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Fully Funded EPSRC iCASE and UK DSTL PhD Scholarship: Time Varying Control of Multi-Material Electro-Active Polymer Soft Robots

Swansea University - Civil Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Swansea
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Fully Funded
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 20th December 2023
Closes: 28th February 2024

Funding providers: EPSRC iCASE scholarship with the industrial support of UK Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)

Subject areas: Computational mechanics; Engineering simulation

Project start date: 

  • 1 April 2024 (Enrolment open from mid–March)
  • 1 July 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-June)
  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project description: 

Motivation: Scientists now predict that forty years of conventional hard robot technology will imminently be superseded by a new soft robotics era. Electro Active Polymers (EAPs) have been identified as ideal ultra-soft active materials for the fabrication of soft robot components due to their ability to undergo highly complex actuation (stretching, bending and twisting) when subjected to electric stimuli via compliant electrodes.

Applications: Due to their multifunctional nature, EAPs can act actuators (or artificial muscles) by responding to stimuli faster than natural muscle or conventional motors, and their light weight makes them suitable for space platforms, prostheses, exoskeletons, haptic feedback devices, deformable lenses and other system concepts, such as Stacked EAPs (via a sandwiched composite arrangement of EAPs and electrodes), shown to exhibit output forces capable of locomotion/propulsion to lift/manipulate objects. EAPs can also be exploited as flexible tactile sensors (for machine touch), wearable motion-capture sensors and energy harvesters.

Project aim. Building upon cutting-edge work by the group and with the support of EPSRC and the UK Defense, Science and Technology laboratory (DSTL), this PhD project sets out an ambitious research plan which will investigate, with the help of cutting-edge computational modelling and experimental validation, two fundamental aspects: (1) the time-varying response with associated viscoelastic effects in EAP soft robots, in order to predict deformations accurately, and (2) the reliable control in EAP soft robots when accounting for complex internal architecture.

Resources: The PhD student will take advantage of state-of-the-art soft polymer fabrication (3D/4D printing) and characterisation (i.e. electro-mechanical testing rigs) equipment and the latest computational simulation software tools developed by the group.

Location: Faculty of Science and Engineering, Bay Campus, Swansea University

Available resources/facilities: Access to relevant Computer Clusters and Material Laboratories.

Eligibility

Candidates must hold an Upper Second Class (2.1) honours degree in Engineering or similar relevant science discipline. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements. Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency.

English Language: IELTS 6.5 Overall (with no individual component below 5.5) or Swansea University recognised equivalent. 

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

Please visit our website for more information on eligibility.

Additional Funding Information

This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £18,622 for 2023/24) for four years.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

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