Next Generation Platinum Hybrid Sensors for the Agri-food and Automotive industries: A Solution to Maximise Output and Sustainability

Key Information
COATED M2A Open Day – Wednesday 9th February at 1.30pm. Register on Eventbrite here

Academic supervisor: Dr Paolo Bertoncello, Zari Tehrani and Professor Owen Guy

Expected Interview Date: March/April 2022


The UK agri-food industry is worth around £108 billion to the national economy and provides over 3.7 million jobs. The agri-food sector as a whole generates around £18 billion of gross export earnings for the UK each year.The sector is keen to respond to policy issues relating to the environment, energy consumption, health, food safety, wastage, and wellness as well as to consumer choice.
Smart or precision agriculture is defined as a new way of sustainable agriculture that allows farmers to maximise crop yields using minimal resources (water, fertilizers, seeds etc) and reduce waste. In agriculture, soil macro and micronutrients, pH level, soil water potential, pesticides, pathogens are critical parameters to assess the quality of soils. Quantifying nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium macronutrients in agriculture farming soils can be used to respond to measurements by optimise yields from high-quality plant growth, whilst at the same time helping to minimise excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers – responsible for environmental pollution (from N leaching, denitrification, and volatilization that generates ammonia and nitrous oxides).
The gas sensor market in 2019 was valued at $2.19 billion globally and is anticipated to show tremendous growth in the next decade[1] (CGAR growth of 6.4% from 2019 to 2024). Increased demand for gas sensors from end-users (automotive, environmental, health, agriculture) can be attributed to increased awareness around emissions, promise for environmentally responsible action, increase health and safety regulations, and increased provisions for food safety. Current gas capability sensors are based on metal oxide capacitors and utilize state-of-the-art printing techniques. With regards to limitations, the obstatcle in current gas sensing technology is in their selectivity between different gases. Developments are geared towards detecting trace amounts of gas analytes with higher selectivity.
Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) are materials that have variable porosities and subsequently can detect different types of gases, such as CO2, CO, NOx, selectively and efficiently. Application smart coatings based on MOFs in hybrid sensor devices enable selectivity to be built into the hybrid sensor. The incorporation of MO coatings as part of the active material is highly innovative and can ultimately improve the sensing ability of the gas sensor devices.
Both the Agri-food and gas sensor markets are new avenues for Zimmer and Peacock and ZP are keen to exploit the opportunities. Through the EngD project, we will develop a novel platform hybrid sensors which will allow us to exploit new market areas – in the Agri-Food and automotive industry.
The automotive industry is one of the largest economic sectors by revenue, with some 70.5 % million cars being produced worldwide [1] and the British market alone having an £82 billion turnover in 2018 [2]. This presents a great financial opportunity that we are keen to exploit. The sensors could be manufacturers for end-users such as Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. Our sensors could have applications in their higher-end model cars, around 150,000 [3] of which were sold in 2018. Automotive sensor applications include tracking the concentrations of gasses such as CO2 for monitoring of in-cabin air quality, for the detection of possible leaks in the coolant of air conditioning systems, and for maintaining cabin freshness (which affects driver alertness). Our sensors would offer superior sensing abilities and integrated multi-sensor platform technology, attractive properties to incentives companies such as Land Rover to invest into our sensors over their existing single sensor technology.

Project Aims:

This project will develop functional coatings for a range of Smart Electrochemical sensors with industry partner Zimmer & Peacock, that can be employed both in farming/agriculture and automotive applications to detect specific analytes and gases. The novel sensor system will combine hybrid coated Screen Printed Electrode sensing technologies in a multiplex sensor array. It will also develop an in situ sample collection, sensing and data transfer system.
• Develop hybrid smart sensor devices that combine functional coatings with semiconductor and printed devices in a highly innovative approach and offers huge potential benefits in terms of sensitivity, selectivity, miniaturisation, and high-volume low-cost manufacturing.
• Develop functional coatings for a range of Smart Electrochemical sensors with industry partner Zimmer and Peacock, that can be employed both in Agri-Food, Environmental and Automotive applications.
• Sensors will be developed for analytes including phosphorous, potassium, Calcium, Sodium, Nitrogen, Copper, Iron, methane, and nitric oxides.
• Develop working sensors
• Develop new product ranges for Agri-food and Gas sensing markets
• Develop software App to accompany sensing hardware

The Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) recognises applicants have a variety of backgrounds with different educational and research experiences. We do not expect applicants to be proficient users of any techniques /equipment mentioned, at the time of application. Our focus is to upskill our participants and training will be provided.  

The M2A in the Faculty of Science and 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 providing top quality 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.  

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 committed to addressing unequal gender representation. Applications from women and other under-represented groups are particularly welcomed. All applications will be anonymised prior to short listing. 

Are you considering making an application and have questions you’d like answered? Come and have a 1-2-1 chat with us at our applicant surgeries (Link). We encourage all applicants to review our hints and tips document found here.

Sponsoring Company: Zimmer & Peacock AS | (


We welcome applications from candidates with a good honours’ degree in a relevant discipline (Minimum level 2:1), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level. 

Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g., IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application. 

Full eligibility can be found at 


Fees at UK rate and Stipend £20,000.00, both for the period of four years. 

For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website. Student Eligibility | M2A (  

Candidates must have the legal right to live/work in the UK at the start of their studies (student visas do not apply). 

Closing Date: 25th February 2022

Start Date: 1st October 2022

Applications and informal enquiries about this studentship should be directed by email to:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *