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PhD Studentship: Development of a PMMA- ZrO2 core shell composite for the next generation bone cement

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Saturday 31 August 2019
Reference:  1139819A3

Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded multidisciplinary PhD aiming to develop a new bone cement formulation for use in orthopaedic surgery. 

Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) bone cement has 50 years of clinical history as a fixation medium for orthopaedic implants.  However, its formulation has changed little since it is was first introduced, with only incremental changes in the mixing, insertion methods and the addition of antibiotics. For cemented prostheses, fatigue failure of the cement mantle is a major issue, as it causes loosening of the joint due to loss of fixation, which accounts for ~50% of revision operations. More recently the cement has been directly linked to damage to the metal stems and the triggering of adverse tissue reactions. The fatigue failure and the stem damage have both been directly linked to agglomerates of submicron particles of zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) or Barium Sulphate (BaSO4) added to provide an X-ray imaging contrast. 

This PhD is a collaboration between the School of Engineering and the School of Chemistry. The project will investigate a new route to making the bone cement radiopaque, by applying polymers to the surfaces of the X-ray opaque particles to form the pre-polymerized beads of the bone cement. By using this core-shell approach, the risk of agglomeration of the particles will be removed, reducing both the risk of fatigue failure and stem damage.

The project will initially focus on the development of a PMMA- ZrO2 core shell composite pre-polymerized bead. Once a viable production route has been established, the project will concentrate on the optimisation of the new cement formulation using the composite beads. The aim will be to provide the necessary level of radiopacity, while minimising the content of composite beads in the cement. Once identified, this cement formulation will then undergo fatigue and tribological testing to verify the enhancements in properties compared to current commercial cements.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr. Richard Cook, nCATS Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 592164.

Funding and Eligibility

This 3 year studentship covers UK/EU level tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend at the standard EPSRC rate, which is £15,009 for 2019/20. As part of the selection process, the strength of the whole application is taken into account, including academic qualifications, personal statement, CV and references. For further guidance on funding, please contact

How to Apply

Click here to apply and select the programme - PhD in Engineering and the Environment. Please enter the title of the PhD Studentship in the application form.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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