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Mr Olly Duncan BEng, MSc

Research Associate


Olly's PhD "Auxetic foams for sports applications" followed on from his MSc project in the same area, completed as part of the Sports Engineering course offered by the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University, which he started in 2014. His role as a post-doctoral research associate focusses on fabricating and testing auxetic materials for sporting and military personal protective equipment, regularly using the state of the art digital image correlation and impact testing equipment recently acquired by the Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts.


Olly is an early career researcher, having recently submitted his PhD thesis. Despite his early stage, he is building up a good list of outputs; with nine journal papers, extended conference papers and book chapters published during his PhD. For his Post-Doctoral position, he is fabricating closed cell auxetic foams; something that manufacturers of sporting and military/police protective equipment have expressed significant interest in.

Through his previous PhD scholarship as a Graduate Teaching Associate, Olly managed successful final year, placement and MSc projects and developed his teaching and lecturing. Although his current position does not involve any teaching, he is always keen to share details of his work; which takes counterintuitive material characteristics and clearly shows their benefits. He is a member of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research's Design Engineering Research Theme, through which his PhD has been summarised in a recent blog article.

As a member of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA) he has secured funding to travel to Canada and test smart materials in sports helmets, where he will give talks at local Universities, Hospitals and Ski Fields. He is also an Associate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Awards for his research include:

• Best student presentation, 1st UK Sports Engineering Seminar Day, 2017

• 3rd Prize in the Young researchers Forum, 9th Conference in Auxetic Materials

Specialist areas of interest

  • Auxetic materials;
  • Sports materials;
  • Impact protection;
  • Mechanical testing
  • Polymers


Funded by Sheffield Hallam University (Faculty of STA GTA studentship; Creating Knowledge Platform Challenge Fund) and external companies.

This project is focused on developing new and improved materials for sporting impact protection and is in collaboration with the Centre for Sports Engineering Research and also Manchester Metropolitan University. The work focusses on three main areas: i) taking a fundamental look at the indentation resistance of auxetic foam, and findings suggest even greater improvements than theoretically expected are possible, ii) Fabrication of large area or volume isotropic, anisotropic and gradient one-piece auxetic open cell foams, characterised at low speed and under impact. Substantial reductions in peak force have been found for the auxetic foams; iii) Fabrication of closed cell auxetic foams, which could be directly applied to a wide range of personal protective equipment, running shoes and crash pads (to name a few). 

His academic collaborators include/have included: Manchester Metropolitan Univesrity, École de technologie supérieure (Montreal, Canada), University of Malta Malta (Malta)


Journal articles

Duncan, O., Bailly, N., Allen, T., Petit, Y., Wagnac, E., & Alderson, A. (2021). Effect of compressive strain rate on auxetic foam. Applied Sciences, 11 (3), e1207.

Duncan, O., Alderson, A., & Allen, T. (2021). Fabrication, characterisation and analytical modelling of gradient auxetic closed cell foams. Smart Materials and Structures.

Duncan, O., Allen, T., Birch, A., Foster, L., Hart, J., & Alderson, A. (2020). Effect of steam conversion on the cellular structure, Young's modulus and negative Poisson's ratio of closed-cell foam. Smart Materials and Structures, 30 (1), 015031.

Crespo, J., Duncan, O., Alderson, A., & Montáns, F.J. (2020). Auxetic orthotropic materials: Numerical determination of a phenomenological spline-based stored density energy and its implementation for finite element analysis. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 371, 113300.

Duncan, O., Clegg, F., Essa, A., Bell, A., Foster, L., Allen, T., & Alderson, A. (2019). Effects of heat exposure and volumetric compression on Poisson's ratios, Young's moduli and polymeric composition during thermo-mechanical conversion of auxetic open cell polyurethane foam. physica status solidi (b), 256 (1).

Duncan, O., Shepherd, T., Moroney, C., Foster, L., Venkatramam, P., Winwood, K., ... Alderson, A. (2018). Review of auxetic materials for sports applications: expanding options in comfort and protection. Applied Sciences, 8 (6), 941.

Foster, L., Peketi, P., Allen, T., Senior, T., Duncan, O., & Alderson, A. (2018). Application of auxetic foam in sports helmets. Applied Sciences, 8 (3), 354.

Duncan, O., Allen, T., Foster, L., Gatt, R., Grima, J.N., & Alderson, A. (2018). Controlling density and modulus in auxetic foam fabrications—-implications for impact and indentation testing. Proceedings, 2 (6), 250.

Allen, T., Hewage, T., Newton-Mann, C., Wang, W., Duncan, O., & Alderson, A. (2017). Fabrication of auxetic foam sheets for sports applications. physica status solidi (b), 254 (12), 1700596.

Duncan, O., Allen, T., Foster, L., Senior, T., & Alderson, A. (2017). Fabrication, characterisation and modelling of uniform and gradient auxetic foam sheets. Acta Materialia, 126, 426-437.

Duncan, O., Foster, L., Senior, T., Alderson, A., & Allen, T. (2016). Quasi-static characterisation and impact testing of auxeticfoam for sports safety applications. Smart Materials and Structures, 25 (5).

Conference papers

Allen, T., Duncan, O., Foster, L., Senior, T., Zampieri, D., Edeh, V., & Alderson, A. (2017). Auxetic foam for snowsport safety devices. In Snow sports trauma and safety: proceedings of the International Society of Skiing Safety. International Society for Skiing Safety:

Duncan, O., Foster, L., Senior, T., Allen, T., & Alderson, A. (2016). A comparison of novel and conventional fabrication methods for auxetic foams for sports safety applications. Procedia Engineering, 147, 384-389.

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