Synthesis and Parametric Study of Novel Aerogel Composite

Development of novel aerogel materials is an important technological area in the UK. These materials offer attractive material performance in energy saving, oil recovery, and water purification. Research associated with these materials has an excellent fit to the University strategic themes in energy, advanced manufacturing and materials, and health and wellbeing.


  • Number of scholarships One
  • Value Home EU tuition fees and stipend
  • Opens 10 March 2017
  • Deadline 19 May 2017
  • Help with Tuition fees, Living costs
  • Duration 3 Years


Students applying should normally have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant materials science, chemistry, or chemical engineering subject, and be highly motivated to undertake cutting-edge research in this field. Candidates with a background in aerogel synthesis and development are strongly encouraged to apply. Experience with fibre-aerogel composites is desirable, though not essential.

Project Details

A typical aerogel material is characterised by its highly porous texture, which is further described by pore size distribution and interpore connectivity. By carefully tailoring these structural features during aerogel synthesis, the physiochemical properties of the final aerogel can be manipulated for a specific application. In addition, the produced aerogel can be further treated to incorporate other desired functionality (e.g. hydrophobicity). Despite these superior material properties and design flexibility, monolithic aerogels tend to be mechanically weak and rigid. This has a negative impact on its machinability and consequently limits aerogel’s applications in a wider market. This has been recently addressed through a composite approach, which involves combining the aerogel materials with another materials as mechanical reinforcement (e.g. glass fibre, polymer fibre, or carbon fibre). Initial research has shown that such method can indeed effectively strengthen the gel. More importantly, the second material could have an effect on the gel texture and render the gel with different properties than its monolithic form.

There is, however, a lack of fundamental understanding of how the gels (e.g. silica based or RF based) interact with fibre reinforcement at the interface during gel synthesis and whether the reinforcement materials can be used to alter the gel texture and properties. The aim of this project is to 1) Develop a novel synthesis route to manufacturing a model fibre-aerogel composite; 2) Characterise and compare physiochemical properties of the monolithic gel and the composite gel; 3) Establish processing-structure-property relationship in the fibre-aerogel composite through a parametric study. 4) Optimise the fibre-aerogel composite properties based on a fundamental understanding of fibre-gel interaction; 5)
disseminate the outputs to relevant research community and industrial partners.

Your academic supervisors will be Dr Liu Yang ( of the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department and Dr Ashleigh Fletcher ( of the Chemical Process Engineering Department. The research team at Strathclyde ( is internationally recognised for research in this area and the successful applicant will be encouraged to collaborate with team members and industrial partners (

Further Information

This 3-year PhD studentship will cover Home/EU fees and a tax-free maintenance grant of a minimum of approximately £14,500 per annum. The studentship is also open to overseas students.


How to apply

If you wish to apply please email a covering letter, full Curriculum Vitae and the names and contact details of at least two academic referees to BOTH Dr Liu Yang and Dr Ashleigh Fletcher