University of Exeter funding: QUEX PhD Studentship

Realising Industry 4.0: Joining Machine Learning with Additive Manufacture for Design Optimisation (Funded by the QUEX Institute) Ref: 3932

About the award


Lead Supervisor: Professor Gavin Tabor, Professor of Computational Fluid Dynamics, University of Exeter

Second Superviors: Professor Matthew Dargusch, School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, University of Queensland

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants.  The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Eight generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, four offered by the University of Exeter and four by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of:  Healthy Living, Global Environmental Futures and Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 31 August 2020 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 12 October 2020.  The start date is expected to be April 2021.

Please note that of the eight Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to four studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.

Project Description

Industry 4.0 is a group of disruptive technologies that is transforming manufacturing and has the potential to revolutionise the manufacture of a range of high value products leading to significantly improved more efficient and more sustainable designs. Two of the key technologies underpinning Industry 4.0 are Digital Simulation and Optimisation (particularly including Machine Learning) and Additive Manufacture (AM). A Digital Twin is a computational model of a device which can be used to simulate and optimise its performance, without recourse to building expensive physical prototypes.
Additive Manufacture is a cutting edge manufacturing process which builds devices up layer by layer (often through extrusion of a rapid-setting material, i.e. 3d printing, or by using lasers to fuse powder together in Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). This is enormously more efficient than traditional manufacturing and can be used to produce significantly more complex devices as well as tailoring them to specific needs. An example is the design of complex heat exchangers and heat exchange surfaces. Traditional heat exchangers manufactured by moulding and fitting together machined components, are limited to use a few large heat exchange surfaces such as pipes, leading to large sizes and relative inefficiencies. An AM heat exchanger could use hundreds of small tubes each carefully designed to optimise heat transfer. Such a system with its light weight and high efficiency could be useful in many applications, but most notably in fuel cells for power generation from H2 gas in a range of transport applications such as cars and aircraft. This is of significant interest in transforming transport options from fossil fuels to renewable systems.

The project brings together world-leading expertise in Exeter (Prof Tabor: Computational Fluid Dynamics, Optimisation with Machine Learning and Adjoint Optimisation) and the University of Queensland (Prof Dargusch: metal-based Additive Manufacture and Smart Manufacturing). In the 1st year in Exeter, the PhD student will work on developing a Digital Twin model of the heat exchanger and investigate various interior geometries for the heat exchange surfaces. This will continue in the 2nd year at the Centre for Advanced Materials Processing and Manufacturing (AMPAM) at UQ where the student will learn about metal-based additive manufacture and produce prototypes for evaluation using suitable additive manufacturing techniques. Returning to Exeter to complete their
PhD, the student will work on automated optimisation using the digital twin model, and publish their work in a series of journal and conference papers.

Entry requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, a Merit in their Masters degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcripts and two academic references. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified week commencing 5 October 2020, and must be available for interview week commencing 12 October 2020.

Please quote reference 3932 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.


Application deadline:31st August 2020
Value:Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Office