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PhD Scholarships

Nanophotonics for optimised food growth and lower energy consumption in greenhouses


Funded PhD


3 years (full-time) 5 years (part-time)

Application deadline:

10 February 2023

About this project

Applications are invited for a PhD project on metasurfaces for optimised food growth and lower energy consumption in greenhouses. This project is part of a PhD cluster on Sustainable Terrestrial and Maritime Food Systems: Environmental Technologies and their Implications. This particular PhD focusses on: (1) exploring the use of nanophotonic metasurfaces to tailor transmission of solar spectrum for optimum plant growth, while rejecting unwanted spectral bands, and (2) exploring means of passively adjusting the transmission spectrum of metasurfaces in the near-IR to control greenhouse internal temperature.

By isolating the crops from external factors, closed greenhouses represent a cornerstone in food safety, yielding the highest production per land area and greatly reduced water resources, along with greatly lowered risks from pests and diseases, resulting in higher quality products. However, inside such closed structures, light outside of the photosynthetically active radiation (plants’ absorption spectrum) either leads to plant damage and impact key pollinators (near-UV) or represents a major source of heat input (near-IR), which results in the largest energy consumption for greenhouses around temperature control. In this project, the successful candidate will design and develop metasurfaces that can dynamically control the light spectrum inside the greenhouse, without electricity. Those metasurfaces will simultaneously optimise the visible transmission for photosynthetic activity, therefore plant growth, while allowing for passive thermal management inside the greenhouse by dynamically controlling the transmission of the near-IR component, therefore greatly lowering energy consumption linked to food production.

The successful candidate will be based on the University of Hull campus and will be provided with physical workspace and the specific equipment and resources needed for their research. The successful student will benefit from joining a collaborative, multidisciplinary and nurturing environment, and will be provided with excellent opportunities for external networking. We will hold regular meetings with the entire cluster, with opportunities to present and discuss research, invite internal and external speakers and collaborators and foster networking.

For informal inquiries, please contact Dr Jean-Sebastien Bouillard or Dr Ali Adawi.


Join us at a free webinar at 6 pm on Thursday 1 December for more information about the funded projects available through this cluster. You will be able to hear from PhD supervisors and ask questions about the programme.


About the research cluster


Sustainable terrestrial and maritime food systems: environmental technologies and their implications

This PhD project is part of a cluster of inter-related, inter-disciplinary projects, which between them focus on the implications of environmental technologies for the practices of people involved in primary food production on both land and sea. Our food and energy production systems contribute significantly to environmental problems, including climate change, and technological solutions are often proposed as ways of reducing their carbon footprints. Yet these can be challenging to implement and can have unanticipated effects on the practices of those engaged in farming and fishing. This cluster of projects involves a combination of scientific projects aiming to develop and test different environmental technologies, and social science projects aiming to look at the effects on the practices of primary food producers as society aims for a low carbon world. Specifically, the cluster will: 1. advance the development of two technologies for use in terrestrial food production and examine the implications of these for farmers, and 2. examine the effects on the small-scale fishing industry of high energy prices and large scale offshore wind deployment.

As part of a PhD cluster, in addition to becoming an expert in your own area you will join a collaborative, multidisciplinary and nurturing environment with other researchers around a common theme. You will be part of regular cluster meetings where you can present and discuss your research, as well as engaging with the wider community of postgraduate researchers in the university. You will have opportunities to build relationships with external stakeholders, and you will be supported in development towards your future career – whether that be within or without academia.

How to apply

You will need to supply a personal statement when applying for this scholarship position. Find out more about writing a personal statement. Please also ensure you include the following information:

  1. What motivates you to pursue PhD study
  2. Why you are interested in this project
  3. How your skill set matches the requirements for your choice of project and/or any additional training you will need
  4. The wider significance of research in this area and potential future research directions for the project.

Apply for this scholarship Full time | Part time

Closing date for applications

10 February 2023

Start date

18 September 2023

Postgraduate Rebecca Humphries & Georgia Sykes walking by HUBS Wharfe Building

University of Hull's Doctoral College provides support to postgraduate research students. Offering skills development opportunities and dedicated facilities, the college is here to help you achieve your potential.


  • The successful applicant will receive a fee waiver and a maintenance grant/stipend for three years (full-time) or five years (part-time), which covers the research period of the PhD. The fee waiver for 22/23 is £4,596 (Home fee) and the maintenance grant is £17,668 per annum. This rises each year in line with the UKRI’s recommended stipend allowance.
  • If you need to move into a fourth year (full-time) or sixth year (part-time) to complete your thesis, please note that you will not receive a tuition fee waiver or maintenance grant during this period and you will be required to pay a continuation fee.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st or 2:1 undergraduate qualification in physics, material science, or electrical engineering, together with good simulation and programming skills. A taught Masters degree or Masters by Research in a relevant subject would be an advantage, but is not required.

For more details on our entry requirements please visit the postgraduate admissions webpage.

This scholarship is available for full-time and part-time study.

International applicants

This opportunity comes with a Home fee waiver only, which will not cover the full International fee. You will therefore need to pay the difference between the Home fee and the International fee every year and will need to provide evidence that you have sufficient funds to cover this.

The amount you will have to pay will depend on the PhD programme that you will be registered on. International fees for PhD programmes at Hull range from £15,200 to £23,900 per annum.

Below is an illustration of what that could mean for you, based on the highest international fee in 2022. Fees rise each year so the example below is an approximation only.

Maximum international fee: £23,900

Home fee waiver: £4,596

Difference to pay per annum: £19,304

Submission of thesis

Submission of your final thesis is expected within three years and three months from the start of your PhD scholarship for full time and within five years and six months if studying part-time.

Research training

As a PhD student here at the University of Hull you will undertake the Postgraduate Training Scheme alongside your main degree, to help you develop the research skills and knowledge you’ll need in your future career. You will gain an additional Certificate or Diploma in Research Training in addition to your PhD.