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Research degrees in Materials



We welcome postgraduate students and visiting research fellows to undertake research in our areas of interest (see below). Research students are registered for University of London degrees (MPhil/PhD) and work under the supervision of members of academic staff.

The School's research areas are supported by external grants from UK Research councils and government agencies including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the European Union and a multitude of industrial sponsors, which fund postdoctoral research studentships. A limited number ofCollege studentships are also available.

See also: the website for the School of Engineering and Materials Science

Research areas

Biomedical Materials and Engineering

The complementary disciplines of materials science and engineering can provide understanding of complex, hierarchical systems in biological and medical sciences. The specific strategy of the group is to produce solutions to clinically relevant problems, through the study of normal and disordered tissue structure/function. An integrated multiscale approach is taken with respect to both structural organization and reactivity of tissues studied from the nano- to the macro-scale. Examples include the modification of the stem cell niche, using both biomaterial and engineering cues, to explore their potential to differentiate into specific cell lineages for use in regenerative medicine. Specific areas of interest are the musculoskeletal, vascular and neuronal systems, aimed at a greater holistic understanding of the mechano-biological and electrophysiological tissue behaviour. Underpinning this strategy is an effort to advance experimental techniques, both within the School, across Queen Mary and through use of UK central facilities.

As an example live cell imaging is employed in conjunction with confocal imaging to establish quantifiable parameters to explain mechanotransduction signalling pathways. Extending out from direct tissue analysis is the study of micro- and macro-scale fluid flows, which influence both the tissue environment and cellular functions, as well as contributing to the long term structural outcomes of medical significance, viz prognosis in vascular aneurisms. The Group is also involved in advancing new diagnostic tools and techniques, which range from spectroscopic analysis of cancer tissue in vitro, in vivo sensors to microcapsules for the delivery of biological agents.

The experimental approach is supported by a considerable utilisation of in silico modelling designed to predict early damage or disease, thereby developing the potential for regenerative medicine strategies. Ultimately, a progression to direct medical application is anticipated. Future biomaterial developments include smart nano-patterned polymeric materials for development of new blood vessels, bioactive nanocomposite coatings for enhanced hip prostheses, novel bioceramics for hard tissue repair and bone tissue engineering, which can be evaluated with both laboratory-based tests and animal models. New generation materials can be developed by Queen Mary-associated companies such as Progentix Orthobiology and Apatech, the latter having recently been acquired by Baxter International.

Energy Systems

This area applies engineering and scientific disciplines in wind turbines, solar and geothermal energy, generation and use of alternative future fuels, and novel power plants and thermodynamic cycles. Established directions of heat transfer research have expanded in the areas of nanofluids and interaction with materials for solar panels. Research in aerodynamics, turbomachines and novel power plants is ongoing, and we are expanding into wind turbine applications and combined solar power plants, blade materials and distributed power control.

We have recently expanded in the areas of alternative and surrogate fuel generation (biofuels, hydrogen from artificial photosynthesis, and surrogate fuels), renewable materials, life-cycle engineering and waste remediation. There are significant activities in recycling of polymers and rubbers. The group has a strong international reputation in biobased and biodegradable composite materials, these are being developed based on bioplastics in combination with natural fibres such as flax, hemp or nano-sized cellulose whiskers, fully recyclable self-reinforced polypropylene (SRPP) or all-polypropylene composites that has been a major innovation in the area of engineering plastics and is now commercialised under the name PURE by Pure-Composites and Tegris by Milliken.

Modelling of Fluid and Solid Systems

In recent years, computational modelling and simulation has become one of the leading fields in Engineering. In some industries, a shift from development based on physical prototyping to that driven by computational approaches has been realised due to the increase of computational power (software/hardware). This ongoing process is strongly driven by academic research often in close collaboration with industrial software developers.

In the area of solid mechanics it is dominated by Finite Element Methods (FEM) but it became clear that these approaches need to be accomplished by other methods: eg Discrete Finite Element Method (DFM), Boundary Element Method (BEM), Meshless Methods. For fluid problems, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is well established with research now focussing on specialised and more advanced fields like LES (Large Eddy Simulation) and DNS (Direct Numerical Simulation).

Using these methods a second more goal-directed group is developed, which enables to identify optimal and robust designs. Here deterministic and stochastic methods are developed (particle swarm methods etc). The gradient information for sensitivities and optimisation are obtained by adjoint methods and automatic differentiation. Challenges can be found in topology optimisation addressing highly nonlinear problems (crash, turbulent fluids), shape optimisation, complex structures (complete car bodies for crash, aerodynamics, etc) and combining robust design with reliability.

Functional Nano-Materials

The development and understanding of nanostructurised materials overlaps with other research groupings within Queen Mary. A large area of research is in nanocomposites. A major research effort is around the creation of multifunctional polymeric materials based on carbon nanofillers such as carbon nanotubes, graphene and carbon black. Research in carbon nanostructures ranges from synthesis and electrical properties to applications and is studied in collaboration with the Physics Department.

A specific area of interest is higher-order fullerenes filled with guest atoms and electronic properties of nanotubes. Extensive research activity involves the application of carbon nanotubes in polymer composites for the creation of multi functional materials with interesting mechanical, electrical, thermal and optical properties. A very distinctive area of research that has recently been introduced to Queen Mary is that of micro- and nano-encapsulation. This work is based on a layer-by-layer (LbL) adsorption approach utilising oppositely charged polyelectrolytes on colloidal template particles, including emulsions and gas bubbles.

Imaging is a strength of both the School and the College. Within the School, nanoscale imaging is exemplified by the NanoVision Centre where the development of new techniques has been associated with 3D imaging of biological tissue and integrating different technologies to produce new approaches to imaging and nanomechanics.


Application of the team's research is significantly enhanced by the creation of Nanoforce Technology Ltd, a wholly-owned Queen Mary subsidiary devoted to nanomaterials research for exploitation by industry. Nanoforce provides access to a broad range of unique world-class processing facilities, such as spark-plasma sintering for development of nanoceramics and dedicated equipment for production of polymer nanocomposites.

Entry requirements

Students with first or upper-second class honours degrees or equivalent in a relevant subject area are eligible to apply for admission to research degrees.

For international students, please refer to the International Students section.

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