotube with its superior mechanical properties offer an excellent materials for coating the carbon composite structures used in helicopter blades and aeroplane wings to reduce the erosion of these composites.

In this PhD project we investigate the erosive wear behaviour of carbon nanotube coated epoxy based carbon fibre composites. Carbon nanotubes used in this work will be synthesised using the direct-spinning CVD method. The nanotube films will be integrated with carbon fibre composites using vacuum bagging and autoclave curing method. The erosive wear mechanisms of composites will be further investigated by blasting the nanotube coated carbon fibre composites with sand at various impingement angles. The detailed analysis of the erosion process will be further studies using scanning electron microscopy and mechanical testing of the eroded composite surfaces. As a part of this PhD project the nanotube modified carbon fibre composites with superior erosion resistance will be used in small aircraft/UAV wings and blades for drones using the composites manufacturing, carbon nanotube manufacturing and the aerospace and airport research facilities at the school of Aerospace Transport and Manufacturing at Cranfield University.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Advanced Carbon Nanotubes/Graphene Reinforced Composites for Hydrogen Storage Tanks for Aircraft and Vehicles

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Hydrogen offer an attractive low emissions based energy supply as well as fuel option for air and road/sear transport sector. However large volume of hydrogen supply to power the aircraft or vehicles poses a major challenge. The lightweight and high performance carbon fibre composites based high pressure storage tanks offer an excellent solution to store hydrogen in hydrogen propelled aircraft and hydrogen fuel trucks/vehicles. This project will focus on further improvement in hydrogen storage capacity by using a graphene and carbon nanotube reinforced composites. The graphene and carbon nanotube reinforcement will increase the fracture toughness and strength of carbon fibre composites. This will significantly improve high pressure storage ability of carbon fibre composites for their use in hydrogen propelled aircraft and trucks/heavy vehicles.

In the first half of this project we will focus on carbon nanotubes and graphene reinforced carbon fibre composites using vacuum bagging, filament winding and autoclave curing process followed by fracture toughness test. We will study the gas/hydrogen storage capability, gas diffusion and ways to prevent leakage from these advanced composites.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Super-strong and Ductile Carbon Nanotube Fibres based Composites as Replacement of Carbon Fibres for Aerospace Composites

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

The development of super-strong carbon nanotube (CNT) fibres (CNTF) with specific mechanical properties comparable to conventional carbon fibre [Koziol et al, Science Magazine, 2008] presents the possibility of producing a new generation of high performance composites. Moreover these fibres have advantages, such as their high electrical and thermal conductivity [3], potential for high strain to failure and ductility [4], and in some cases, continuous production from simple, low-cost precursors.

We will use the newly established high performance carbon nanotube fibre manufacturing facilities in the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at School of Aerospace Transport and Manufacturing at Cranfield University. The super-strong carbon nanotube fibres manufactured using gas phase CVD reactor will be used to study the interfacial bonding with thermoplastic and thermoset composites. Next we will improve the carbon nanotube fibre surface to improve the polymer resin compatibility and manufacture composites with higher ductility. The ductile carbon nanotube fibre based composites will overcome the major limitation of the brittle nature of carbon composites used in aerospace structures to offer new generation of ductile composites. .

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


High-Performance Nano Reinforced Glass/Carbon Fibre Composites Pipeline for Oil and Gas Exploration

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Traditionally, metal piping is used for oil and gas exploration, however, due to the high humidity and corrosive nature of seawater, the offshore oil exploration using metal pipes becomes challenging due to the relatively poor corrosion resistance of metals. The oil and gas industries have recently started using the composite pipe products, they can reduce the corrosion problem however they have lower fracture toughness than metals and delaminate during service due to external loading conditions.

The Enhanced Composites and Structure Centre at Cranfield University has developed technology to reinforce the carbon nanotube and graphene in traditional glass/carbon fibre composites which significantly increases the fracture toughness and delamination resistance. Delamination of carbon/glass fibre reinforced polymer composites take place due to micro-crack propagation in the polymer matrix phase where carbon/glass fibres cannot reach due to their large size. However, graphene and carbon nanotubes have a very small diameter and hence they can reinforce the polymer matrix at the nanoscale which will suppress the micro-crack formation and reduce the delamination even under high external pressure.

As a part of this PhD project, we will extend our current nano-reinforced glass/carbon fibre composite manufacturing method to produce composite pipes. This will significantly reduce the composite delamination and help us develop a “Smart-Pipe” which can operate under significantly higher pressure during oil exploration without failure..

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Topic 2 Renewable Textiles for Engineering and Biomedical Applications

Natural Polymer Super-absorbent Fibres and Textiles for Improved Organic Farming

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Natural Polymers and their derivatives (from wood/plants based biomass) have excellent ability to absorb a water several times their own weight, hence they can act as a superabsorbent materials to store water. We have developed regenerated natural polymers based fibres which can store high volume of water as well as the organic fertilisers/plant growth boosters. Such fibres when mixed with soil for the farmland will have ability to retain high level of moister as well as release the organic fertilisers, crop booster for growth of crops. The focus of the proposed research project is to manufacture multifunctional natural polymer fibres and textiles and to integrate fertilisers and crop growth boosters. We have developed an environmentally benign method for manufacturing of natural polymers based fibres using ionic liquid as a “green” solvent [Rahatekar et al, Polymer, 2010; Zhu et al, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 2016; Singh et al, Nanoscale, 2017] which will be used as a the above mentioned multifunctional fibres.

The focus of the proposed research project is to manufacture multifunctional natural polymer fibres and textiles and to integrate fertilisers and crop growth boosters. We have developed an environmentally benign method for manufacturing of natural polymers based fibres using ionic liquid as a “green” solvent [Rahatekar et al, Polymer, 2010; Zhu et al, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 2016; Singh et al, Nanoscale, 2017] which will be used as a the above mentioned multifunctional fibres.

The student will get an opportunity to present the research paper at one international conference.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Natural Polymer based Nano-fibres for Air Filtration and Air Purification

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar

Air purification is a key requirements for hospitals to reduce viral infections and for reducing air pollution from vehicle particulate emissions. Electrospinning manufacturing method offers an excellent route to manufacture nanofibers from a wide range of polymers. These nanofibers and nanofiber based mesh manufactured using electrospinning is capable of filtering a wide range of particulate matter in micron size range as well as virus particles. We have developed natural polymer based nanofiber mesh/fabrics which can filter nano and micro particulate matter from vehicle emissions; these nano-particulate mesh/fabrics can potentially filter virus as well. This PhD project will systematically investigate manufacturing natural polymer based mesh from natural polymer fibres like cellulose, silk, chitosan. We will control the size of nanofiber mesh to be able to filter the micron size particles and potentially viral particles. Such nanofiber mesh will have industrial applications in controlling vehicle emission/pollution for clean air as well for hospitals to reduce the air borne transmission of the viral infections.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Sustainable Textiles, Fibres and Sustainable Materials for Fashion Design Applications

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar and Dr Prabhuraj

In the fashion and clothing sector, there is a recent trend toward sustainable, environmental and socially responsible manufactured and grown fibres and materials. This is due to a number of non-profit organisations [World Wide Fund and People for Ethical treatment of animals - PETA] had highlighted the impact on the environment and encouraged the use of sustainable materials and consumers use of social media had increased the awareness of impact of depletion of resources and environment. In terms of fibre consumption, synthetic fibre/filaments are predicted to increase in textiles and clothing sector, although natural fibre consumption remains low and is predicted to decrease. With the advent of fast fashion, there is a greater demand for mass produced products at low cost. This trend leads to reduced shelf life of products resulting in large landfill and waste of resources
The cellulose and natural fibre manufacturing process developed in our lab can offer an excellent solution to sustainable textiles produce textiles for the fashion industry. Furthermore, the green fibre manufacturing process can be used to combine natural dyes such as curcumin, Indigo, pomegranate juice extract for eco-textiles or sustainable textiles for fashion industry.
This project will develop textiles in Cranfield University (Dr Sameer Rahatekar) and the fashion design application in fashion industry in collaboration with Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University (Dr Prabhuraj Venkatraman).

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


High Performance Natural Polymer Textiles Manufacturing for Engineering and Biomedical Applications

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar

This project aims to manufacture functional textiles from renewable/natural polymers such as cellulose, chitin, alginate, chitosan which derived from most abundant natural resources like agricultural biomass and sea food waste (crab shell, shrimp shells etc.). The functional textiles will be used for eco-friendly and renewable textiles/clothing, antimicrobial clothing, textiles for tissue regeneration. As a part of this project, we aim to use ionic liquids as a common solvent for dissolving biopolymer (such as cellulose) and polyaniline to produce electrically conducting textile fibres using wet spinning and electrospinning process. Such a textile fibre can be used in a smart shirt which can measure the body temperature and heart rate of a patient or as a soft biocompatible electrode for stimulation of neurons. We will also explore adding natural products such as curcumin (extract from turmeric), oregano oil which is shown to be effective in antimicrobial and anti-cancerous properties to develop bandage for anti-microbial and potentially help increase the immune response for fighting cancerous cells.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Topic 3 Sustainable Composites for Advanced Engineering Applications

Sustainable Composites for Manufacturing Wind Turbine Blades

Supervisors: Dr Sameer Rahatekar

We are pleased to announce PhD studentship project in “Sustainable Composites for Manufacturing Wind Turbine Blades”. In the current project we will develop a novel manufacturing process for recycled carbon/glass fibres as well as renewable fibres like cellulose, jute, flax or bamboo to produce high performance, low cost and lightweight composites for wind turbine blades. This process will deliver high stiffness/strength composites with superior in plane properties due to continuous nature of fibres, high toughness and through thickness properties due to through thickness reinforcement. We will work in collaboration with fibre recycling industries and natural fibre industries to get the recycled and renewable fibres. The Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at Cranfield University has excellent composites manufacturing facilities like resin transfer moulding, resin infusion as well as vacuum bagging and high pressure autoclave curing to produce a high performance composite product for wind turbine blades. The low cost and high performance sustainable composites wind turbine blades will be have great impact in renewable energy industry to offer a low cost renewable energy solution.

Lead academic: Dr Sameer Rahatekar    Enquire now


Additive Manufacturing (4D/ 3D Printing) of Sustainable Polymers and Composites for Advanced Applications

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol 

This project aims to manufacture functional textiles from renewable/natural polymers such as cellulose, chitin, alginate, chitosan which derived from most abundant natural resources like agricultural biomass and sea food waste (crab shell, shrimp shells etc.). The functional textiles will be used for eco-friendly and renewable textiles/clothing, antimicrobial clothing, textiles for tissue regeneration. As a part of this project, we aim to use ionic liquids as a common solvent for dissolving biopolymer (such as cellulose) and polyaniline to produce electrically conducting textile fibres using wet spinning and electrospinning process. Such a textile fibre can be used in a smart shirt which can measure the body temperature and heart rate of a patient or as a soft biocompatible electrode for stimulation of neurons. We will also explore adding natural products such as curcumin (extract from turmeric), oregano oil which is shown to be effective in antimicrobial and anti-cancerous properties to develop bandage for anti-microbial and potentially help increase the immune response for fighting cancerous cells.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Recycling and Reuse of Materials: From Linear To Circular Economies

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol  

“Recycling and Reuse” is an important area of research that provides second life to retired materials (e.g. plastics; carbon fibers; glass fibers; polymers; composites) at end of life (EoL), thereby, keeping resource in the loop or value chain and minimizing waste.

The prime aim of the research in this direction is to tackle a range of topical issues from elemental sustainability (critical elements), construction materials, paper, food waste, carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP), electronic waste (E-waste or WEEE, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and to plastics.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now

Next Generation Materials for Biomedical Engineering

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Polymers (with sustainable, functional, biodegradable characteristics etc.) and advanced nanomaterials (with antibacterial; antimicrobial characteristics etc.) are the most iconic class of biomaterials for biomedical applications. These materials have been playing a significant role in biomedical field due to their tunable and often programmable properties.

The prime aim of the research in this direction is to address the current challenges in the development of new materials (e.g. hydrogels; membranes; coatings) for biomedical applications starting from bio adhesive (smart glue), drug delivery, implants to tissue engineering. The idea is to develop new class of materials that can mimic critical properties of human/ nature in terms of structure, function, and performance. The research will answers several important questions about the potential of such materials in advanced biomedical applications including therapeutics, tissue engineering, wound dressing, cancer, diagnostics etc.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Smart multifunctional composites

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Successful candidate will be working on a pioneering scientific study in a vibrant multidisciplinary team of students, researchers and staffs, and will have the opportunity of collaboration with the internationally recognised academies and industries. The PhD research aims to develop a smart composite material and structure capable of self-sensing and self-tailoring in varying operation conditions.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Topic 4 Advanced Composites Manufacturing for Multifunctional Applications

In-situ monitoring and toughening of composite structures

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Kozial

Carry out research on toughening/strengthening and in-situ monitoring of aerospace grade fibre-reinforced polymer composites structures. The aim is to develop and optimise a novel toughening and in-situ measurement technique for high performance composite. The materials, consumables and research facilities will be supplied by the industrial partners and the Centre.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Augmented reality composites assembly

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Successful candidate will be working on a pioneering scientific study in a vibrant multidisciplinary team of students, researchers and staffs, and will have the opportunity of collaboration with the internationally recognised academies and industries. The PhD research aims to develop an interactive augmented reality system for reliable Composites Assembly for aerospace applications.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Advanced composite materials for energy storage and harvesting

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol

Develop a new class of dielectric and piezoelectric composite materials based on surface engineering of commonly used piezoelectric polymers and organic or inorganic 1-D nano-materials to exhibit superior electro-mechanical response (conversion efficiency>50%; power density>100 mW), electrical properties, flexibility combined with low-cost manufacturing.

The research will lead to a new family of flexible and compressible piezoelectric materials.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Nanocellulose based multifunctional composites

Supervisors: Prof Krzysztof Koziol

The aim of this research is to investigate the use of different innovative materials targeted for specific applications. The automotive, aerospace, electronics, oil and gas industries aims to use more green and environmental friendly materials from sustainable sources for such applications.

Lead academic: Professor Krzysztof Koziol    Enquire now


Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as engineering or material science or chemistry. The ideal candidate should be highly motivated with a background in Mechanical/ Chemical Engineering/ Chemistry/ Polymer Technology or Materials Science with an interest in innovative and multi-disciplinary research. A basic training in one of the field’s materials synthesis, polymer -based composites, composites processing and characterization is of merit. The applicant should take initiatives and cooperate well in groups as well as show interest in industrial oriented research. The applicants are encouraged to first directly email Professor Koziol with their CV and an expression of interest letter.

Funding

Self-funded (funding for materials and consumables are provided by the industrial partner).