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A study of the relationship between surface topology and functional characteristics for injection moulded thermoplastic components

Summary of project

The aim of this three-year PhD research post is to investigate the effect of the surface topology on the surface functionality of moulded thermoplastic components.

In particular, using micro-injection moulding, polymers will be patterned at the nanoscale aiming to identify the optimum size and configuration of the micro and nano metre length features on object surfaces for enhanced physical behaviours.

The work will be formed in partnership between the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford, and a leading industrial supplier of consumer products.

Experimental work will be carried out at both at the University of Bradford and at the industrial partner.


Inspired by nature, there is significant interest in the area of engineered micro and nano metre length scale features on object surfaces for influencing key physical behaviours.  The Polymer MNT Centre at the University of Bradford has significant expertise in developing ultra precision polymer replication processes for manufacturing a range of devices with unique functionalities.

Previous work by the academic team at Bradford University has developed understanding to characterise the relationship between surface topology and functional characteristics for injection moulded thermoplastic components. This study proved the feasibility of engineering micro and nano metre length features on object surfaces to influence the material surface properties.

Based on these results it is proposed to utilize knowledge and expertise from the University of Bradford to optimise structures and manufacturing processes for specific improvements in surface functional properties.

The work will consist of a range of experimental activities to develop improved processes for surface replication using ultra-precision injection moulding techniques.

In addition, the resulting nano structured surfaces will be characterised to evaluate physical properties including self cleaning characteristics and optical effects.  The use of atomic force microscopy and bespoke testing apparatus will also allow evaluation of surface feature robustness and resistance to damage mechanisms which could be encountered during the life cycle of the product.

Entry requirements

The ideal candidate will have a degree in the physical sciences and engineering disciplines and have a very hands-on approach to experimental activities.

They should have skills in 3D Computer Aided Design packages such as Solidworks or Inventor.

It is expected that there will be significant micro-biological characterisation activities during the project, so any experience here will be an advantage.  

Management of collaboration

Dr Ben Whiteside (University of Bradford) and team will act as supervisors to the PhD student and there will be regular stream of communication with the industrial partner(minimum once per month, ideally fortnightly). It is anticipated the supervisors and the student will meet quarterly to review and discuss the stages of the project. For each review meeting the student will compile a report and presentation updating the team on both results and progress. It is expected that the student will spend a reasonable amount of time at the industrial partner to perform testing relating to their research as well as presenting their research to a wider R&D audience. 


Studentship fees and maintenance are funded by the industrial partner and the University of Bradford for a period of three years.


Title and name:
Dr Ben Whiteside
Director - RKT Centre Polymer MNT
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work+44 (0)1274 236266
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