Flexible and Conformable Origami Metasurfaces

Driven by recent advances in manufacturing, materials sciences, and a concatenation of demanding engineering challenges, structured materials with novel properties and encoded functionalities are gaining more attention given their versatility to tackle problems in variety of situations. At the forefront of this endeavour, origami designs play a role in a broad range of highly advanced man-made gadgets, such as engineering of large deployable solar sails in space and life-saving heart stents.

This project focuses on Flexible and Conformable Origami Metasurfaces—theory, manufacturing and experimentation. We will seek to understand how origami structures may significantly change their geometry and undergo large deformations in response to a variety of external stimuli. Challenging problems arise when trying to programme their mechanics and control their shape in the non-linear regime; hence, being able to derive predictive mathematical models is central to this project. When excessive deformation is applied, these structures may become unstable along their equilibrium path wherein non-trivial post-buckling behaviour would require careful analysis. Beyond the instability threshold, rapid and dramatic changes of the internal geometry occur. However, when carefully designed, the initial architecture may lead to the formation of shapes and motions that display predictable, adaptable, and desirable mechanical responses.

Examples of questions to be addressed:

• Focusing on pleated sheets and shells, can we propose generalised mathematical models for origami kinematics with an overall view of producing form finding structures?

• Is it possible to advance the mechanical description of origami metasurfaces and find a generalised and homogenisation models that relax rigidity constraints typically enforced in traditional origami?

• Can we have design principles that apply across multiple scales, from table top experiments (e.g., 3D printed) to larger timber structures?

An ideal candidate must have a strong desire to work in theoretical mechanics and/or applied mathematics, with a good knowledge of the mechanics of thin and slender structures (plates, shells, and rods), and stability theory. Experience with analytical modelling, finite element/discrete element simulations, and willingness to take on activities involving table-top experimental mechanics are required. Knowledge of differential geometry, 3D printing, Topology Optimisation, Rhinoceros 3D, and/or continuation software will be a plus. The successful candidate is expected to conduct an ambitious research program and engage in the interdisciplinary research with local and international groups.

Further Information: 


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: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Principal Supervisor: 


Undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, or Mathematics. 

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.


 Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere.

Competition (EPSRC) funding may be available for an exceptional candidate but please note you must be a UK student or an EU student who has lived in the UK 3+ years.  This will be allocated around spring 2022 – please enquire.

Further information and other funding options.