Project code



School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Start dates

October, February and April

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering  and will be supervised by Professor Hom Dhakal, Dr Abu Saifullah and Dr Burhan Saeed.


The work on this project involves:

  • Incorporating the anti-viral properties with selected bio-polymers for inactivating viruses/bacteria or micro-organisms embedded in micro-droplets. Use the developed antiviral bio-polymers to produce porous structures through non-woven / electrospinning / 3D printing advanced manufacturing technologies to be deployed in multiple layered disposable face masks with improved environmental performances such as biodegradability and recyclability. A thorough life cycle analysis (LCA) will be used to compare the face masks that are already being used.
  • Optimising the porosity of the anti-viral polymeric porous structure using an extensive fluid mechanics analysis (ANSYS) ensuring the required filtering efficiency and wearer’s breathing comfortability.
  • Improving the engineering design of the bio-polymer based bio-degradable face mask for enhancing the sealing and proper fit properties of the mask around the wearer’s face.


Face masks have been increasingly used in controlling the spread of various infectious diseases over the last hundred years and most importantly the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the current disease has created a heavy demand of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks since they create an effective physical barrier to the transmission of respiratory micro-droplets from any symptomatic/asymptomatic infected persons. Most face masks are made of non-renewable petroleum based polymers which are non-biodegradable, creating wastes, environmental pollutions due to the improper handling and disposal of face masks to the open environment. The LCA data of currently available face masks show a significant energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their production to disposal for which the main contributor is the synthetic non-biodegradable materials used in face masks. Reusable/washable face masks also display a higher GHG emission and theoretically they need to be used more than 150 times in order to reduce the emission which might be difficult to achieve in real life.

Therefore, it is urgently needed to develop a disposable face mask from bio-polymer based materials which are bio-degradable and can offer a better end-of-life option requiring less energy in production and disposal compared to the conventional synthetic counterparts. This project aims to develop a bio-polymer based bio-degradable disposable face mask with engineering functionalities in particular anti-viral properties, improved design to enhance the mask’s filtering performance and sealing properties around the face ensuring  wearer’s comfortability.

Advanced Polymers and Composites (APC) research group has an excellent expertise on various international collaborative research projects for sustainable bio-based materials development. The successful candidate will be working independently and also in a highly multidisciplinary collaborative research team on bio-polymers, fluid dynamics and engineering design. The state-of-the-art training from this project will be helpful for the successful candidate to pursue future career in academia or any relevant industries.


Chua, M. H., Cheng, W., Goh, S. S., Kong, J., Li, B., Lim, J. Y. C., … Loh, X. J. (2020). Face Masks in the New COVID-19 Normal: Materials, Testing, and Perspectives. Research.

Das, O., Neisiany, R. E., Capezza, A. J., Hedenqvist, M. S., Försth, M., Xu, Q., … Ramakrishna, S. (2020). The need for fully bio-based facemasks to counter coronavirus outbreaks: A perspective. Science of the Total Environment.

Statista. (2019). Face masks: forecasted market value worldwide 2018–2025 | Statista.  Retrieved from the Statista website.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

2022/2023 fees (applicable for October 2022, February and April 2023 start) 

PhD and MPhil

UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students 

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

EU students
(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

International students

  • Full-time: £18,300 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £9,150 per year (may be subject to annual increase)

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2022/23 please visit this page.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Candidates should come from mechanical engineering, material science or any relevant engineering discipline and should have a solid understanding and experience on material science, bio-polymer materials and their processing, fluid dynamics and simulation, and use of design software. Applicants are also expected to have effective written, verbal communication, project and time management skills.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Hom Dhakal ( or Dr Abu Saifullah ( or Dr Burhan Saeed ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Mechanical and Design Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code: SMDE5181021.