Study level


Master of Philosophy

Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Cheng Yan
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Engineering


A fundamental challenge when designing materials for mechanical use is to attain both strength and toughness in one body. Conventional metallic materials generally have relatively large plasticity due to having a massive population of microstructural defects and effective plastic deformation mechanism. This has been exploited for fabricating tolerant (toughness) materials for structural applications. However, these structural defects render the materials relatively low strength and a low load-bearing capability.

In contrast, ceramics and intermetallic compounds have higher strengths, owing to their stronger interatomic bonding, but a low tolerance to flaws and cracks. This has been an intrinsic contradiction and dilemma in materials design for high toughness as well as high strength.

We've observed toughness and strength in biomaterials, whose hard and soft phases are arranged into unique and hierarchical architectures. Recently, we developed new polymer and ceramic based composites with hierarchical architectures and balanced properties. This project aims to develop new composites of mechanical properties that push the known boundaries of engineering materials.

Research activities

In this project, it's necessary to understand the underpinning toughening mechanisms and develop reliable procedures that can mimic these unique structures at different length scales.

We'll utilise multiple processes to understand the structure-property relationship, including:

  • material processing
  • mechanical and material characterisation
  • numerical modelling .

The potential applications include implants and scaffolds for biomedical engineering and lightweight structural materials.


The expected outcomes of the project include:

  • a novel nanoscience-based materials design strategy
  • new composites of superior mechanical properties.

These outcomes will innovate our structural materials technology with the potential to add value to Australia's materials manufacturing industries.

Skills and experience

To be considered for this project, you're expected to have a background in:

  • mechanical engineering
  • materials science
  • chemistry
  • physics.

You must also be interested in conducting either experimental investigations or numerical modelling.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.