Exploring the space of electromagnetic materials, with applications to antenna design (PhD in Physics) Ref: 3396

About the award

This project is a 3.5 year long PhD studentship* which will cover UK tuition fees, an annual tax-free stipend at the UKRI minimum doctoral level (£14,777 per year for 2018), plus a Research and Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £1,500*.

*To note:

We are currently awaiting a decision from EPSRC regarding an application for a Centre for Doctoral Training in Functional and Meta- Materials (2019-2027) which will build on our expertise in Doctoral Training gained through the CDT in Metamaterials (XM²) since 2014. The successful applicant will join the new CDT programme if Exeter succeeds in its bid. A funding decision is expected by January 2019.

However, the studentship will be funded regardless of the bid outcome.

For eligible students (UK nationals only due to industry partner requirements) the 4 year studentship (value approx. £102,000) will cover UK tuition fees, plus an annual tax-free stipend at the UKRI national minimum doctoral level, enhanced by £2,250 per year (£17,027 for 2018), or pro rata for part-time study, plus a Research and Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £13,000.

XM² now has over 80 post graduate researchers.  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.

Please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials for more information about the current CDT and an indication of what to expect.

This studentship will be based on the Streatham Campus in Exeter. 

Joint supervisors: Dr Simon Horsley, Prof Alastair Hibbins

External partner: DSTL

Statement of Research

When a wave hits something, it usually scatters into smaller waves that move away in different directions.  It is quite easy to find what any object will do to a wave, but it is very hard to answer the question "given this scattering, what material do I need?".  This difficult mathematical problem is the subject of this research project, and is the problem we face when trying to design any electromagnetic material.

To illustrate the problem, suppose I want to make an object invisible to electromagnetic waves.  I can say immediately how the material has to scatter the waves – i.e. not at all!  But it is extremely challenging to say what materials I need to get my hands on do this.  This type of problem is what mathematicians call an inverse problem – in this case it is the problem of ‘inverse scattering’.  To date research in this area has borne beautiful results, such as designs for invisibility cloaks [1,2], and the unexpected relationship between reflectionless materials and solitary waves [3].  These results have found applications across mathematical physics; from non-linear optics to quantum field theory.

This research project is concerned with such an inverse problem.  More specifically the question is how to use materials to modify the emission of electromagnetic waves, with an eye to the practical problem of designing antenna systems.  For example, to make an antenna emit more energy we need something that scatters the emitted waves back onto the source with a phase such that negative work is done on the electrical current, pulling more energy out of the antenna.  Again the question is, what materials do we need to do this?   To answer this question there are several possible avenues we may explore; from the techniques of differential geometry [1], to the aforementioned inverse scattering theory [4], to the use of complex spatial coordinates [5], and numerical treatments based on perturbation theory [6].

The project will be highly mathematical and the student will have taken most of the available theoretical options in their undergraduate degree, ideally being familiar with complex analysis, tensor analysis, and advanced electromagnetic theory.  Some numerical work will also be required, which will require an aptitude for programming, ideally in Python.

[1] J. B. Pendry, D. Shurig and D. R. Smith, “Controlling Electromagnetic Fields”, Science 312, 1780 (2006).
[2] A. Greenleaf, Y. Kurylev, M. Lassas and G. Uhlmann, “Invisibility and Inverse Problems”, Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 46, 55 (2009).
[3] M. J. Ablowitz and H. Segur, “Solitons and the Inverse Scattering Transform”, SIAM (1981).
[4] S. A. R. Horsley, “The KdV Hierarchy in Optics”, J. Opt. 18, 085104 (2016).
[5] S. A. R. Horsley, M. Artoni and G. C. La Rocca “Spatial Kramers–Kronig relations and the reflection of waves”, Nat. Phot. 9, 436 (2015).
[6] S. Mignuzzi, S. Vezzoli, S. A. R. Horsley, W. L. Barnes, S. A. Maier and R. Sapienza, “Nanoscale design of the local density of optical states”, arxiv:1809.05514 (2018).

About us 

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record in functional materials and metamaterials research, spanning a unique mix of interests in our focus areas:

  • Acoustic, Phononic and Fluidic Metamaterials
  • Microwave and RF Metamaterials and Devices
  • Nanocomposites and Manufacturing
  • Photonic and Plasmonic Materials
  • Soft Matter, Biomaterials and Sensors
  • Spintronics, Magnonics and Magnetic Materials
  • Theory and Modelling to drive Targeted Material and Device Design
  • Two Dimensional Electronic and Photonic Materials

Exeter is amongst the top 150 universities worldwide according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the most influential global league table.
Functional Materials (from fundamentals to manufacturing) is one of 5 key themes supported by the UoE as part of its £320 million Science Strategy investing in staff and facilities. This theme has benefitted from the appointment of 23 new academics (including 7 full professors) along with £20m of investment in research infrastructure (including 3 new electronics/photonics clean-rooms, a graphene engineering laboratory, a nano-functional materials fabrication suite, a materials characterisation suite).

Exeter is amongst the top 150 universities worldwide according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the most influential global league table.
Functional Materials (from fundamentals to manufacturing) is one of 5 key themes supported by the UoE as part of its £320 million Science Strategy investing in staff and facilities. This theme has benefitted from the appointment of 23 new academics (including 7 full professors) along with £20m of investment in research infrastructure (including 3 new electronics/photonics clean-rooms, a graphene engineering laboratory, a nano-functional materials fabrication suite, a materials characterisation suite).

This is in parallel to significant external capital investment in our research including over £2m of equipment funding from the EPSRC/HEFCE SIA award (Exeter-Bath Centre for Graphene Science), the £2.6m ERDF-EADS funded Exeter Centre for Additive Layer Manufacture (CALM); £1.1, for Exeter’s EPSRC Time-Resolved Magnetism Facility; £1.2m for equipment funding from the EPSRC Graphene Engineering Call. Such investments ensure that we have, in-house, all the state-of-the-art materials, fabrication and characterisation facilities required by our PGRs.

Our research and PhD training experience, expertise, facilities and network makes the University of Exeter one of the very best places to pursue postgraduate and early career research.

How to apply

Application criteria

UK nationals only due to industry partner requirements.

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project you are applying for;
  • A Personal Statement consisting of two parts*:
  1. Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;

  2. Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).

  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken;

You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

Application procedure

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by at least two academic members of staff.

Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  •     Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline (minimum 2:1);
  •     Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  •     Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  •     Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  •     Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  •     Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  •     Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an academic interview with the project supervisors.

To note: If the University of Exeter is successful with its proposal for an EPSRC-funded Centre of Doctoral Training in Functional and Meta-Materials an entry interview to assess fit to the CDT concept will be held prior the academic interview which will normally be undertaken by a panel of 3 people, including members of the CDT's Strategic Leadership Team and a current postgraduate researchers or post-doc in Physics or Engineering.

Interviews are expected to start in the second half of January 2019.

Please email metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk if you have any queries about this process.

 

Summary

Application deadline:30th April 2019
Number of awards:1
Value:Approx. £68,000 for 42 months (pro-rata for part-time study): covers UK/EU tuition fees, an annual tax-free stipend at the UKRI national minimum doctoral level (£14,777 per year for 2018), plus £1,500 RTSG. UK nationals only.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor) metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk