BSc Honours (Physics) - University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, MSc (Physics) - University of Port Elizabeth, PhD (Physics) - University of Port Elizabeth, Diploma in Project Management - School for Project Management, Pretoria, South Africa
I currently serve as Deputy Head of School for Engineeering and Computer Science with specific responsibility for international liaison.
Over my career my research activities have spanned the range from basic research on thin film fabrication and material properties all through to the development of commercial of quartz resonators. My current research is focussed on the broad field of electronic materials, sensors and instrumentation systems with the focus in the following areas:
(i) The development of impedance based sensors and instrumentation systems for geophysical and industrial measurements. These systems are used in measurements on microstructure evolution in sea-ice and in measuring the structure and properties of aquiver sands.
(ii) The development of materials for application in sensors and energy systems. This includes the development of piezoelectric and metal thin films for fabrication of ultrasonic transducers or plasmonic sensors as well as porous metal films with potential for enhanced heat transfer and phase change applications.
(iii) In the past I have also been involved in the development of various sensor and instrumentation systems with a strong industrial focus. These include development of mobile nuclear magnetic resonance systems or dielectric measurement instrumentation for transformer oil aging.
Potential PhD Projects
A number of potential PhD projects are available in the area of sensor instrumentation and microstructured materials for sensors or energy applications. Some examples of these projects are:
1. Instrumentation and methods for detection of oil spils under sea ice.
The expansion of oil exploration and extraction in Arctic regions dramatically increases the potential for an oil spill in this pristine environment. In collaboration with the University of Alaska in Fairbanks we are developing a sensor system that will serve as an early detection system for an oil leak from a pipeline under the ice. These sensors will use impedance based methods to detect the presence of a layer of oil under the ice and also aim to monitor the movement of oil into the ice as the ice starts to warm inh the spring.
2. Microstructured surfaces for phase change enhancement and heat transfer enhancement.
The use of microstructured surfaces have been shown by many workers to be able to enhance heat transfer during phase change processes such as boiling, evaporation and condensation. This project will study the impact of microstructured silver surfaces as an aid in enhancing boiling and evaporation. It will fabricate surface with different wettability and measure the heat transfer associated with these processes in order to link factors such as microstructure and surface chemistry to the observed wettability and heat transfer rates.
3. Heat flow during drop impact and evaporation
In many industrial processes such as spray cooling or spray drying, the evaporation of small droplets is a critical process step. This project will look at the heat transfer process as sub-millimetre sized drops impacts on a solid surface. It will particularly focus on the use of methods such as luminescence and/or IR thermometry to obtain a measure of drop impact and heat transfer on different surface types.
4. Use of nano- and microparticles for producing porous ceramics.
In many instances in the production of industrial ceramics it is advantages that the ceramic contains pores or voids with a specific alignment. This project studies the use of nanoparticles and rods by means of magnetic alignment in order to create piezoelectric ceramics with superior properties. It will firstly study the experimental conditions needed for nanoparticle manipulation and alignment and then attempt to produce ceramics with an idealised pore structure.
Applying for a PhD
Candidates are expected to have obtained a good First Class Honours degree in an area such as Electronic Engineering, Physics or Material Science. In addition, a Masters degree in a similar field is preferred. A strong interest in microfabrication and hands-on experience in the design, construction implementation of scientific instrumentation will be of benefit. A small number of PhD scholarships (consisting of a tax free stipend of around $23 000 per year in addition to university fees) is competitively available to oustanding applicants.
If you are interested in applying for a PhD position please contact me by email and include a CV, all transcripts of previous studies as well as copies of your academic writing. Also have a look at the VUW guide to the PhD application process.
For a list of my recent publications, please see the Publications Database