Antenna efficiency and match manipulation using metamaterials (EPSRC ICASE, PhD in Physics) Ref: 2825

About the award

The studentship is funded via the EPSRC Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Technology (CASE) scheme, via a grant awarded to Leonardo.  The successful applicant  will normally be required to undertake regular reporting and visits to the sponsor.  For more details about the Industrial CASE scheme, see

The studentships are of value around £110,000, which includes £25,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £16,500 per year.

Sponsor requirements dictate that applicants must be UK or EU Nationals.

To note: We are awaiting a decision from UKRI (EPSRC) regarding a bid for a Centre for Doctoral Training. The successful applicant will join this programme if Exeter succeeds in its bid.  However the studentship will be funded regardless of the outcome.  Please visit to learn more about our centre and see the full list of projects that we have on offer this year.

Statement of Research

Joint supervisors: Prof Alastair Hibbins, Prof Roy Sambles

External supervisor: James Dalley

Industry partner: Leonardo

This project will investigate the use of metamaterials and metasurfaces for optimising antenna performance, such as efficiency and directivity.  Other drivers in improving antenna design include the need to minimise weight, thickness and cross-sectional area, to extend bandwidth and reduce cost. 

The project will focus on the design of novel metasurfaces that impart artificial boundary condtions in order to achieve the ambitions above.  Metasurfaces will be conceptualised, designed, modelled, fabricated and experimentally tested initially without reference to an antenna.  Multilayered and multidomained designs will be considered that provide a broadband frequency response - this will likely requrie the minaturisation of the resonant elements within these surfaces, and this can be obtained by considering complex geomtries or the use of high-index materials.  The second stage of the project will see the metasurfaces combined with the simplest radiator / antenna designs in order to understand the coupling between the two.  The researcher will then develop the metasurfaces designs in order to match the current distribution in the radiating element, or to otherwise manipulate the antenna performance and functionality: this might include the consideration of anisotropic surfaces.  Once this is undertsood, we will then consider more complex 'off-the-shelf' and bespoke designs of the radiating element in order to maximise the benefits of the combined surface-radiator antnnna system. 

The antennas of interest to Leonardo are very broadband covering tens of GHz similar - they find application in civil and defence applications such as wireless communication and aviation. The novelty of this studentship is in the application of metamaterials to optimise the antenna performance. It is quite possible that active or reconfigurable metamaterials are investigated or developed in the course of the studentship. Polarisation manipulation (to maximise the efficient use of the antenna aperture) is also of interest and within the scope of the project. In defence applications, radar cross-section (RCS) can also be important and so will also be considered for favoured antenna and metamaterial options.

The researcher will be involved in all aspects of the project, from a theoretical and conceptialisation stage, through to modelling and design, through to proof-of-concept experimental characterisation and testing.  A strong background in physics or electrical engineering is therefore required, as well as an ability to design and undertake experimental processes.  Her or she will be working as part of team of RF and microwave PhD and postdoc researchers, will be required to report progress regularly to Leonardo, and will therefore be expected to demonstrate excellent communication skills at interview.  

About us

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record in functional materials and metamaterials research, spanning a unique mix of interests in our focus areas:

  •     Acoustic, Phononic and Fluidic Metamaterials
  •     Microwave and RF Metamaterials and Devices
  •     Nanocomposites and Manufacturing
  •     Photonic and Plasmonic Materials
  •     Soft Matter, Biomaterials and Sensors
  •     Spintronics, Magnonics and Magnetic Materials
  •     Theory and Modelling to drive Targeted Material and Device Design
  •     Two Dimensional Electronic and Photonic Materials

Exeter is amongst the top 150 universities worldwide according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the most influential global league table.
Functional Materials (from fundamentals to manufacturing) is one of 5 key themes supported by the UoE as part of its £320 million Science Strategy investing in staff and facilities. This theme has benefitted from the appointment of 23 new academics (including 7 full professors) along with £20m of investment in research infrastructure (including 3 new electronics/photonics clean-rooms, a graphene engineering laboratory, a nano-functional materials fabrication suite, a materials characterisation suite).

This is in parallel to significant external capital investment in our research including over £2m of equipment funding from the EPSRC/HEFCE SIA award (Exeter-Bath Centre for Graphene Science), the £2.6m ERDF-EADS funded Exeter Centre for Additive Layer Manufacture (CALM); £1.1, for Exeter’s EPSRC Time-Resolved Magnetism Facility; £1.2m for equipment funding from the EPSRC Graphene Engineering Call. Such investments ensure that we have, in-house, all the state-of-the-art materials, fabrication and characterisation facilities required by our PGRs.

Our research and PhD training experience, expertise, facilities and network makes the University of Exeter one of the very best places to pursue postgraduate and early career research.

How to apply

Application criteria

Eligible applicants: UK and EU nationals only.

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken;
  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project you are applying for;
  • A Personal Statement consisting of two parts*:
  1. Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;

  2. Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).

You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

Application procedure

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by at least two academic members of staff.

Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  • Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline (minimum 2:1);
  • Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  • Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  • Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  • Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  • Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an academic interview with the project supervisors.

To note: If the University of Exeter is successful with its proposal for an EPSRC-funded Centre of Doctoral Training in Functional and Meta-Materials an entry interview to assess fit to the CDT concept will be held prior the academic interview which will normally be undertaken by a panel of 3 people, including members of the CDT's Strategic Leadership Team and a current postgraduate researchers or post-doc in Physics or Engineering.

Interviews are expected to start in the second half of January 2019.

Please email if you have any queries about this process.


Application deadline:30th April 2019
Number of awards:1
Value:This studentship is of value around £110,000, which includes £25,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £16,500 per year. UK / EU nationals only.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor)