Engineering: Fully Funded M2A EngD Scholarship: Chemistry of novel flame-retardant materials based on microporous polymers

Closing date: Apply as soon as possible

Key Information

M2A logoEPSRC logoESF logo

Start date: October 2019

Supervisor: Professor O Guy, Dr M Carta and Ms J Lloyd

Sponsoring company: TATA Steel - Building Systems

This post will remain open until a suitable candidate is found and we recommend you apply as soon as possible.

This EngD in synthetic chemistry will develop novel microporous polymers for application in new flame-retardant materials. The EngD is a prestigious 4-year qualification – equivalent to a PhD with a highly attractive £20k per annum bursary.
Since the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire in London 2017, the preparation of novel flame-retardant materials, that can improve the fire safety standards in public and private buildings, is a major priority for the construction industry and its suppliers.
This project, based in Swansea’s Chemistry Department will synthesize and characterise novel flame-retardant materials to be used as additives in polyurethane foams. The proposed materials, based on porous polymers, typically have high decomposition temperatures (i.e., are very stable towards thermal decomposition once burned).
Polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMs) are an emerging class of materials. Their porosity arises by the inefficient packing of their chains in the solid state, which leaves voids of nanoscale-dimensions.
They can be used for a wide range of applications including gas separation, gas storage, electrochemistry and catalysis. In this Doctorate, the most important characteristics of PIMs is their exceptional stability towards thermal decomposition / degradation. The nature of these polymers makes them excellent candidates as additives to be mixed with polyurethane foams. Polyurethane foams are the most widely used materials for insulation panels in public and private buildings. Improved products with higher flame retardancy would have a huge impact in the building industry – both from a safety and economic point of view.  
Typical additives to be used for this scope need to be highly stable, having high decomposition temperatures and low char yields, to make them more mechanically stable after burning. The newest kind of materials for optimised performance include additives in the polymer backbone such as:
  • Boron and its derivatives 
  • High Phosphorus content
  • High Nitrogen content
  • High Carbon content
  • A combination of two or more of the previous solutions

This project, supported by TATA Steel, will focus on the design and synthesis of new precursors, monomers and polymers containing different amounts of these light elements, testing how they influence the properties and the performance of the final materials. The structure and geometry of the monomers will be designed to induce high porosity, producing a combination of the beneficial effects of the inherent thermal stability (given by the included elements) and the intrinsic porosity of the backbone (given by the structure design).
The Research Chemist will: 
Develop skills in organic synthesis and characterisation of monomers and polymers of intrinsic micro-porosity, aiming to better understand how to exploit the PIMs chemistry to tune their properties as flame-retardant materials. 
Our industrial partner TATA Steel is a global leader in the manufacture of steel for markets including construction, infrastructure, automotive, packaging and engineering. Its Building Systems division has extensive foam insulating panel manufacturing capabilities throughout Europe. The steel faced insulated panel market in the UK alone is worth over £200 million pounds per annum, hence the interest in making novel and better performing materials for building applications.

Swansea University is a top 30 UK institution for research excellence (Research Excellence Framework 2014) and has been named Welsh University of the Year 2019 by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

The Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) in the College of Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry; providing access to world-class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. The M2A is committed to delivering high quality collaborative research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners. 

Interwoven through the research study are business, technical and entrepreneurial courses, designed to support and prepare participants for a senior role in industry or academia, on completion of their studies. Research Engineers may participate in our career mentoring system, offering opportunities to engage with M2A alumni and other senior staff from across the University.  

The Athena SWAN charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committee to addressing unequal gender representation.

Applications from women are particularly welcomed. As a positive action to address gender imbalance, female undergraduates considering a career in research are invited to join our two-day laboratory taster session and learn about a typical day in the life of a research engineer.


We welcome applications from candidates with an Engineering or Physical Science degree (minimum level 2:1), or a combination of degree and equivalent relevant experience to the same level, to join the M2A community of research engineers.

To be eligible for WEFO funding, applicants should:

  • Be a UK or EU citizen (eligible for home tuition fees at Swansea University) and have the right to work in Wales at the end of their studies.
  • Be resident within West Wales and the Valleys at the time of enrolment and for the duration of the candidature.
  • Must not be financially able to participate in study for a postgraduate research degree without the award of this funding

 To be eligible for EPSRC funding, applicants should:

  • Be eligible for home tuition fees at Swansea University.
  • Have settled status in the UK, meaning no restrictions on the length of stay in the UK; and be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the grant, apart from temporary or occasional absences.
  • Not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. This does not apply to UK nationals and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education.

If English is not your first language you will need an acceptable pass in an approved English Language qualification to make sure you get the full benefit from studying at Swansea. We consider a wide range of qualifications, including the Swansea University English Test, the British Council IELTS test (with a score of at least 6.5 and 5.5 in each component). A full list of acceptable English Language tests can be found here.


The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a tax free stipend of £20,000 p.a. for a period of four years.

How to Apply

To apply for this scholarship, please complete the online application form.

Informal enquiries about this scholarship are welcome and may be directed by email to: