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PhD Studentship: Energy Harvesting from Ship Structures and Machinery

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £18,000 enhanced tax-free stipend per year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th December 2018
Closes: 11th January 2019

Supervisor: Dr Alex Weddell

Co-supervisor: Dr Nick Harris

Project description

This project is jointly supported by the Lloyd’s Register International Consortium of Nanotechnologies (ICoN) scheme, offering an enhanced tax-free stipend of £18,000 per year, with significant additional funding for travel and consumables. This opportunity is only open to UK/EU students (subject to EPSRC residence requirements).

With increased utilisation of assets, reduction in personnel, and pressure on maintenance spend and schedules, equipment maintenance on ships needs to be smarter. By adding sensors pervasively to the ship’s structure and equipment, it will be possible to monitor their condition and plan appropriate intervention rather than ‘running to failure’ or performing maintenance on a periodic basis. If such systems are deployed across the merchant fleet, big data and the Industrial Internet of Things could enable historical data collected globally to refine models of the characteristics of each type of motor, pump engine, etc. to improve reliability and safety of operation for all. 

If we are to enable this vision, though, we need to overcome issues with sensor deployment and installation, which typically require cables to be run to each sensor. Wireless sensors exist, but are typically battery-powered. Energy harvesting-based systems are emerging, but are highly application dependent, relying on certain environmental energy being present. This project addresses the practicalities of energy harvesting in this environment.

The project will be split into three phases: 

  1. Improved understanding of energy availability in ship environment: by carrying out extensive site surveys across a range of vessels, collecting long-term data (e.g. for 24 hours) on a range of parameters including vibration and temperature difference, we will build up a database of these parameters that can be used to aid design of future systems. We will also explore the potential for wireless power transfer in this environment.
  2. Identification of the “best” energy harvesting resource: by post-processing this data, developing and using models of energy harvesters, power conditioning circuits, and sensor nodes, we can identify the most appropriate energy harvester and other system components to deliver the required operation, resulting in a recommendation.
  3. Trial deployment of sensor nodes: designed using the strategy outlined above, self-powered sensor systems will be developed and deployed on a ship to monitor parameters of interest. The sensors will be deployed for an extended period (at least a month) to verify whether the energy harvesting system is performing as expected, and to act as a proof-of-concept for self-powered sensing in this environment.

Please contact: Dr Alex Weddell for further details. 

Key facts

Entry requirements: first or upper second-class degree or equivalent, preferably in Electrical/Electronic Engineering, or a closely-related engineering discipline. Applicants should have a strong background in practical electronics and microcontroller programming. 

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 11 January 2019 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Duration: three years (full-time) 

Funding: full tuition fees, for UK/EU students (subject to EPSRC residence requirements), and an enhanced tax-free stipend of £18,000 per year.

Assessment: Nine month and 18 month reports, viva voce and thesis examination 

Start date: October 2019 (can be delayed if necessary, subject to approval) 


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