PhD Studentship on Characterisation of Water Infrastructure using Impedance Spectroscopy

University of Sheffield - Civil and Structural Engineering

Applications are invited for a fully-funded 3 year PhD studentship. This is an exciting opportunity to apply and develop your skills in an interdisciplinary setting, with cutting edge facilities and strong industrial engagement.

Project description

This project will study advanced methods to remotely monitor buried water infrastructure using advanced impedance spectroscopy and signal processing. The project is part of the £138m UKCRIC collaboration and will make full use of Sheffield’s ground-breaking new ERDF-funded iCAIR/CIRIUS facility.

Efficient and timely maintenance of buried water infrastructure is uniquely challenging given its inaccessibility, and its distributed and hazardous nature. When poorly maintained, water distribution and wastewater/stormwater drainage systems can fail, resulting in contamination or loss of water supply, catastrophic flooding, and even loss of life. For water companies, it can mean significant fines and loss of public confidence.

A significant barrier to timely maintenance of these systems is the difficulty of monitoring the conditions inside remote and buried pipework. In water distribution infrastructure, accurate measurements of contamination and biofilm characteristics can facilitate proactive cleaning and repair. In drainage networks, measurements of sediment deposition and propensity to re-suspend can enable models to identify increased blockage and flooding risk, and thereby inform maintenance strategies.

This PhD project will combine recent Sheffield work on low-cost impedance-based sewer sensors with advanced system identification techniques, also developed at Sheffield. The research is part of a collaboration that combines civil and electrical engineering. It would therefore suit a student with an interdisciplinary background or the desire and ability to expand their skills into new areas.

You will develop a multi-probe measurement platform for water infrastructure, exploiting wide bandwidth identification techniques to identify accumulation such as sediments and biofilms. You will be able to conduct bench-scale development in our specialist water labs and use the full-scale iCAIR facility to validate in a field-deployable scenario. You should have a desire to disseminate the new scientific understanding of electrical material characterisation and in-situ properties via journal publications and international conferences. Ultimately the new science and technology will enable a novel proactive approach to infrastructure management, saving costs and saving lives.

The successful applicant will join the successful and friendly Pennine Water Group in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and also benefit from co-supervision from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

Funding notes

Awards for UK students cover tuition fees and a maintenance allowance at the standard RCUK rate - currently £14,553 per annum. EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately preceding the start of their course are also eligible for awards that cover tuition fees and provide a maintenance allowance.

The candidate

Suitable for candidates holding or anticipating award of an MSc, or 1st/2.1 undergraduate degree in an engineering or numerical/physical sciences discipline. A background in electrical and/or civil engineering is desirable. Candidates should have an enthusiasm for research and a wish to deploy outputs in a practical environment.

Next steps

Informal enquiries are very welcome. Please contact Dr Andrew Nichols on 0114 222 0256 or or Dr Jonathan Davidson on 0114 222 5825 or , or

Applications are welcome now, and the project can start immediately. The start date is flexible but the successful candidate must have enrolled before 1 March 2018.

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Northern England