EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): Control of flow-induced near-field noise through the use of metasurfaces Ref: 2856

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.

The 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.

Sponsor requirements limit this studentship to UK-nationals only.

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.

This project is funded via the EPSRC Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Technology (CASE) scheme.  The successful applicant will be registered on the XM2 programme of study and follow that assessment and training programme.  He or she will normally be required to undertake regular reporting and visits to the sponsor.  The student will not have the flexibility to change topic after the initial 6 month project.  For more details about the Industrial CASE scheme, see www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/coll/icase.

Statement of Research

Joint supervisors: Prof Alastair Hibbins, Prof Roy Sambles

Industrial supervisors: Dr Alan Curtis (Thales UK)

Turbulent flow over a surface may limit the detection performance of sonar systems. This project will investigate the effectiveness of patterned surfaces in the reduction of flow noise in structures exposed to turbulent flow, bringing together the disciplines of hydrodynamics, hydroacoustics, and structural dynamics to determine the noise response of a sensor beneath the surface.

Flow-induced noise is a limiting factor affecting the performance of sonar systems, including both hull-mounted and towed array sonars. In a typical system, the impact of hydro acoustic noise generated by turbulence – induced pressure fluctuations at the surface is mitigated by the introduction of a stand-off layer between the flow and the sensor, through which non-propagating modes are attenuated. The aim here is to reduce array volume by tackling the fundamental problem of the generation of the turbulent pressure fluctuations and their propagation into the array, allowing size reductions whilst maintaining or improving on current performance. We will achieve this goal by investigating how metasurfaces may effect changes to the flow noise at a sensor through several mechanisms: (i) drag reduction through patterning of the surface, which may result in a reduction in turbulent pressure variations at the surface; (ii) patterning resulting in modification of the wavenumbers generated in the turbulent boundary layer; (iii) use of resonant metasurfaces to control the propagation of structural waves, raising the possibility that flow noise can be steered away from the sensing elements or coupled into more highly attenuated modes. To date, metamaterials have not been fully exploited in the underwater world, and this project will provide valuable information to the scientific and engineering communities.

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:The 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.
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.