Nathan Ellmer

Nathan Ellmer

United Kingdom
PhD Civil Engineering

What Faculty are you based in?

I am based within the Faculty of Science and Engineering, more specifically the Zienkiewicz Centre for Computational Engineering (ZCCE).

How did you come to study at Swansea University?

Back in 2017, I started my journey at Swansea University studying BEng Aerospace Engineering. Many things enticed me to study here including the industry standard equipment installed on the newly built Bay Campus, coastal location and enthusiasm of staff.

What is your research topic?

The title of my research is “Accelerated in-silico characterisation, topology optimisation and design of Electroactive Polymer (EAP) based soft robots”. The research consists of developing a computational framework to simulate giant deformations of very soft polymers. EAPs are a subclass of smart materials which respond to an electric stimulus. Thus, the challenge arises of modelling materials that deform due to a coupled electro-mechanical response.

What led to your interest in this area?

This is a field switch going from Aerospace to a more Materials based course. However, the key components involve finite element modelling, a core component of simulation across all Engineering disciplines. Applications are also vast, ranging from artificial muscles, sensors and energy harvesters.

What do you hope to achieve with your research?

My research programme is a step in a larger scale project and developing collaboration with the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), made possible thanks to pivotal support from technical partner Giles Moore. Ultimately, the development of this framework would be a step closer to having a tool enabling designers to customise EAP devices to achieve specific actuations for practical applications.

What are the best things about conducting your research at Swansea University?

Swansea University is home to the ZCCE, a world leader in Computational Engineering and has a rich heritage regarding Finite Element modelling thanks to Professor Zienkiewicz. This provides opportunities to work alongside field leading academics such as supervisor Antonio J Gil in works combining modelling and experiments of soft EAP devices. Putting academia to the side, Swansea itself is fantastically located providing many things to do away from studying.

What are your future plans?

This is a question I commonly ask myself. I am involved with both industry and academia in my current role and both sides interest me. With still a long way to go, I continue to focus on my research and expand my network within both areas so I can make an informed decision further down the line.