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EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing: Aircraft Fuel Pump of the Future

Cranfield University - Cranfield University and Airbus Operations UK

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cranfield
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £20,000 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 11th July 2018
Closes: 11th October 2018
Reference: SATM0065

Research Supervisor at Cranfield: Dr. Craig Lawson
Supporting Company: Airbus Operations UK
Job ref: SATM0065
Eligibility: UK, EU
Duration: 4 years


Cranfield University and Airbus Operations UK are seeking a top class candidate to undertake research leading to the award of an International Engineering Doctorate awarded jointly by the Universities of Warwick, Exeter and Cranfield. As a ‘research engineer’ on our International Doctorate programme you will have unrivalled access to some of the best teaching and industrial expertise in the world, across three universities.

 While you will be based at Cranfield University and Airbus Operations UK, you will also spend time at Warwick and Exeter Universities to give you the broadest possible experience.

Project overview:

Aircraft fuel pumps have relied on mature designs over the last decades. An electrically driven impellor provides the required flowrate and pressure jump at the pump outlet. The electric motors are traditionally based on AC induction principles with either fixed or wild frequency capabilities. The AC power provision leads to a simple and robust operating mode at a constant pump operating point. Pumps also indicate failure via a simple ON/OFF pressure switch function. 

Newer pump generations incorporate powerful brushless DC motors and the required electronics module to provide variable pressure and flow rates. Hence a single pump model may be employed for multiple functions such as engine feed and transfer, by optimizing its design for a compromise of operating points. This requires review of the impeller design as its operation will now see various rpms. With this new level of pump control, different operational scenarios may be possible in terms of fuel transfer strategies across tanks, potentially leading to downsized components or reduction in valve closure cycles.

Such pumps also have the capability, based on the integrated power electronics, to gather additional pump health data. This allows for prediction of maintenance and faults and enables cost savings for airlines due to reduced operational interruptions.

The pump of the future will incorporate such features, providing high reliability and operational efficiency for various fuel system functions. Novel sensing techniques will be developed to measure parameters including pressure and flow rate. By gathering additional health data for the electric motor and impeller under fluid mechanic and flight environmental conditions, a big data based fault & maintenance prediction approach is possible. This may then be extended to the fleet level for further data gathering.

Entry Requirements


Candidates should have a minimum of an upper second (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) in mechanical, electrical or aerospace engineering.

The Studentship

Qualifying students an attractive enhanced stipend which could be tax and NI free depending on your personal circumstances, paid by the Centre and topped up by a contribution from Airbus Operations UK. For 2018 this totals approximately £20,000 tax free per annum.


This project is open to resident UK or EU students under current funding regulations and restrictions. Non-UK/EU students and Non-UK resident EU students meeting the academic requirements are also welcome to apply as a small proportion of places are available which provide funding to cover a proportion of the fees and provide a stipend. They may also apply if they are able to self-fund the 4 year programme.

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