Linking microstructures and performance of functional coatings and engineering materials through multiscale and correlative microscopy methods

Key Information


Materials science challenges are typically associated with understanding connections between processing, structure, properties, and performance.  As demands for materials innovation continue to increase, we must improve our capacity to both design and understand new, complicated structures and compositions of materials, often across a range of length scales.  For a huge spectrum of engineering materials from battery electrodes to fiber composites to metal alloys, there exist features from the nanometer scale up to mm and larger which play unique and distinct roles in determining the functionality of that material or device.

Central to understanding these multiscale features are a variety of experimental characterization methods, of which microscopy plays a key role.  Historically, individual microscopy techniques have been developed and adapted to each specialize in a relatively well-defined range of scales, modalities and dimensions, providing a sub-set of the information needed to describe a sample.  However, it is increasingly the case that multiple microscopes are employed to provide a more complete picture.

To tackle this multiscale problem brute force approaches can be tempting, whereby huge areas (to satisfy the larger length scales of the structure) are imaged in their entirety at very high resolution (to satisfy small length scales).  However this is often impractical and creates unnecessary overhead in terms of experimental time, unnecessary data and associated challenging big data problems, and data processing complexity.

Often, a more intelligent approach is to use targeted sampling strategies to collect data at specific regions of interest and length scales in a coordinated manner.  Correlative microscopy, moving the same sample between different microscopy tools to leverage their individual strengths, offers an attractive solution to collect multiscale and multimodal information while keeping all data within consistent spatial context.


Project Aims

  • This project will build upon the current progress in the materials science microscopy community to continue developing and leveraging correlative approaches (including the associated software tools) for the study of functional coatings and engineering materials. Systems of significant interest include steel, other metal alloys, photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, ceramics, and composites.
  • Workflows across different platforms including optical, electron, and X-ray microscopy will be explored. Incorporating relevant data from other characterization methods (such as mechanical testing or spectroscopy, or in situ sample manipulation) into the workflows is also of interest.
  • Correlative microscopy methods will consider not only the navigation and correlation of data in 2D (for example by brightfield optical imaging and scanning electron microscopy) but also 3D (using techniques including X-ray microscopy and focused ion beam serial sectioning).


Suitable candidate

A suitable candidate has a degree in materials science or engineering.  An experimental characterization background of materials in mechanical or structural applications is preferred, ideally with one or more microscopy techniques.

The student will leverage existing ZEISS microscopes located at Swansea University, with the possible opportunity to spend time at a ZEISS Microscopy facility.


Sponsoring Company Carl Zeiss Microscopy

Candidates should hold an Engineering or Physical Sciences degree with a minimum classification level of 2:1 or equivalent relevant experience.

Our funders require applicants to also meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must be a UK or EU citizen (i.e. eligible for ‘home’ tuition fees at the University) and have the right to work in Wales at the end of your studies.
  • You must be resident in West Wales and the Valleys at the point of enrolment and throughout the duration of your studies.
  • You must not be financially able to participate without the award of grant funding.

Further information regarding eligibility criteria can be found at: http://www.materials-academy.co.uk/eligibility



The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a tax free stipend of £20,000 p.a.

Closing Date 3 August 2018

Start Date September 2018

Apply Now

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome and may be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk