Development of solar-powered self-healing 3D printed composite structures

Development of solar-powered self-healing 3D printed composite structures

4D printed devices are Additive Manufactured components with shape-shifting capabilities [1]. The technology is based on multifunctional Shape Memory Composites that can restore their original shape upon exposure to external stimuli like temperature, humidity, or light [2,3]. 4D printing has the potential to disrupt the conception of smart devices embedded in a variety of applications, such as autonomous sensing soft robots or morphing structures, however, further efforts are needed to advance the field and develop structures with reliable self-assembling, self-deployment and self-healing capabilities for engineering applications.

The aim of this project is to develop a self-healing structure produced by additive manufacturing. An electro-thermo-mechanical approach is proposed to trigger the shape change when applying an electric current and inducing the Joule effect [4,5]. This structure will be 3D printed using reinforced polymer filaments. The choice of material will be crucial and will constitute one of the first phases of this work. The material must have shape memory capabilities, good electrical conductivity and superior shock absorption capacity. The electrical power required to trigger the repair process can be supplied by photovoltaic panels, i.e. using solar energy. A suitable electronic assembly will be developed for this purpose. Numerical simulations will be carried out to optimise the architecture of the meta-material created. The influence of this architecture on the self-healing capacity, conductivity and mechanical behaviour of the structure will be analysed. In addition, the repeatability of the self-repair phenomenon will also be studied in order to guarantee the durability of the structure.

This research project will result in the development of innovative self-healing structures activated by solar energy. The results obtained could be useful in various engineering fields, where the parts manufactured must be durable, lightweight and capable of repairing themselves in the event of damage.

This project will also be supervised by Fabienne Touchard (ISAE-ENSMA)

Start date of the PhD thesis: end 2024.

Duration of the PhD thesis: 3 years.

Course of the PhD thesis: 2 years in France (Laval and Poitiers), and 1 year in the United Kingdom (Edinburgh).


To apply:

Send before 30 April 2024 to the email address given on the advert:

- CV.

- a motivation letter in English.

- a copy of your last diploma.

- a transcript of last semester's marks and grades.

Further Information: 

[1] Darji, V., Singh, S., Mali, HS, ‘Mechanical characterization of additively manufactured polymer composites: A state-of-the-art review and future scope.’ Polymer Composites 1548-0569, 2023, 10.1002.

[2] G. Ehrmann and A. Ehrmann, ‘3D printing of shape memory polymers’, J Appl Polym Sci, vol. 138, no. 34, p. 50847, Sep. 2021, doi: 10.1002/app.50847.

[3] Aldawood, FK., ‘A Comprehensive Review of 4D Printing: State of the Arts, Opportunities, and Challenges’, Actuators, 2076-0825, 2023,12,3,101.

[4] Roumy, Laurane, et al. "Electro-Mechanical Characterisation and Damage Monitoring by Acoustic Emission of 3D-Printed CB/PLA." Materials 17.52024: 1047, 2024.

[5] Robin, Delbart, et al. "Multiscale characterisation of the electrical response of 3d printed carbon black polylactic acid." Journal of Materials Science 58(32): 13118-13135, 2023.

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here:

Closing Date: 

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 

Thuy Quynh Truong Hoang


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.

Master's level or equivalent, in mechanics of materials, with both an experimental and numerical profile.


Funding requested: AID grant (includes fees and stipend French rate). Open to students from the EU, the UK and Switzerland.

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: