A machine testing materials

Smart Composite Materials for Aircraft (CU Led)

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term. Up to 3.5 full-time.

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

For further details contact: Dr James Griffin 


This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

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 September 2023. The PhD Student is anticipated to spend at least 6 months of the total period of the program at Deakin University, with the remainder of the program based at Coventry University @CovUni_CGFM.

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

Supervisors: A/Prof James Griffin and Dr Bekim Gashi

Details of the PhD project

Within the aviation industry, the increase in polymer composite structures has increased to over 50% of the full airframe during the last two decades, primarily due to the use of composites in the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. This increase has been driven by the necessity to have lighter structures, whilst maintaining the same mechanical properties as their metal counterparts. Over the designated 20,000 hours or 20 years of planned service, there is however, the inevitable growth in different forms of damage due to fatigue and exposure to harsh environments. Furthermore, with the growing emphasis on improving resource efficiencies, there is a need to establish new approaches to the re-manufacture of existing components and composite recycling. Equally important to the development of new recycling methods is the ability to develop sensors and monitoring methods which ensure that the 2nd life composites are able to maintain properties the same or similar to a virgin composite, over its service life. This collaborative arrangement offers a unique research strength that from smart materials development and advanced characterisation facilities will be accessed in this PhD research project. Due to the range of data obtained from various sensing technologies there will be a need to use intelligent algorithms to provide meaningful, understandable data.

Project aim

Currently, most carbon fibre composite materials in use today are inherently intractable and unable to be conveniently recycled. In conjunction with the development of health monitoring and property restoration approaches, new inherently recyclable composite materials will be created based upon the use of reversible or polymer networks based upon dynamic covalent bonding. The project will develop a comprehensive approach to the health monitoring and property restoration of composites and recycled composites and establish protocols and procedures that validate the performance of recycled composites to increase the proliferation of second life components into new structural products. The type of involvement will provide valuable exposure to state of the art equipment and ideas which promotes engineers to carry out a plethora of job opportunities upon completion of their studies.  Not to mention other industries such as hydrogen tank manufacture/storage where such knowledge and experience will be imperative for its safe and extended life operation.


Tuition fees, stipend and additional allowances.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Candidate specification

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the cotutelle programme.  

This includes;  

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).  
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of each University’s entry requirements please visit:  



Please note that it is essential that applicants confirm that they are able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia).

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

All candidates must apply to both Universities.

To find out more about the project please contact Dr James Griffin, Associate Professor in NDT and Manufacturing Systems.

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