New materials and structures that control the propagation of acoustic radiation, Physics & Astronomy– PhD (Funded) Ref: 3303

About the award


Dr David Horsell, University of Exeter

Dr Steve Hepplestone, University of Exeter

Industry partner: QinetiQ

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in April 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least approximately £14,500 for 4 years full-time.  The student would be based in Physics Building at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

The successful applicant will join TEAM-A: The tailored electromagnetic and acoustic materials accelerator (, an EPSRC Prosperity Partnership programme. The aim of this partnership, which builds upon the successful relationship that exists between the University of Exeter and QinetiQ, is to develop advanced materials and devices that can be used to control and manipulate the propagation of electromagnetic and acoustic energy, in a highly tailored, bespoke fashion, and develop innovative techniques for their cost-effective manufacture.

The studentships are to the value of 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 nationals.

To develop novel acoustic sources by harnessing thermoacoustic effects. Improved acoustic sources are required for ultrasonic sensing (e.g. the Ultracane); medical scanners, security systems and multimedia display technology. The latter provides an example of the need to integrate optical and acoustic technologies: flat-panel displays grow thinner and more flexible, but the sound sources still generally rely on moving coil speakers invented a century ago. Within the last year, companies such as LG ('Crystal Sound') and Sony ('Acoustic Surface') have prototyped OLED displayed that are directly vibrated (again, by moving coil drivers) to produce sound from the whole screen surface. However, a far better and more practical solution would be to generate sound without any moving parts. Thermoacoustic generation becomes more efficient as the driving frequency increases (currently experimentally demonstrated up to 1MHz) making it particularly suited to ultrasonic applications. Nanomaterials such as graphene-based materials have shown great promise but have been limited to laboratory-based demonstrations. In this project the successful applicant will build upon recent work at Exeter, which has shown that it is possible to generate, amplify, mix and modulate sound in a single device, to demonstrate: underwater sound sources of high acoustic efficiency; phased-arrays for ultrasonic beam-forming and directivity; and optic-fibre-based sources.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Applicants must be UK nationals.

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”. 
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Research proposal
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Wednesday 30th January 2019.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 25th February 2019.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:30th January 2019
Value:Appoximately £14,500 per year for 4 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Support Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150