Deakin-Coventry Cotutelle - 4D Shape Memory Composite Materials

This is a doctoral Cotutelle project in 4D materials between Deakin University (Australia) and Coventry University (UK).

Deakin Project Supervisor

Additional Supervision

Deakin School or Institute


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus (Australia) and Coventry University (United Kingdom)

Research topic

This is a doctoral cotutelle project between Deakin University (Australia) and Coventry University (United Kingdom).

The successful PhD Student will be awarded a scholarship from Deakin University with the supervision team being drawn from Deakin University and Coventry University. The PhD Student will graduate with two testamurs, one from Deakin University and one from Coventry University, each of which recognises that the program was carried out as part of a jointly supervised doctoral program. The program is for a duration of 4 years and scheduled to commence in May 2023.

The PhD Student is anticipated to spend up to 12 months of the total period of the program at Deakin University, with the remainder of the program based at Deakin University.

The project is designed to examine 4D printing of highly tuneable shape memory polymers, soft and hard composite shape memory polymer and additive particles and includes computationally aided mechanical metamaterial manufacturing.

Project aim

Since Toyota announced its initial promising results on polymer nanocomposite materials there has been ongoing research and development in this field. The introduction of novel nanomaterials and the excellent qualities achieved by adding relatively low percentages to the raw polymer has made a significant interest of the scientific community worldwide to them [1]. As a result of this interest, nanocomposites have become more popular with manufacturers across a wide range of industries, such as automotive, aerospace, and solar energy [2][3].

Laser welding technology (LWT) has emerged as one of the most promising technologies for joining thermoplastic materials in recent years because of its numerous advantages, including no surface pre-treatment and organic solvents requirements, low and well-localized mechanical load, energy input in a tightly localized area, high automation degree, good precision control, clean procedure without microparticles generation, no ejection of the melt, and scalability in addition of nanocomposites [3][4]. Automotive, electronic components, and sterile manufacturing (medical devices, food packaging) industries all benefit from LWT's high accuracy and precise handling capabilities where joined components required [4].

This proposal aims to study the behaviour of soft and hard composite shape memory polymer (SMP) materials, particularly poly (lactic acid) (PLA) and different Polyamide66 (PA66) PLA-PA66 fabricated via LWT. Different nanocomposites will be studied for their prospective use in automotive and electrical components for the effects of nanoclay percentage on the performance of their soft hard smart composite structures with shape memory effect. The resulting joins will be analysed in terms of their morphing behaviour, shear, and peeling tests. Influence of sepiolite nanoclay on the properties of the resulting join between PLA and different PA66/nanoclay nanocomposites will be studied in this work. The resulting welding will be characterized based on shape memory behaviour and mechanical properties by performing peeling and shearing tests, as well as the morphology weld seam analysis by scanning electron microscopy. High speed imaging of the process will support the interpretation of the trends and help with a better understanding of the laser welding process of these new shape memory materials. Using an infrared camera to measure temperature during the process will provide us with accurate temperature history data that can be used for further analysis. The influence of process parameters on the response variations will be studied by analysis of variance (ANOVA) using the design of experiments method (DOE). Statistical modeling and optimization will be a valuable tool to evaluate the process parameters effects and their interaction effects.

[1] Mohd, N. A.; Ismail, H.; Rusli, A. Polym. Plast. Technol. Eng. 2017, 1, 1.
[2] Hasanzadeh, R.; Azdast, T.; Doniavi, A.; Babazadeh, S.; Lee, R. E.; Daryadel, M.; Shishavan, S. M. Int. J. Eng. 2017, 30, 143.
[3] Navas‐Martos, F. J., Yebra‐Rodríguez, Á., & La Rubia, M. D. (2018). J. A. Polym. Sci. 2018, 135(36), 46638.
[4] Visco, A. M.; Brancato, V.; Torrisi, L.; Cutroneo, M. Int. J. Polym. Anal. Charact. 2014, 19, 489.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Sunday 15 January 2023

Please be aware that screening for this advert will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.


This  scholarship is supported by Coventry University, is available over 3.5 years and includes:

  • Stipend of £15,000 per annum
  • A Tuition Fee Waiver
  • Travel Support Package including one return economy airfare to Deakin University to support residency period in Australia
  • Student visa and health insurance costs for period of residency at Deakin University in Australia

Deakin University will also provide a full tuition fee waiver for a duration of up to 4 years.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • meet the PhD entry requirements of both Deakin University and Coventry university, including English language proficiency requirements (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)
  • a masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum 80%
  • be enrolling full-time
  • be able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia)

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page and Coventry’s research entry criteria page for further information.

How to apply

Applicants  should firstly contact Dr Ali Zolfagharian to discuss the project. After discussing your application with the Deakin Supervisor, you will be required to submit an Expression of interest directly with the relevant Faculty.
If successful, you will be invited by Deakin University to lodge a formal HDR application to Deakin.

The successful applicant will also be required to lodge a separate PhD application to Coventry University via the 'Making an Application' page.  Please be aware that screening for this advert will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Ali Zolfagharian

Dr Ali Zolfagharian
Email Dr Ali Zolfagharian
+61 3 522 73693