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PhD Studentship (Sponsored by Lloyds Register Foundation) – Development of durable super repellent coatings
NSIRC Degrees

PhD Studentship (Sponsored by Lloyds Register Foundation) – Development of durable super repellent coatings

Course Description


Surface contamination is a major industrial problem leading to considerable loss of performance and increased operation and maintenance costs across all industrial sectors. The absence of passive, durable and highly repellent surface coatings is due to the inherent fragility of the current approaches that represent the state of the art. Both top-down and bottom up approaches to nanostructure formation have been attempted but the retention of high levels of repellence has not yet been achieved. Consequently, regular maintenance and cleaning or repair approaches have to be used. This can reduce the viability of adoption of emerging technologies (renewable energy for example) or prevent the development of others (laminar flow for aerospace).

The project will investigate the relationship between surface roughness, surface chemistry, repellence and mechanical durability. A recently developed novel approach to nanoparticle synthesis and chemical functionalisation will be used to create different surface structures and compositions to allow a range of profiles to be investigated. The project will also investigate the role of new surface functionalisation methods together with novel nano- and meso-scale structures to identify the key structure property relationships underpinning ice formation. The identification of surface profiles and chemistries that minimise or prevent hydofilm formation sue to condensing moisture will be used as the basis of a passive anti-icing surface technology.

The key underpinning science will be:

  • To develop an understanding of the effects on wetting and surface contamination of nano- and microstructure combinations (including different sizes and aspect ratios) along with different surface chemistries      

  • To establish a details understanding the role of cross-linking and cross-link density on mechanical resilience by the use of dual functionalised nanoparticles and film forming resins.

  • To continue the development of nan holistic multi-variant analysis tool to identify the key structural and chemical characteristic that will allow the fabrication of durable surfaces with the necessary re0entrant features to allow superlative levels of repellence.

When these design rules have been clarified, the project will seek to roadmap advanced materials products that can be developed from the new processes and approaches that are proposed. This will be achieved by extending the applicability of the novel testing methodology developed by Wojdyla-Cieslak. Erosive and abrasive wear modes will be employed to assess mechanical resilience as will consideration of the synergy of wear mechanisms. It is well known that some of the wear mechanisms can overlap and accelerate the failure of coatings. In this case performance indices will be established as well for the synergic effect of a few kinds of wear, such as abrasion under elevated and sub-zero temperatures, abrasive and erosive wear together, chemical stability under abrasive conditions etc. With the regards to indirect durability, other aspects of coating properties can be included in further investigation. Lipophobic (repellency) character and visual appearance will be examined under mechanical or chemical damage.

Project Outline

The overarching aim of this research is to identify assessment rules for durable repellent coatings materials on the basis of correlation findings for surface properties and ice formation/ ice adhesion processes of new material classes.

Specific objectives of the project are:

  • To extend and validate efficient test methods combined analysis methods and strategies for durable highly repellent materials.

  • To validate and extend correlations between surface characteristics (physical and chemical), repellence and ice formation.

  • To investigate structure-effect relationships of a new class of materials.

The project will have three key themes:

  • Functionalised nanoparticle fabrication, verification (start month 1 – duration 24 months)

  • Coating characterisation and measurement (start month 6 – duration 24 months)

  • Data collation, analysis and development of design rules (start month 9 – duration 27 months)

Silica nanoparticles will be produced using established routines developed at TWI. Functionalisation of these particles and their integration into model coating systems will be carried out using standard methods. The effect of different particles sizes and clusters will be examined in a systematic manner with respect to changes they impart to surface morphology and wetting characteristics.

Characterisation will include: Validation of the nanoparticles characteristics using DLS, FTIR N2 sorption. Initial and early characterisation of the modified coating resin: thermal properties (TGA and DSC); mechanical properties (Taber abrasion, hardness, scratch resistance); wetting properties towards a range of liquids (static and dynamic sessile drop); roughness (SEM, white light interferometry, AFM).

About Industrial Sponsor

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation funds the advancement of engineer-related education and research and supports work that enhances safety of life at sea, on land and in the air, because life matters. Lloyd’s Register Foundation is partly funded by the profits of their trading arm Lloyd’s Register Group Limited, a global engineering, technical and business services organisation.


NSIRC is a state-of-the-art postgraduate engineering facility established and managed by structural integrity specialist TWI, working closely with, top UK and International Universities and a number of leading industrial partners. NSIRC aims to deliver cutting edge research and highly qualified personnel to its key industrial partners.

About University

London South Bank University (LSBU) is a public university in London. It has 17,605 students and 1,700 staff, and is based in the London Borough of Southwark, near the South Bank of the River Thames, from which it takes its name. The university has seven Schools, covering the areas of Applied Sciences, Arts and Creative Industries, The Built Environment and Architecture, Business, Engineering, Health and Social Care, and Law and Social Sciences. In the 2015 survey of Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) 75% of LSBU graduates who responded to the survey were in a professional and/or managerial role just six months after graduating.In November 2016, LSBU was named the Entrepreneurial University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates should have a relevant degree at 2.1 minimum, or an equivalent overseas degree in Materials, Physics, Chemistry or an Engineering discipline.Candidates with suitable work experience and strong capacity in numerical modelling and experimental skills are particularly welcome to apply. Overseas applicants should also submit IELTS results (minimum 6.5) if applicable.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by Lloyds Register Foundation, TWI and academic partners. For Home students a £24k per annum scholarship is available which will cover tuition fees and provide a competitive enhanced STIPEND of £16-20kper annum for the duration of three years. Partial scholarships are provided for international students with funding up to £24k per annum for three years.

Data Protection Statement

By registering your application you agree that your details may be held, processed and disclosed within TWI for the sole purpose of recruitment (and subsequent employment if applicable) and for compliance with applicable laws and regulations to which TWI is subject to. We will never provide, share or sell your personal information to a third party.  TWI follow strict procedures in the storage of information and will retain the information you submit for recruitment for up to six months in case any questions arise in relation to the recruitment process. Thereafter, the information will be destroyed in a secure manner.

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