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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Enhancing the Performance of Advanced Flexible Packaging Adhesives

University of Surrey

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Guildford
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: University fees will be covered for the duration of the course with a stipend of £17,000 per annum for UK/EU students.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 11th March 2020
Closes: 30th September 2020

Studentship description

This project is in collaboration with Huntsman Polyurethanes based in Everberg, Belgium. Polyurethanes are used in many technological applications ranging from adhesives for a variety of products to foams for furniture and sandwich panels. This project concerns the use of a polyurethane adhesive used in the manufacture of a range of packaging for foodstuffs. The substrates to be bonded are a range of very thin polymer films, some of which are metallised. The investigation will seek to study a number of aspects related to the adhesion and performance of such polyurethane/polymer film bonds. In particular a study of the fundamentals of adhesion between polyurethanes and isocyanates (one of the pre-cursors used in polyurethane production) and polymer films and inks used for printing on such films. The manner in which the cure process may enhance or disrupt such adhesion is crucial to performance, as all systems undergo multiple cure stages during laminate manufacture.

Other aspects that will be investigated will be the barrier properties of the laminate, particularly the glue line as a result of process parameters, and the fidelity of adhesion achieved on exposure to different environments (temperature humidity and liquids encountered in food packaging).

The main analytical techniques to be used in this work are the surface analysis methods of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and (XPS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). The Surface Analysis Laboratory at the University of Surrey is superbly equipped for work of this sort and has specialised in the application of XPS and ToF-SIMS to adhesion investigations for more than 40 years. Our collaborations with Huntsman PU date back more than a decade.

The project will involve visits to Huntsman’s laboratories and there is an expectation that the successful candidate will present their work at international conferences relevant to adhesion and surface analysis research.

Supervisor: Prof John Watts.

This is a 3.5 year project, commencing in October 2020.

Entry requirements

First Class or an Upper Second in a Physical Science degree. IELTS: 6.5 overall with 6.0 in each band.


University fees will be covered for the duration of the course with a stipend of £17,000 per annum for UK/EU students.

How to apply

Please contact the Centre Manager, Noelle Hartley (, in the first instance to lodge an expression of interest in the project. The Centre does not accept direct applications – it is important to contact the Centre Manager to discuss your interest at the earliest opportunity.

This project is part of the EPSRC CDT in MiNMaT. References are taken up at interview stage.  The University reserves the right to close the advert if a suitable candidate is found.

Closing date for applications

Wednesday 30th September 2020

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