EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Electromagnetic Metamaterials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


The overall aim of this new CDT is to generate a body of highly-trained, doctoral scientists and engineers expert in the emerging and economically important area of metamaterials and possessing the skills, knowledge and professional attributes required to meet the challenges of employment in industry, academia and other commercial or governmental spheres. We will provide students with a detailed understanding of metamaterials from fundamental theory right through to prototype device design. At the same time they will be formally trained in the wider professional and personal skills such as innovation, engagement, commercial awareness and, importantly, leadership.
Metamaterials are widely recognized as one of the most significant recent technical discoveries, highlighted as a top-ten insight of the last decade by Science Magazine. They are also set to become a major economic factor. In 2011 the global market for metamaterials was worth $256M, and is predicted by BCC Research to grow to $760M million by 2016, and to reach almost $2 billion by 2021. While products based on metamaterials are appearing (e.g. metamaterial antennas in mobile handsets and spacecraft; heat-assisted magnetic recording; transparent conductors for displays; surface bound data transfer and noise barriers etc.), the UK must ensure that future developments in these areas are strongly underpinned at the fundamental research level and also supported by highly skilled practitioners.
The Government report on "Technology and Innovations Futures: UK Growth opportunities for the 2020s" (2010) lists 'metamaterials' and 'carbon nanotubes and graphene' as two key advanced materials areas. The UK's Ministry Of Defence (MOD) regards metamaterials as a key emerging technology, specifically listing advanced optical materials, advanced materials, bio-inspired technologies, and micro and nano technologies, as key areas, all topics that are of direct relevance to this CDT proposal. We note the comment from Professor Young's (Dstl) letter of support: "Dstl fully supports your proposal as a timely and unique vehicle for training future scientists, engineers and leaders for the benefit of the wider UK defence and security sector." Our cohort-based training will also help fulfil one of Minister David Willets' key aims "To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe."
To meet this last aim and to stimulate future UK work in this fast moving materials area we will establish a new CDT in a broad range of metamaterials research with PhD training that has an embedded engagement with industry. We will, together with our collaborators from industry, governmental laboratories and universities overseas, strengthen the synergy between physicists and material engineers, building on our pre-existing excellence in metamaterials and functional materials research.
The research focus will be on EPSRC's Physical Sciences theme, specifically the sub topics "Photonic Materials, Metamaterials" (one of only three "Growth" research areas for this theme), and "Plasmonics" (a "Maintain" area). In addition, our CDT is relevant to the EPSRC's grand challenges of "Nanoscale Design of Functional Materials", and "Quantum Physics for New Quantum Technologies". There is also significant overlap with the EPSRC ICT "Growth" research areas of "RF and microwave communications" and "RF and microwave devices", which also encompass THz devices.
Our team of 33 academics are addressing key and topical challenges across a range of internationally competitive metamaterials research: from microwave metasurfaces to carbon nanotubes, from graphene plasmonics to spintronics, magnonics and magnetic composites, from terahertz photonics to biomimetics. With the recent recruitment of two world leading theoreticians in transformation optics plus new work in acoustics, we shall combine depth and breadth of metamaterial research linked to industrial and Government laboratory researchers

Planned Impact

The core aim for our EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Electromagnetic Metamaterials is "To provide industry and academia with a cohort of scientists and engineers trained in the exciting and economically important area of metamaterials. They will graduate with a detailed understanding of metamaterials, from fundamental theory through to prototype device design, and will have developed wider professional skills in areas of engagement, commercial awareness and leadership." We have designed our Centre to provide a world-class research and training experience, relevant to the needs of both industry and academia, and we aim to promote the work of the CDT to as large an audience as possible to realise the full value of the investment in the Centre.
The market for metamaterials is expected to grow from $256m in 2011 to about $2bn by 2021. As one of our Industrial Partners (Dstl) notes, "The CDT addresses a very exciting and emergent set of interconnected topics which separately and collectively have strong potential for disruptive impact."
In order to optimise the impact of training and research in this rapidly emerging area, the applicants have formulated the Centre with advice from external partners with whom we have had long-term and successful interactions through student sponsorship, research funding, co-authored papers, joint patents, and supervision of their staff in research degrees. We outline four major pathways to impact:
Training People. We will provide students with the professional development and business skills needed to take their ideas to industry. Custom skills-based workshops, novel approaches (such as cognitive behaviour coaching) and strong relationships with partners are key features of the training. As an example students will undertake a Leadership course at the Exeter Business School through which they will gain awareness of leadership techniques, and reflect on their own personal leadership styles. The CDT will also give other students the opportunity to utilise the training offered, providing additional value for money and also acting to promote high-quality, cohort-based training across a much wider group of students from Physics and Engineering.
Industrial Involvement. The impact of our CDT on the industrial sectors will be ensured through strong industry involvement in both the management and delivery of the Centre. The CDT Oversight Board will have representatives from QinetiQ, Dstl and NPL and two SMEs, Oclaro and Flann Microwave. The Centre will also act as a hub for industry, enabling the development of research in the context of a centre-of-excellence and acting as a focus for networking and the development of new synergies.
Generation and promotion of knowledge. Our team addresses key and topical challenges across a range of metamaterials research, from microwave metasurfaces to carbon nanotubes, from graphene plasmonics to magnetic composites, from terahertz photonics to biomimetics. We aim to combine depth and breadth of metamaterial research, intrinsically linked with industrial involvement. To facilitate dissemination beyond academia we will work through appropriate groups and networks such as Knowledge Transfer Networks and Learned Societies. In addition there will be an annual CDT conference, promotional videos, customer engagement, topical discussion meetings, and outreach events.
International Impact. The quality, variety and depth of our international collaborations will help to facilitate the transfer and dissemination of knowledge, primarily through the movement of people. Students will be strongly encouraged to experience and work in other institutions as well as with our industrial partners. We have established in-principle agreements with more than 20 overseas partners and with 16 industrial partners. Visits will be bidirectional where possible, to optimise the opportunities for knowledge transfer.


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