Investigating novel metallic coatings – longer lasting coatings to support sustainability in steel

Closing Date:               10th March 2023

Project start date:         1st October 2023

Funding Provider:        UKRI EPSRC CDT Studentship

Subject Area:               Functional Coatings

Key Information

Project Supervisors

Academic Supervisors:

Professor David Penney

Professor James Sullivan

Industrial Supervisor:

Kim Price

Aligned programme of study: EngD in Materials, Modelling and Manufacturing

Mode of study: Full-time

Expected Interview Date: April 2023


There are over 3500 steel grades, 75% of which didn’t exist 20 years ago.  This has allowed vehicle manufacturers to reduce weight and improve efficiencies. The new grades utilise a range of alloying elements and thermo-mechanical treatments in order to bring about properties that meet the needs of a diverse customer base – cars, to bridges to defence.

Steel is such a versatile material but when exposed to the environment, it will corrode. Therefore, they must be protected using coatings. Metallic coatings based on zinc provide both barrier and galvanic protection, in other words they sacrificially corrode to protect the steel substrate making them the original “smart” coating. Developments over the past 15 years have focused on the Zinc Aluminium Magnesium (ZAM) alloy which reports an increase in corrosion performance compared to standard hot dip galvanised coatings. However, ZAM coatings have shown to crack when formed into car parts which causes issues with paint adhesion. Improvements to the ZAM coating formability without a drop in corrosion performance is therefore required. This project will look at creating new, better performing coatings that can be applied at scale.

Project Aims:

We need new, better performing metallic coatings to keep pace with the increased demand put on steel substrates across a range of applications. This project will create and explore new metallic coatings that;

  1. Provide sacrificial galvanic protection to steel substrates.
  2. Melt at temperatures below 650°C but ideally below 450°C.
  3. Can be applied on a continuous galvanising line at speeds of up to 180m/min.
  4. Produce a smooth surface finish acceptable to car and building makers.
  5. Can be formed into complex profiles – e.g., car panels.

The EngD researcher will have complete freedom to explore possible alloy combinations that satisfy the above criteria. Theoretical coatings can be devised and then made on the small scale and tested for performance against benchmark existing coatings. Coating alloys that show promise on the small scale can be upscaled and coated onto steel substrates using Swansea’s £1.4m Hot Dip Process Simulator, the only one in a European University.

Metallic coatings are metallurgically bonded to the steel substrate. The process of applying the coating is sensitive to substate cleanliness and chemistry. In turn, the application of the coating influences the mechanical properties of the steel substrate. This is becoming more critical with advanced high strength steel that rely on hard, non-equilibrium phases formed by fast cooling. The metallic coating step at 460°C therefore limits the quenching that can be achieved meaning richer chemistries are required to stabilise the non-equilibrium phases (martensite and bainite). This project aims to develop the next generation of metallic coatings that support the sectors goals in driving sustainability and producing longer lasting products.

Sponsor Company:



COATED 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.

COATED 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. COATED M2A is committed to providing top quality research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by 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 silver 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.


Candidates must normally hold at minimum (or expect to obtain by the start date) an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level.

NB: If you are holding a non-UK degree, please see Swansea University degree comparisons to find out if you meet the eligibility. 

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 6.0 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent. Details on the Swansea University English Language entry policy can be found here.

This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality; however, please note:

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please email with the web-link to the studentship(s) you are interested in.


This studentship covers a full award and includes a tax-free stipend (currently £22,000 per annum) and tuition fees, each for a period of four years, subject to meeting University progression requirements.

Also, a generous budget is available to support training, project costs, industry placements and travel to enable you to network and showcase your research at an international conference.

How to Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

  1. Course choice (section 1) – for administrative purposes only, please select PhD Materials Engineering and your application will be considered for the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in Materials, Modelling and Manufacturing programme. 

In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

  • Start year (section 1) – please select 2023
  • Personal Statement (section 6) – select ‘Add Personal Statement Text’ and set out your skills and experience and the relevance of these to the project within the text box provided. Please refer to the ‘hints and tips’ guide for details of how to structure your personal statement. Shortlisting decisions will be made on information supplied in section 6 of Apply only. Please do not attach a cover letter as it will not be considered.
  • Funding (section 8) –
  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘[RS314 – ZAM]’

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the studentship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date/interim transcripts are sufficient)
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting English Language requirement (if applicable).
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable).

Furthermore, we invite you to complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Monitoring Form (online form).  Data is solely collected for statistical purposes and is not viewed by those that shortlist.

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the studentship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a studentship project is applicable.