KESS2 East PhD in Engineering: Development of advanced materials for enhanced head protection

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    Cardiff University
    United Kingdom
    Professions and applied sciences


Dr Peter Theobald and Dr Shwe Soe lead a research team focussing on understanding and developing new solutions that better protect the head/brain.

In collaboration with Charles Owen – a leading equestrian helmet manufacturer, they have patented a series of novel materials.   Their work is internationally respected, being the only non-US group to attract funding from the prestigious Head Health Tech programme, which aims to reduce head injury prevalence in contact sport.

The research group now comprises a series of PhD students and a post-doctoral researcher, focussing on researching and developing novel solutions for a range of helmet sectors. Common to all our activities is the use of additive manufacturing, which provides scope to realise the complex geometrical designs that are honed to achieve high-performance, established via computational (ie finite element analysis-based) simulations.

We have also developed a suite of new experimental rigs, which enable us to evaluate the mechanical viability of any new materials that could be incorporated into this workflow.

This PhD will focus on developing a novel liner for equestrian helmets, to better protect the brain. This innovation could replace the foam-based liner of existing helmets, which is the key component in absorbing energy during a fall.

The relatively narrow range of impact energies that helmets can absorb is a limitation of current materials, meaning this PhD will focus on developing a solution that can actively absorb energy during a greater range of typical fall scenarios.  This means that the liner requires strain-rate dependant behaviour (ie viscoelasticity).

This PhD will utilise existing finite element analysis models of the brain, to establish a new material-structure that will provide effective protection from a range of impacts common within equestrian. This solution will out-perform existing materials by extending the performance range beyond those currently demanded of the testing standards. It is anticipated that this novel solution will combine a novel geometric structure, manufactured using a new-to-sector, viscoelastic material.

What is funded

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees

Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum


3 years


Residency: Applicants for these awards must have a home or work address in the relevant area* of Wales (East or West) at the time of their application for funding and enrolment.

Academic criteria: Applicants for research PhDs are expected to have one or both of the following:

  • a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject;
  • a relevant master's degree qualification or equivalent.

Applicants must:

  • have the right to work in the UK on completion of the scholarship
  • be classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student
  • satisfy the respective admissions criteria.

It is a condition of eligibility for KESS2 funding that you have not applied for, nor are intending to apply for, a doctoral or research master's loan. Please read clause (3) (m) of The Education (Postgraduate Doctoral Degree Loans) (Wales) Regulations 2018 for more information.

East Wales region is comprised of seven local authorities: Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham.


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.