Chemical Engineering: Fully Funded EPSRC iCASE and TATA Steel PhD Scholarship: Development of Biomimetic Insulation Foams (RS616)

  • WalesWales


Closing date: 27 May 2024

Funding providers: EPSRC iCASE and TATA Steel UK

Subject areas: Chemistry, materials science, engineering

Project start date: 

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)


Aligned programme of study: PhD in Chemical Engineering

Mode of study: Full-time 

Project description: 

Tata Steel BSUK’s current sandwich panel insulation products offer an outstanding combination of light weight, low thermal conductivity and high fire resistance performance characteristics. However, the polyisocyanurate (PIR) rigid foam core that offers so many in-use benefits is currently made using chemicals derived largely from fossil fuels. Particularly problematic is the isocyanate component that makes up approximately 50% of the formulation but which is entirely fossil fuel-based. Hence, this project seeks to develop an alternative PIR foam that at least matches all the existing in-use performance characteristics of PIR foam but which is manufactured using either a bio-based isocyanate or is generated entirely without the use of an isocyanate. 

In seeking to develop a foam formulation containing a bio-based isocyanate, there will be a strong emphasis on generating the material from a biomass source that is cheap, readily available and relatively easy to make. Compatibility with the polyol component of the formulation is vital to foam quality and consistency and is an important aspect of the experimental work. The scaling potential of the biomass conversion process will also be considered and, if required, methods to improve the speed etc will be investigated. 

A few laboratory-scale examples of non-isocyanate polyurethane foam systems have been demonstrated in the literature and will form the starting point for the current work. This appears to be a relatively new field and offers great development scope but vital to a successful outcome will be the suitability of the kinetics to a foaming reaction. This unknown will be studied and, if necessary, methodologies will be developed to ensure compatibility. 

Analysis and testing of development materials will form a key part of the project and a range of state of the art characterisation facilities is available at Swansea University. These are further supported by performance testing facilities (e.g. fire) at BSUK’s manufacturing facility at Shotton in North Wales. 

Financial margins in the construction sector tend to be very tight so any new developments must offer outstanding performance at a competitive price. The cost implications and scale-up potential of any new insulation material are vital to product success and such considerations will form the basis of a technoeconomic analysis. 

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) in Engineering or similar relevant science discipline. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements (see country specific qualifications). 

English Language: IELTS 6.5 Overall (with no individual component below 5.5) or Swansea University recognised equivalent. Full details of our English Language policy, including certificate time validity, can be found here. 

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

UKRI iCASE studentships are available to home and international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise international students, once the limit has been reached, we are unable to make offers to international students. We are still accepting applications from international applicants. International students will not be charged the fee difference between the UK and international rate. Applicants should satisfy the UKRI eligibility requirements.


Please note that the programme requires some applicants to hold ATAS clearance, further details on ATAS scheme eligibility are available on the UK Government website. 

ATAS clearance IS NOT required to be held as part of the scholarship application process, successful award winners (as appropriate) are provided with details as to how to apply for ATAS clearance in tandem with scholarship course offer. 

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please email with the web-link to the scholarship(s) you are interested in. 


This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend of £19,237 plus an additional set payment of £1,500 per year.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

  1. Course choice – please select Chemical Engineering / PhD / Full-time / 3 Year / October

    In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

  2. Start year – please select 2024
  3. Funding (page 8) –
  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS616 - Insulation Foams’

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

We encourage you to complete the following to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University: 

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via e-mail). We strongly advise you to provide the listed supporting documents by the advertised application closing date. Please note that your application may not be considered without the documents listed:

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • A cover letter including a ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ to explain why the position particularly matches your skills and experience and how you choose to develop the project.
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting English Language requirement (if applicable).
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of EDI form submission (optional) 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Professor Peter Holliman (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

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