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PhD Studentship Hierarchically Designed Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting Materials for Application in Flexible Systems

University of Bath - Mechanical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009 maintenance stipend, Home/EU tuition fees, training support fee of £3,000 per annum for up to 3.5 years
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 20th September 2019
Closes: 31st October 2019

Supervisory Team: Dr Hamideh Khanbareh & Prof Chris Bowen 

Email Inquiries: h.khanbareh@bath.ac.uk 

Project:

The high-strain environment of automotive tyres leads to deformations, allowing energy to be harvested using piezoelectric materials to power electronics such as Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). This project will provide harvesting materials for an autonomous wireless sensor system with a reduced reliance on batteries, which will simplify sensor maintenance and management, and thereby improve safety and reduce waste associated with disposable batteries. 

The aim of this project is to create novel piezo-composite materials with enhanced performance, including high piezoelectric activity, thermal stability and endurance, to effectively harvest mechanical energy in flexible systems such as car tyres. This innovative project will involve collaboration with Silent Sensors Ltd, an Internet of Things (IoT) company with a focus on intelligent tyres. 

Present piezo-ceramic materials and devices are brittle and cannot be operated reliably under the high strain conditions in a car tyre unless elaborate stress transfer mechanisms are employed, which increase complexity and cost. While piezo-polymer devices provide toughness and flexibility, they do not satisfy the operating thermal requirements (up to 100°C) for use in such an environment. However, functionally optimised piezo-ceramic-polymer composites that combine piezoelectric ceramics and a thermally resistant polymer matrix can be designed to fulfil the requirements by making appropriate choices of the constituent phases and microstructure. Furthermore, these composites are suitable for low-cost mass production and easy integration into high strain systems. 

The project is funded by Silent Sensors Ltd, a unique Internet of Things company focused on tyre management and in-tyre sensor platforms for fuel efficiency and accident reduction. They will bring practical understanding of integration of the energy harvesting devices to monitor tyres whilst on the road using services made of RFID tags and data delivery through the Cloud to in-field Apps. This will increase the performance and reduce the total cost of operations. 

The Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Bath is looking for a highly motivated candidate to: 

  • Design, synthesise and fabricate next generation of flexible, stretchable piezoelectric materials
  • Characterise materials properties using dielectric spectroscopy, impedance spectroscopy as well as direct piezoelectric measurement of charge and voltage output. Thermo-mechanical properties will be tested using TGA, DSC and DMTA. Microstructure of the composites will be analysed using SEM.
  • Map the effect of porosity, and develop a model to predict the effective electromechanical properties of composites
  • Optimise the energy harvesting FOM based on properties of the constituent materials
  • Characterise different electrode materials
  • Mount the manufactured flexible piezo energy harvesters inside a car-tyre and evaluate the signal
  • Develop a self-powered system based on the existing TPMS devices 

Application:

Successful applicants will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with a First class honours MSc degree (or overseas equivalent) in materials/chemical/mechanical/electrical engineering, physics or similar disciplines. Knowledge of MATLAB, LabVIEW and Signal Processing would be advantageous. English language requirements must be met at point of offer. 

Applicants should send their CV in the first instance to h.khanbareh@bath.ac.uk. A full electronic application will be required to progress further. 

Funding:

UK/EU awards cover tuition fees, a training support fee of £3,000/annum, and a standard tax-free maintenance payment of £15,009 (2019/20 rate) for a duration of 3.5 years. 

Expected start date: As soon as possible (this may be negotiable)

   
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