EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): All dielectric phase-change metamaterial-based holography Ref: 2839

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, this project attracts a top-up of £500 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: David Wright, Jacopo Bertolotti, A Alexeev

Industrial supervisors: H Bhaskaran (Bodle Technologies Ltd)

All-dielectric metamaterials offer unique opportunities for the control of light on the nanoscale. Unlike the more conventional metal-based plasmonic metamaterials approaches, all-dielectric metamaterials exploit Mie resonances in dielectric nanoparticles (e.g. nanoscale silicon spheres or cylinders). This gives access to, and control of, large enhancements of both the electric and magnetic near-fields, in tandem with low dissipative losses. Dielectric metamaterials thus hold great promise for the development optical ‘metadevices’ that can control, with un-precedent efficiencies, the amplitude, phase or polarisation of light, with a range of important applications in such areas as optical displays, sensors, modulators, switches, filters etc. [1]. Dielectric metadevices developed to date are, however, essentially fixed-by-design, i.e. their properties are fixed and determined by the specific materials and geometries used. This places limits on their potential uses. If though we could introduce active, dynamic tuning of the dielectric properties of such metadevices, we would open up the route to a host of new and exciting applications including - the focus of this project – 3D holographic displays.
We will obtain active tuning control of all-dielectric metadevices by embedding in them thin layers of chalcogenide phase-change alloys (such as Ge2Sb2Te5 - or GST for short). These phase-change materials can be switched optically, electrically or thermally between their crystalline and amorphous states and in such states possess very different dielectric properties (permittivity). Exeter is a leading centre for phase-change materials and device research, and we have already developed a range of novel phase-change optoelectronic displays and integrated photonic devices [2 - 4]. The student appointed will thus benefit from joining a thriving and supportive research group environment that builds on and enhances the cohort and community aspects of the CDT itself.
In this project we will combine our metamaterials and phase-change expertise to develop novel all-dielectric metadevices. These will most likely consist of arrays of nanofabricated Silicon/GST nanostructures (typically cylinders), in which the electric and magnetic dipole (and higher-order) resonant frequencies can be separately controlled by tuning of the phase-state of the GST layer. In such a way we could have active and dynamic control of, for example, the reflected or transmitted optical phase of light incident onto the device. Preliminary work [5] has already shown that a full 2π of dynamic optical phase control should be possible, making the realisation of moving 3D holograms, the ultimate aim of this project, an enticing and practical possibility.

[1] A Kuznetsov et al. Science 354. Aag2472 (2016)
[2] P Hosseini, C D Wright and H Bhaskaran, Nature 511, 206 (2014)
[3] C Rios et al., Nature Photonics 9, 725 (2015)
[4] Z Cheng et al., Science Advances 3 (in press), (2017)
[5] A Alexeev et al., MRS Spring Mtg, Phoenix, USA (2017)

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 March 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:Approximately £90,000, including research and travel budget, tuition fees and annual stipend (approximately £14,500 (payable to UK or EU students only) plus £500 top-up per year).
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.