Engineering

Becoming a part of Exeter’s engineering postgraduate research (PGR) community means you will have access to leading research facilities and industry connections. You’ll play a pivotal role in the University’s Science Strategy and have an instrumental part in research projects that have a significant impact on both your chosen field of study and wider society. 

We combine leading academics with state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure to provide the perfect environment for research excellence and innovation. This helps create an energetic and vibrant academic community for our students and staff. 

Our progressive research culture is underpinned by our continued investment, which has not only allowed us to retain key academics, but complement them with a series of new, outstanding appointments, doubling our team in recent years. 

Our extended academic team, together with a growing population of research students, contribute to a strong, dynamic and thriving research community. An investment of more than £5 million has also been spent on refurbishment and expansion of key facilities, giving you the opportunity to carry out research in both specialist and interdisciplinary research centres, providing a broad range of options for your future career.

Applying for an EPSRC studentship:

This webpage lists research themes based in Engineering. When you submit an application you will be expected to submit a research proposal aligned to a theme listed below. Examples of research projects previously available are included for reference. 

For full details of eligibility criteria and the application process, please click here.

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering Research Group is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Departments of Physics and Engineering. The Group uses computational and experimental techniques to provide greater understanding of the fundamental properties of biological tissue, how injury and degeneration occur in the musculoskeletal system, and it works closely with the Medical School and the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital to improve medical treatment through the optimisation of therapies, medical devices, and surgical practice.

 The Group completes research across multiple scales, with focuses on musculoskeletal biomechanics, tissue biomechanics and biomaterials, and cellular and extracellular matrix biophysics.

Musculoskeletal biomechanics
The investigation of joint loading, injury and degeneration, and the evaluation of medical devices. Groups members have strong expertise in spine biomechanics, particularly in relation to individual posture and loading, spinal injuries due to dynamic loading such those experienced during sports such as rugby, and the mechanisms of and treatments for disc degeneration. Additional focuses are on the development and evaluation of medical devices for total hip and knee replacements, and dental implants.

Tissue biomechanics and biomaterials
Interests focus on the characterisation of biological tissues, and the development of biomaterials for medical devices. This includes research into bone and the use of additive manufactured PEEK and auxetic materials for biomedical applications.

Cellular and extracellular matrix biophysics
The group has an established track record in the development, and implementation of imaging techniques, including multi-photon miscroscopy and raman miscro-spectroscopy, to investigate the structure and function of the extracellular matrix, and the effects of aging and degeneration.

Possible PhD topics are listed below. For further details of individual projects, please contact the supervisor, and for other enquiries about research in Biomedical Engineering Dynamical systems, control theory and analysis, please contact Prof Chris Smith (C.W.Smith@exeter.ac.uk) or Dr Timothy Holsgrove (T.Holsgrove@exeter.ac.uk)

Examples of research projects from previous years include;

Dynamics and Control has internationally leading expertise in vibration serviceability, control and observation, nonlinear dynamics of mechanical systems and structural health monitoring. Other interests include structural dynamics, experimental testing, modelling and simulation of nonlinear systems, experimental dynamic nonlinear identification, structural control and vibration suppression. 

In particular the Vibration Engineering Section (VES) has an international reputation in vibration serviceability, structural health monitoring and active vibration control and their application to real world problems. In particular the sub-group has strong expertise in managing the performance of new-build and ageing critical infrastructure - in particular bridges. 

The Control sub-group has wide interests in the development of new robust nonlinear control strategies and their application to a wide range of engineering disciplines. Of particular interest is the exploitation of these ideas for fault tolerant control of safety critical systems. Application areas of interest includes aerospace and autonomous air and sea-going platforms.  Another relates to the design of self-propelled capsules for medical applications. 

Members of the group have expertise in condition monitoring applied to aerospace structures (full-scale aircraft wings) and also wind turbines - including the use of pattern recognition approaches to health monitoring for the acquisition/creation of reliable databases from damaged structures. 

Possible PhD topics are listed below. For further details of individual projects, please contact the supervisor, and for other enquiries about research in Dynamics and Control, please contact Prof Christopher Edwards (C.Edwards@exeter.ac.uk)

Examples of research projects from previous years include;

NEST comprises a vibrant community of over 60 researchers currently involved in research projects with a total value exceeding £20 million, with funding coming from numerous sources including EPSRC, EU H2020, Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering and direct industry funding. 

Our research focus is novel functional and meta-materials and their exploitation for a range of real-world applications - such as non-von Neumann computing, wearable and flexible electronics, biomedical sensing, magnetic disk storage, integrated photonic devices, optical metasurfaces, energy harvesting and storage, high-strength composites and quantum computing.  

We work with graphene and other 2D materials (e.g. TMDCs) and devices, metamaterials and metadevices, phase-change materials and devices, magnetic and spintronic materials and devices, nanomaterials and nanocomposites.  

We have a comprehensive range of fabrication and characterisation facilities, including thin-film deposition, e-beam and laser lithography, SEM/TEM, AFM, Raman, XRD, Spectrophotometry, FTIR, etc.  

We work in collaboration with leading academic collaborators around the world, including Oxford, Cambridge and Southampton universities in the UK, ETH-Zurich, Muenster and ITMO universities in Europe, Pennsylvania and Washington Universities in the USA. We also work with leading industrial researchers including IBM Zurich, Thales TRT, QinetiQ, dstl, and IMEC. 

For further details of individual projects, please contact the supervisor, and for other enquiries about research in Nano Engineering Science and Technology, please contact Prof David Wright (david.wright@exeter.ac.uk)

Examples of research projects from previous years include;

The Renewable Energy technology is going through unprecedented development: technology advancing, costs are falling, attitudes are changing and grid parity is on the horizon. Despite current political challenges, the revolution really is unstoppable. Our department is at the forefront of renewable energy research in Solar energy conversion, Marine energy technologies, off-shore renewables including off-shore wind, Energy Storage, Power Electronics, Policies, Life Cycle Analysis, building energy efficiencies and its societal effects including off-grid power supply to the health care system. We collaborate with many organisations on a variety of projects. Our research programmes are dedicated to training the brilliant minds of tomorrow, ensuring that future generations and the renewable energy sector are equipped with highly skilled individuals who can deliver for us all. 

For further details of individual projects, please contact the supervisor, and for other enquiries about research in Renewable Energy Technologies, please contact Prof Mohammad Abusara (email M.Abusara@exeter.ac.uk) or Prof Tapas Mallick (email T.K.Mallick@exeter.ac.uk)

 
Examples of research projects from previous years include;
 

The Centre for Water Systems (CWS) is an international centre of excellence undertaking research, consultancy and training in water engineering. The Centre specialises in hydroinformatics and urban water management, and Centre staff are key players in the initiation and on-going development of these topics internationally. Core areas of interest and expertise include data mining and analytics, smart systems, risk and resilience management, decision support, hydraulics, hydrology, numerical modelling, optimisation, simulation, socio-technical and systems thinking. CWS currently holds a significant number of research grants and contracts and has strong links with the water industry, government, local authorities and the insurance industry. The Centre runs an MSc in Water Engineering and the EPSRC WISE (Water, Informatics, Science and Engineering) Centre for Doctoral Training. CWS also has strong links with leading academic groups around the world.  Urban Water and Wastewater Management focuses on the challenges and solutions around the global challenges facing cities around the globe, in particular tackling extremes (drought, flooding), environmental water quality and pollution control, and infrastructure development and enhancement.

For further details of individual projects, please contact the supervisor, and for other enquiries about research in Urban Water and Wastewater Management, please contact Prof David Butler (email D.Butler@exeter.ac.uk)

Examples of research projects available in previous years include;

The Mining, Geotechnics and Safety Management Research Group is a transdisciplinary collaboration between mining, geology, remote sensing, computer science, mathematics, mineral processing and environment science. The group undertakes research to enhance safety and productivity and to reduce environmental impact in the quest to provide resources for a growing world economy. There is a strong focus on environmental responsibility, circular economy and green materials such as lithium, rare earth elements and platinum group metals.

 

The group undertakes research in a number of areas including:

Enabling mining business improvement by applying tools from the Internet of Things:

Underground communications, networking, data handling, big data analysis and sensor networks improve activity monitoring, safety, health, environment, production management, and process measurement.

Machine learning for geological asset categorization:

We use a combination of data sources from satellites, airborne and in-pit sensors to classify geology more quickly and accurately, enabling improved mining and processing through faster resource characterisation, custom blast design, improved geotechnical monitoring and implementation of geometallurgy. Data of interest includes those from synthetic aperture radar (SAR), LIDAR, visual and hyperspectral optical data, photogrammetry and portable instruments such as Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and  portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) units.

Short-range remote sensing for improved mine situational awareness:

Sensors such as laser scanners, LIDAR, radar, ultrasonics, survey instruments, pedestrian collision avoidance and thermal imaging are further developed for application to the harsh underground environment, to provide measurements and tools that ensure the safety of individual workers, up-to-date information for short term interval control and process monitoring, and auditability for long-term business risks.

Mine waste and the circular economy

Mine waste is our largest waste product, and new technologies are required to extract value from it and make it safe. These may include novel hydrometallurgical approaches like ionic liquids or deep eutectic solvents, nanotechnology, environmentally compatible processing, and the direct integration of waste streams with product design so that waste can be “upcycled” directly into high value products. 

Low carbon mining

Our transition to a Green Economy requires continued procurement of critical metals from both primary ores and waste. Our current method for obtaining metal from ores (mining followed by above ground processing) is extremely energy intensive. New technology is needed to reduce the energy intensity and to avoid potential catastrophic climate change. Radical changes in mining methods and mineral processing can enable “keyhole” mining with minimum energy use and environmental impact.

Informal enquiries about this research area should be directed to: d.vogt@exeter.ac.uk

Exeter’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) has a well-established track record of relevant research, spanning a unique mix of interests, from microwave metasurfaces to carbon nanotubes, from the fundamental theory of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics, to new understanding in acoustics, from graphene plasmonics to magnetic composites, and from terahertz photonics to phase change materials.

 In 2014, we started off as a £12 million Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Metamaterials, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC/EP/L015331/1), the University of Exeter and industry.

 The Metamaterials doctoral training programme is part of Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation (www.metamaterials.center), and consists of more than 30 academic staff, and 60 active PhD students from the UK, the EU and beyond, who are training in a stimulating, challenging yet supportive cohort-based environment. Since 2018, over 30 graduates went into employment in industry (e.g. QinetiQ and Metaboards) and as postdocs in Higher Education Institutions in and outside of the UK.

 What are metamaterials?

  • Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures with properties beyond those found in nature.
  • They are emerging as an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials.
  • They have a wide range of applications in areas including energy harvesting, efficiency and storage; imaging; communications; electronic circuitry; sensing and ‘cloaking’.

For more information about the CDT and specific topics of interest, please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials. Informal enquiries about this research area may be directed to Dr Isaac Luxmoore (metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk), or to any other of the individuals academics working in this area.