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PhD Studentship Multifunctional Flexible Piezoelectrics for Wearable Medical Devices

University of Bath - Department of Mechanical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009 maintenance stipend, UK/EU tuition fees, training support fee of £1,000 per annum for up to 3.5 years
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 20th September 2019
Closes: 31st October 2019

Supervisory Team: Dr Hamideh Khanbareh, Dr James Roscow & Prof C R Bowen 

Project Enquiries:  < > 


In healthcare technologies intelligent wearable devices provide an added value to diagnosis, treatment, patient monitoring and prevention. The global market for medical wearable devices is expected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021. 

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic endocrine conditions that can develop at any stage of life and its incidence is increasing rapidly. There are currently 415 million people worldwide with diabetes and this number is expected to grow up to 642 million in 2040. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a common complication, where the loss of sensation caused by nerve damage can make it difficult for patients to feel when their foot is at risk of skin breakdown, which can result in foot ulcers forming. These ulcers can fail to heal and become infected over time; around 30% of patients with a diabetic foot ulcer may be at risk of lower limb amputation. Current best practice recommends patients perform daily monitoring of their feet supported by regular physical examination by trained specialists, which is time consuming. 

Here we propose development of a novel self-powered wearable multifunctional sensing device that monitors the patient’s posture. Whenever the pressure sensing inserts detect clinically dangerous foot pressure, a light signal and an audio alert is transmitted prompting the device user to offload the pressure from a particular region of their foot. 

The multifunctional device will be composed of layers of screen-printed functional ceramic inks on a flexible polymer substrate. A phosphor layer generates electroluminescent (EL) light and a piezoelectric layer harvests mechanical energy and convert it into EL light for feedback. A pyroelectric layer harvests thermal energy and converts that to electrical energy. Lead-free ferroelectric ceramics will be printed different phosphors such as ZnS and ZnS:Cu will be fabricated to achieve optimum and uniform light emission. Coupling of the phosphor, piezoelectric and pyroelectric materials will result in a piezo-pyro-electro-luminescence device with light emission powered by energy harvesting of the external mechanical and thermal energy. 

The project is in collaboration with DST Innovations, an expert company in lightweight, low powered and flexible lightings. The focus of DST is developing energy efficient and environmentally safe technologies that can replace those used in today’s electronic products. The company will support the project by offering technical knowledge. 


The successful applicant will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or overseas equivalent) in materials/chemical/mechanical/electrical engineering, physics or similar disciplines. 

English language requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding. 

Due to the funding restrictions, this position is only available for UK/EU candidates. 


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form. 

Funding is for up to three and a half years. It includes UK/EU tuition fees, training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a Maintenance stipend of £15,009 per annum (2019/20 rate). EU students are eligible to apply if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the funding commencing. 

Anticipated start date: As soon as possible (this may be negotiable)

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