EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): Metasurfaces and Phononic Crystals for Manipulating Fluid Flow and Acoustics Ref: 2836

About the award

The studentship is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Its aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

XM2 studentships are of value around £90,000, which includes £11,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £14,500 per year for UK/EU students. In addition, subject to final agreement with the project partner, it is expected that this studentship will attract a further top up of £2,000 per year.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, and prospective students can consider projects from a wide variety of fields:

  • Acoustic and Fluid-dynamical Metamaterials
  • Biological and Bio-inspired Metamaterials
  • Graphene and other 2D Materials, and related Devices
  • Magnonics, Spintronics and Magnetic Metamaterials
  • Microwave Metamaterials
  • Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites
  • Optical, Infra-red and THz Photonics and Plasmonics
  • Quantum Metamaterials
  • Wave Theory and Spatial Transformations

Please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials to learn more about our centre and see the full list of projects that we have on offer this year.

International students are welcome to apply: fees and project costs will be paid, but the stipend can only be provided in exceptional circumstances.  We encourage international scholarship applicants or recipients to contact us directly prior to making their application (metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk).

Statement of Research

Joint supervisors: Prof Alastair P Hibbins, Prof J Roy Sambles, Dr Peter Petrov

External supervisors: John Smith (DSTL)

The interaction between a fluid and a solid surface in relative motion represents a dynamical process that is central to the problem of laminar-to-turbulent transition (and consequent drag increase) for air, sea and land vehicles, as well as long-range pipelines.  We will extend our existing metamaterial concepts into this regime by building on our previous research involving the acoustic transport of energy across and through structured surfaces [1], investigations into the interaction of flow with, and across patterned surfaces [2] and resonant structures [3], and the study of topological modes [4].

Sound is a weak by-product of a subsonic turbulent flow. The main convective elements of the turbulence are silent and it is only spectral components with supersonic phase speeds that couple to the far-field sound. This is relatively well understood [e.g., 5] however the effect of materials and boundary conditions on the development of turbulence and flow separation is an area of active research. Recent papers have indicated that phononic crystals can control the development of flow instabilities in a waveguide, patterning can provide enhancement of heat transfer in flow channels, and hydrodynamic cloaks can influence the development of wakes [6,7,8].

The project will involve investigating the effect of patterned surfaces (‘metasurfaces’) and phononic crystal system [9] on flow instabilities. Systems will be modelled using analytical and numerical (e.g. COMSOL or OpenFOAM) methods to understand the influence of the patterning on the spectrum of flow instabilities. In this way, it will be possible to replace the substrate with an impedance boundary condition, with flow- and wavevector-dependent dispersion characteristics.   We will also consider reconfigurable metasurfaces, or those offer stabilisation of flow patterns using time-dependent forcing methods [10].

In order to pursue the optimum experimental methods, we will seek to build on existing collaborations with our academic partners around the UK and beyond. It is our expectation that a suitable experimental apparatus will be established at Exeter in the medium term.

[1] Starkey el al., “Thin structured rigid body for acoustic absorption”, Appl. Phys. Lett. 110, 041902 (2017).
[2] S. Shelley et al., “Fluid mobility over corrugated surfaces in the Stokes regime”, Physics of Fluids 28, 083101 (2016).
[3] S. Shelley et al., “Flow Control Behind Bluff Bodies through the Interaction of an Attached Resonant Flexible Tail”, APS Division of Fluid Dynamics (Fall) 2016, abstract #H18.003.
[4] T. Atherton et al., “Topological Modes in One Dimensional Solids and Photonic Crystals”, Phys. Rev. B 93, 125106 (2016).
[5] A. P. Dowling, T. P. Hynes, “Sound generation by turbulence”, Eur. J. Mech. B Fluids 23, 491 (2004).

About XM2

Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials with applications in many technology areas: energy storage and improved efficiency, imaging, communications, sensing and the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Having recruited nearly 70 new PhD researchers in its first four years, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (XM2) hosted by the University of Exeter (www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials) will admit its fifth cohort of PhD students in September 2018.

The first year of the studentship includes an assessed, stand alone project, and a substantial programme of training. Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops, together with creativity events and conference-style meetings. The cohort will also be expected to disseminate their results to the international community via high-impact publications and international conferences. They will spend time working with our academic and industrial partners.  Full details of the programme are available here, or download a copy of our prospectus.

The University of Exeter combines world class research with excellent student satisfaction. It is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Formed in 1955, the University has over 20,000 students from more than 130 different countries. Its success is built on a strong partnership with its students and a clear focus on high performance. Recent breakthroughs to come out of Exeter's research include the identification and treatment of new forms of diabetes and the creation of the world's most transparent, lightweight and flexible conductor of electricity. Exeter is ranked amongst the UK’s top 10 universities in the Higher Education league tables produced by the Times and the Sunday Times. It is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.


Application deadline:31st January 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:Approximately £90,000, including research and travel budget, tuition fees and annual stipend (approximately £14,500 plus £2,000 top-up (tbc) payable to UK or EU students only)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor)metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

Application criteria

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

  • A statement describing why you would like to study for a PhD in Physics or Engineering,
  • A statement describing why you are considering a PhD programme that offers a cohort-based doctoral training model,
  • An academic CV,
  • A cover letter that discusses your preferred area(s) of study and/or your interest in a particular project/supervisor,
  • A document outlining your research interests and any relevant expertise,
  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken,
  • The contact details of two academic referees.

Please note that of all the projects advertised we expect, as a Centre, to fill 15-20 posts only.

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by members of the XM2 management board and candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements above may result in rejection. Criteria will include:


  • Excellence in a lower degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Excellence in written and oral skills in English;
  • Evidence of knowledge of XM2 ethos, research themes and/or supervisors.


  • Specialist knowledge about one or more XM2 topics;
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or has undertaken training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Ability to work collaboratively

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by a panel of two academic members of staff drawn from the management board. If successful, a second interview will be undertaken by the potential academic supervisors for the student concerned. Offers are normally made shortly after a successful second interview.