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PhD Opportunities

DTPSCIDM: Design and Manufacturing of 3D-Printable Nanocomposites for Renewable Energy Applications

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering | PHD
Reference Number
Application Deadline
28 February 2021
Start Date
1 October 2021


Additive manufacturing (3D-printing) is expected to revolutionise the way we design and manufacture products. Conventional equipment will be replaced by smart, flexible and customized systems. There are several 3D-printing technologies available which make it a highly desirable technique for designing and creating electrochemical devices, ranging from fully printable batteries to fuel cells, supercapacitors, electrolysers, sensors and flow battery cells. This opens up new possibilities with accelerated flexibility and reduced development time in the design cycle. This project will focus on the design of electrochemical devices for versatile applications, starting from nanocomposite materials for 3D printing of multifunctional electrodes. This allows improving a variety of properties such as surface area, electron transfer and porosity along with reducing cost and weight. These materials will be fabricated and characterised, and thereby improve the performance of a fully 3D printed energy storage cell with the goal to create well-structured battery devices with superior energy & power density thereby meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) towards a zero carbon future.

3D-printing is a relatively new technique that has already revolutionised the world; new shapes and structures can be created leading to new geometries and materials with unique applications. Additive manufacturing is being extensively investigated in many areas of energy storage and conversion devices, as this technique allows for fast prototyping and is relatively low cost. Since 3D printing can be extended to almost all types of materials such as metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and biomaterials, this technique has recently been applied to a wide range of applications in energy storage and conversion (e.g. batteries, fuel cells, redox flow cells, solar panels).
Given that there is a variety of 3D-printing technologies available, which includes fused deposition modelling (FDM), inkjet printing, select laser melting (SLM), and stereolithography (SLA), additive manufacturing has become a highly desirable technique for creating electrochemical devices and prototypes, ranging from fully printable batteries to fuel cells, supercapacitors, electrolysers, sensors, and flow battery cells. The area is expanding rapidly; however, there are still several challenges and drawbacks that need to be overcome to 3D print active and stable electrodes/ devices for electrochemical energy conversion and storage to rival that of the state-of-the-art. The goal is to create materials with:
(1)Enhanced specific capacity, energy density, power density
The major advantage of additive manufacturing is that the architecture, e.g. surface area and geometry of electrodes can be highly controlled, which is in sharp contrast to the conventional manufacturing techniques. Therefore, well-designed structures such as interdigitated structures can be created.
(2)Improvements in mechanical properties
3D printing of electronic devices provides a chance to integrate the fabrication of the whole device and all accompanying components in a single manufacturing step, which is far more cost-effective than separately fabricating the components.
(3)Versatility in material selection with wide-scale flexibility
Emerging direction pursued by the manufacturers of next generation energy devices for wearable electronics. This present higher feasibility to be woven into flexible textiles for wearable applications.
(4)Sustainability towards a zero-carbon future
By creating energy efficient systems for product design and manufacture we work towards reducing the CO2 footprint of energy devices and products using these (with optimisation as per kW/kg, kW/$, kg(CO2,e)/kg and kW/L).

The manufacturing of 3D printable nanocomposite materials for rechargeable batteries connects synergistically multiple fields of research, such as mechanical design, chemistry and materials science. This PhD project requires a candidate that can work in a highly interdisciplinary environment between the Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry / Chemical Engineering. Knowledge and a strong interest in materials science, mechanical design and an interest in electrochemical processes are a requirement.

Funding Information

Industrial partnerships with SHELL and Horiba provides the opportunity for a well-performing student to arrange for 3 – 6 months of industrial placement either with SHELL (Netherlands), Horiba (England/Japan) or Fuelcon (Germany).

Project Summary
Dr Oana Istrate
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Aerospace Engineering overview

Doing a PhD in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is a highly rewarding experience. You will carry out your research in a friendly and supportive environment, supervised by academics who are leaders in their field, using well-equipped laboratories and research facilities, alongside students from all over the world. We have around 100 students enrolled on a PhD at a time. The School has a vibrant PhD student mentoring programme and a student led Research Culture Committee.

The School’s research is focused around six interconnected research themes: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Future Aircraft, Composite Materials and Structures, Simulation Technologies, Clean Energy and Biomaterials and Biomechanics.

PhD opportunities are available in a wide range of subjects aligned to the specific expertise of our PhD supervisors. Many are linked with leading companies and organisations.

Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in the research activities undertaken within the School. Students attend international conferences and participate in relevant external academic and industrial networks worldwide.

  • The School has strong links with both local and international engineering employers, and has longstanding relationships with companies such as Airbus, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren F1 and Rolls-Royce.
  • PhD research contributes to major interdisciplinary centres in the University, including:
    •Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE)
    •Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC)
    •Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC)
  • The School has well equipped laboratories and great research facilities. PhD students share offices alongside postdoctoral staff. The School has Research Culture Committee to enhance the research environment of the School and support PhD students.
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Information on the implications of Brexit for prospective students.

Course content

Career Prospects

Employment after the Course
Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in industry, industry or become entrepreneurs.

People teaching you

Dr Trevor Robinson
Doctoral Programme Director
Mech & Aerospace Engineering

Learning Outcomes

Course structure

You will carry out leading research under the guidance of your supervisory team. A full time student will normally complete in three years (up to a maximum of four), or part time over six years (up to a maximum of eight).

Research will usually be in one of the key, interlinked research themes in the School, and the subtopics they cover, include:-

Advanced Manufacturing and Processing - cost modelling, ergonomics, intelligent control, laser processing, life cycle analysis, material characterisation, mechatronics, parallel kinematic machines, polymer processing, robotics and ultra-precision manufacturing.

Future Aircraft - aero engines, aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, aircraft operations, design and analysis, optimisation and structural testing

Composite Materials and Structures -damage mechanics and crashworthiness, material characterisation, multifunctional composites and nano-enhanced composites

Simulation Technologies - FEA/CFD/EFG/DES/MD, kinematic modelling, meshing, multiscale/Multiphysics, optimisation, simulation intent, systems modelling, uncertainty quantification, virtual testing and design visual analytics and big data

Clean Energy - biofuels, catalysis, life cycle assessment, power systems, turbomachinery and waste management

Biomaterials and Biomechanics - biomemetics, material characterisation, mechanobiology and medical devices.

Also, over the course of study, you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School, or other internal and external training courses organised through your supervisor.

Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component (*taken within the last 2 years) is required.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,500
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,500
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,500
EU Other 3 £22,000
International £22,000

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

For further information please refer to

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Aerospace Engineering costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

How do I fund my study?
1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students, £10,000 for students in Scotland and up to £5,500 for Northern Ireland students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.