Adaptive Heat Diffusion: From Insects to 2D Materials - Physics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2938

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Dr. Steven Hepplestone
Dr. David Horsell

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description

This 3.5 year funded EPSRC Studentship will model and explore the nature of heat flow dynamics in non-simple interfaces and how its effect on sound generation.  

In many solid materials, the heat flow properties are determined by both the local heating effects and how heat escapes into the environment, be it by conduction, convection or radiation.  In thermal acoustic materials, this results in the local air being heated periodically and generates sound waves.  Dr. David Horsell is leading development of these and other novel sound sources, surfaces and detectors in partnership with QinetiQ in the EPSRC Prosperity Partnership project 'TEAM-A'.  By carefully constructing a thin graphene layer on a particular substrate, the efficiency of the heat transfer and resultant sound generation can be improved.  

Interestingly, many insects have evolved surfaces which influence their heat transmissions mechanics from their bodies to the air. This enables them to maintain their body temperature in different environments.  At the microscale, both systems show the same key problems, which is how the heat flow is transmitted into the surrounding fluid, the ratio of conduction to convection to radiation and the microdesign of the surrounding materials.  

This project is a theoretical physics project to create both analytic expressions of the heat transmission in these systems and computational finite element models of the heat flow dynamics.  These finite element models will be both implemented using Comsol and an in house code for modelling heat flow dynamics in a system.   These models will examine the heat dynamics of microstructured systems and their heat transmission into the surrounding air, seeking to explore how micro structuring the hairs in nature can lead to very low transmissions of heat, but how similar microstructuing on graphene can lead to more efficient transmission (and thus better thermal acoustic devices).   

Experience with theoretical physics, computational physics, applied mathematics and/or material science is highly desired.   The student will need to be able to program to a high level (indicated by module scores).  During the course of this project, several opportunities to present research findings at a variety of national and international conferences will be available, allowing the student to travel abroad with typical destinations involving Europe and the United States.

Entry Requirements

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.