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PhD Studentship: Impact Failure of Amorphous Polymers


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Tuesday 30 April 2024
Reference:  ENG1763

3-year PhD studentship

Supervisor: Dr Davide De Focatiis

Ballistic impact is a complex event that induces multiple modes of deformation, is influenced by both material and structural responses, and excites a very wide range of strain rates. In cases where brittle failure is induced, effects of processing history, such as flaws and residual stresses, also play a significant role in the final response. A thorough understanding of a material’s response to impact is essential to control damage and prevent injuries in a broad range of contexts.

There is a need, therefore, to produce material models that can be used in computer simulations of ballistic events, and which contain enough physical understanding of deformation and failure behaviour to provide insight into how processing affects the final response. This project will address this problem through a combination of modelling at the University of Nottingham and experimental development at the University of Oxford, using polycarbonate as a model material. The ultimate goal is to provide models to understand and simulate phenomena observed in polymers under impact, and the effect of different polymer histories on these phenomena. This builds on current collaborative research, in which a new rate and temperature dependent constitutive model has been developed, by focusing on understanding the basic polymer physics that drives fracture.

Nottingham will lead the modelling programme. You will build on an existing polymer constitutive model and implement failure criteria compatible with the model. You will implement a user material in finite element software and validate the material model and failure critera using experimental data from our project partners in Oxford. You will work collaboratively with our partners to design experiments and simulations to explore the effects of residual stresses and thermal and surface treatments on the failure of the polymer.


This studentship is fully funded at the Home level (fees plus stipend) by the US Army. 

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for UK students (c. £5,100 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £20,000 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two years. 

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

·        A first-class honours degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Physics or Materials Science

·        Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English

·        Interest in properties of polymers, in particular under dynamic loading

·        Experience with finite element codes, preferably with Abaqus

·        Ability to program, preferably in Matlab

Applicants with a good 2.1 degree are also encouraged to apply if they can demonstrate excellent numerical skills through previous research or an undergraduate project.

Application Procedure

Applicants are strongly encouraged to make informal enquiries and to send a copy of their covering letter, CV, and academic transcripts to Dr Davide De Focatiis (

Start date: October 2024

The University of Nottingham is a supportive, inclusive and caring community, and we encourage applications from a diverse range of backgrounds. The Faculty of Engineering was the first in the UK to be awarded an Athena SWAN Gold Award, in recognition of our commitment to supporting and advancing women’s careers in Engineering.

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