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PhD Studentship: All-in-One Mars In-situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) System and Life-supporting using Non-thermal Plasma

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: The funding covers EU/UK fees and stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th September 2022
Closes: 31st December 2022
 

Supervisory Team:    Min Kwan Kim and Alexander Wittig 

Project description

This PhD project aims to develop and optimise an All-in-One in-situ resource utilisation system for future crewed Mars exploration missions and explore the feasibility of using non-thermal plasmas for removing both biological and chemical contaminants in extracted water from the surface of Mars and generating oxygen and rocket fuel from CO2 in the Martian atmosphere. 

Water, oxygen, and fuel are the most important resources for future human Mars exploration missions as they are crucial to keep astronauts alive and ensure a safe journey to our home planet, Earth. It is not feasible to carry all required amounts of water, oxygen and fuel for the entire duration of the mission due to the duration of the Mars exploration mission. In-situ resource utilisation (ISRU), therefore, is the only viable option for future crewed missions to explore and pioneer the planet Mars. 

Although Mars has water trapped in the polar ice caps and the beneath the surface of Mars, water extracted from the Martian surface/underground cannot be used directly because it can contain organic contaminants, bacteria, and viruses of known and unknown origins. Previously, the University of Southampton has developed a plasma micro-bubble water (PMW) reactor which can remove the 99.8% of chemical contaminants (Methylene Blue) and achieve 8-log reduction against biological contaminants without using any filters and disinfectants. In addition, non-thermal plasma can be used to dissociate CO2 thus utilising rocket fuel (carbon monoxide) and oxygen from Martian atmosphere. As the plasma-based ISRU system does not need any modification to be used in new operating conditions, the developing ISRU system can be easily adapted to various unknown environments on Mars. This PhD project, therefore, will provide a sustainable solution to utilising resources for future crewed Mars missions exploring the unknown areas on Mars. 

In this project, the candidate will develop a novel all-in-one in-situ resource utilisation system using non-thermal plasma. This project will the part of UK Space Agency’s exploration programme. Through this PhD project, the candidate will have a unique interdisciplinary research opportunity on investigating advanced plasma technologies which can introduce a paradigm shift in future space missions 

This studentship covers UK level tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stiped at the standard EPSRC rate, which is £16,062 for 2022/23, for up to 3.5 years. The ideal candidate should have a first-class degree in a general Engineering area (Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical etc) or Applied Mathematics. 

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Minkwan Kim (email: m.k.kim@soton.ac.uk / Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2716). 

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (must have a UK 1st class honours degree). 

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £17,668 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online. Select programme type (Research), 2022/23, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Min Kwan Kim 

Applications should include:

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date 

For further information please contact: feps-pgr-apply@soton.ac.uk

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