EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): Plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaics for wearable applications Ref: 2849

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.

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: Dr Ana Neves, Prof Monica Craciun

External supervisor: Dr Isabel de Schrijver (Centexbel)

Industrial partner: Centexbel

The fast-growing field of smart textiles, with applications including wearable displays, biomedical devices and health-monitoring technology, demands energy. In this sense, textile based solar cells are becoming increasingly important, namely because they would enable energy harvesting to power other wearable electronic devices.[doi:10.3390/nano5031493].

The use of organic active materials in what is called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) is a very promising route to overcome many challenges posed by device integration into textiles, since these materials are flexible, lightweight, large-area and cost-effective. However, the commercialisation of OPVs requires improvements in terms of their efficiency, and although several strategies have resulted in breaking the 10% power conversion energy threshold, there is still a lot to be done. The main limitations of OPVs are related to the low carrier mobility and small exciton diffusion lengths, inherent to the organic active materials used, which in turn limits their film thickness, and this results in insufficient photon absorption and carrier generation.

The aim of this project is to realize highly efficient OPVs integrated on textiles. In order to overcome the limitations related to organic materials, the light absorption in OPVs will be increased by using plasmonic metamaterials. This approach was shown to extend the light absorption region in OPVs and improve the efficiency of the above mentioned devices [doi:10.1002/advs.201600123].

Two approaches will be targeted for plasmonic enhancement of OPVs, making use of both localised and surface plasmon resonances: the use of nanoparticles and similar nanomaterials, and the use of nanopatterned gratings, respectively.
The achievement of efficient, cost-effective and broad spectrum OPV devices built directly on textile substates will enable solar energy harvesting using items as common as clothes and garments. Since other type of devices have already been demonstrated by us using graphene on textile fibres (e.g. electroluminescent devices, touch sensors, temperature sensors, stress and strain gauges, with several publications currently under preparation), energy harvesting built on the same textile platforms, using plasmonic-enhanced OPVs, would provide the necessary power for such devices in a seamless way.

This is a truly multidisciplinary project, which involves graphene and 2D materials for wearable applications, a hot-topic in materials science and device engineering, as well as the necessary background in terms of physical properties, micro and nanofabrication. In addition to this highly transferrable skils, the student will be expected to visit Centexbel and learn skills related to the textile industry. The cohort and community approach in the CDT will facilitate the interaction with fellow students working in related areas and regularly using similar computational tools and fabrication equipment. Furthermore, the CDT promotes science and dissemination contributions from its students, which will not only help to bring this research to its ultimate stakeholders, society, it will also allow the student to spread the results in international conferences. The targeted conferences will include those with a strong industrial participation, to reinforce the links between academia and industry and open up way for fruitful collaborations.

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 stipend (approximately [£14,500/£16,500] 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.