Developing a novel test method to determine the efficacy of antimicrobial materials

Funded PhD Scholarship


Antimicrobial surfaces (either materials incorporated with biocidal compounds, for example. silver, or materials coated to provide an antimicrobial action, for example. Ti02) are becoming a common design consideration in the development of environments where the presence of potentially pathogenic microorganisms may cause a considerable issue. Obvious examples include locations such as hospital wards and care homes, but antimicrobial products are often commercialised for the domestic environments as well as being included in air and water purification systems. Thus, it is important that any potential consumer or user of antimicrobial materials has confidence in the efficacy of the material, and that the ‘antimicrobial’ claim is justified. However, current test methods for efficacy assessment of antimicrobial materials are not modelled on a realistic end-use environment, being typically carried out in conditions of high humidity (>90%) and inappropriate temperature (37 °C), with no airflow (typically in a lab). In such an environment, an inoculum will not dry, resulting in an antimicrobial surface exhibiting activity extended over time, because moisture is usually critical to activity. However, in a hospital ward (lower humidity, lower temperature, air movement), liquids will dry more quickly and antimicrobial efficacy will be reduced compared to data generated by the currently accepted tests (e.g. BS ISO 22196:2011), which will be artificially favourable to the antimicrobial claim of the product. Therefore, the requirement for new and appropriate efficacy test methods is essential.
The aim of the project is to develop a robust testing protocol, and an apparatus that is easily fabricated and that generates reproducible environmental conditions.


Redfern, J., J. Tucker, L. Simmons, P. Askew, I. Stephan and J. Verran (2018). "Environmental and Experimental Factors Affecting Efficacy Testing of Nonporous Plastic Antimicrobial Surfaces." Methods and Protocols 1(4): 36.

Aims and objectives

The project will aim to design a prototype testing chamber, for use by microbiologists and those involved in the design/manufacture of novel antimicrobials, that is able to test efficacy of antimicrobial materials in an environment closer to that expected in a hospital ward. The chamber will be fabricated using 3D printing to enhance reproducibility and to ensure that products are effective at point of use.

This will be achieved by:

Specific requirements of the project

Interested candidates should have a Hons Bachelor/Master degree in biological sciences or mechanical/electrical engineering.

For those educated in biological sciences, understanding of standardised antimicrobial test methods as well as demonstrable microbiological skills is essential with an expectation to learn/understand key aspects of engineering/physics during the PhD. Competent use of CAD/CAM or 3D printing software would be beneficial.

For those educated in engineering, experience in electronic sensors and data processing and electronic design is essential and an understanding of how engineering principles can be transferred to other scientific disciplines, and in particular, an appreciation for how engineering can be applied to biology is advantageous.

The applicant should be keen to learn new experimental techniques and modelling methods which will vary between lab bench microbiology (comprehensive training will be provided), sensor technology, computer modelling and 3D printing.

Student eligibility

This opportunity is open to UK, EU and Overseas applicants. Modes of study available: Full time. Funding: Funding is available for the equivalent of UK/EU fees for three years, plus an annual stipend in line with the UKRI rate (currently £15,009). Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, but will need to pay the difference in fees.


Informal enquiries can be made to:

Dr James Redfern 

How to Apply

The quickest and most efficient way to apply for this course is to apply online. This way, you can also track your application at each stage of the process.

Apply online

Please quote the reference: SciEng-JR-2019-antimicrobial-1.

Please complete the additional Postgraduate Research Degree Supplementary Information document and upload it to the Student documents section of your online application. This collects important information about your research application and there may be delays if you do not submit this document.

Before you apply, we recommend that you:

Next Stages of Your Application

We will contact you to let you know the initial outcome of your application, and invite you to attend an interview where appropriate.

Once the university is satisfied with the following, we will send you an offer letter informing you that you have been offered a place of study:

Some offers may be conditional upon achieving certain grades in your examinations, or successfully completing a particular programme. You must satisfy these conditions before we can confirm your unconditional place.

Closing date

28 February 2020

Research Study