Due to the ongoing uncertainty with regards to Covid-19 we are following Swansea University policy and the M2A team are currently working from home. The M2A remains open and can be contacted via the usual phone number, email and social media channels. If you have applied for one of our projects the interview schedule may be affected. We will contact applicants in due course with further information.

Development of coated silicon microneedles for vaccine smart patch.

Key Information

Supervisors: Prof O Guy, Dr S Sharma, Dr J Mitchell and Dr H Ashraf(SPTS)

Expected Interview Date: April 2021.

Join us for our Virtual Open Day on March 17th 2021 to discover more about the M2A and what we have to offer as a scheme.

SPTS Technologies, a KLA company, designs, manufactures, sells, and supports etch, PVD, CVD and MDS capital equipment, providing advanced wafer processing technologies and solutions for the semiconductor and microelectronics industry. SPTS are experts in semiconductor film coatings, deposition and etch technology, their revenue generation is from equipment sales and support services supplied to customers in major foundries and IDMs servicing end-market applications including micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), advanced packaging, LED, high-speed RF device IC’s and power semiconductors. SPTS have a growing activity in technology and products related to BioMEMS and have been developing microneedle technology with Swansea University for drug and vaccine delivery applications.

SPTS Technologies - a global leader in wafer processing equipment for the semiconductor and related industries - have been working with Swansea University to apply novel deep-etch and deposition plasma process technology to Bio microelectromechanical systems (Bio-MEMS) and healthcare products.


One of these technologies is hollow silicon microneedles (see figure 1). They are the longest “out of plane“, sharpest silicon microneedles in the world and have been demonstrated for insulin delivery (see figure 2) and cell delivery.


More recently, our microneedles have been used in the development of a smart patch for vaccine delivery and detection of a successful response to the vaccine by the body.


This could ultimately be used for vaccination and testing of vaccination efficacy for COVID and other viruses.

This project will develop the silicon etch process technology to scale up the microneedle fabrication process from 100mm diameter wafers to 150mm diameter wafers – enabling more microneedle chips to be produced at lower cost. The process will be optimised using silicon smoothing and improved photolithography processes. The project will incorporate a self-release etch step into the fabrication process, so that microneedles can be easily separated from the wafer into individual devices. The project will develop new plasma coating techniques to coat the microneedle in thin films which may be water repellent or non-stick, insulating or metallic. This will be achieved using Chemical Vapour Deposition, Molecular Vapour Deposition and electroplating.

This will allow development of a range of microneedle products for a variety of health and cosmetic applications.  

The EngD student will used the facilities at the Centre for Nanohealth and the new £90 million Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM).

The semiconductor community in South Wales is expanding rapidly and the EngD student will receive the training and preparation skills highly appropriate to a career in the semiconductor industry.


Figure 1: An array of hollow silicon microneedles

Figure 2: Silicon microneedles fitted to a syringe, used to inject insulin.

The Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) in the College of Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry; providing access to world­class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. The M2A is committed to providing top quality research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners.

Interwoven through the research study are business, technical and entrepreneurial courses, designed to support and prepare participants for a senior role in industry or academia, on completion of their studies. Research Engineers may participate in our career mentoring system, offering opportunity to engage with M2A alumni and other senior staff from across the University.

The Athena SWAN charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committee to addressing unequal gender representation. Applications from women are particularly welcomed. 

Sponsoring Company SPTS Technologies Ltd.
Company Website Eligibility

We welcome applications from candidates with an honours degree in a relevant discipline (minimum level 2:1), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level.
Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g. IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application.
Full eligibility can be found at https://www.materials-academy.co.uk/eligibility


Fees at UK/EU rate and Stipend £20,000.00, both for the period of four years.
For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website. Student Eligibility | M2A (materials-academy.co.uk)
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is not open to ‘International’ candidates.

Closing Date 5 April 2021

Start Date October 2021

Download Application Pack

Applications and informal enquiries about this studentship should be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk