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Automated Multi-Sensor Electromagnetic Inspection of Composites for Aerospace (Enhanced stipend)


   Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

  , Prof S.G. Pierce, Dr Kenneth Charles Burnham  Thursday, December 15, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project Summary: This is an exciting 42-month fully funded PhD position supported by EPSRC, Spirit AeroSystems, the world’s largest composite manufacturer, and National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland (NMIS). The project has an enhanced student stipend and pays for a full Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) training package offered through Future Innovation in Non-destructive Evaluation Centre for Doctroral Training (FIND CDT)

Project Description: Being at the forefront of composite manufacturing has never been more important provided how vital these lightweight structures are for i) preventing climate change through reduction of fuel consumption and carbon footprint in aerospace, marine, automotive, and other transportation, and defense industries, and ii) development of wind and tidal blades to generate cleaner energy and reduce emissions to achieve the net-zero target by the middle of the century. The composite technology, Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers (CFRP) in particular, has been dominating the aerospace, energy, and defense industries, and this trend is expected to grow in the years to come to meet the business targets. These lightweight components, mainly composed of carbon fibers and resin, can be engineered to offer superior mechanical tensile properties in preferred directions where the application loadings are expected to be the highest.

However, due to their intricate multi-stage manufacturing process and lower in-service toughness, as compared to their metallic counterparts, they are prone to both post-manufacturing, and in-service discontinuities. Therefore, Non-Destructive Evaluations (NDE) are essential during manufacturing and in-service operation to ensure the quality and integrity of these safety-critical components. The compound CFRP structure gives rise to the mixed electromagnetic properties where highly conductive carbon fibers are molded in a dielectric resin matrix. This provides a unique opportunity to explore the potential of electromagnetic NDE methods such as Eddy Currents (EC) and electrical Capacitance Imaging (CI).

Eddy current testing is a well-established testing method providing a superior detection sensitivity for surface and near-surface defects. The testing method reliability has even grown further by the development and introduction of new EC array technologies in the market. CI sensors composed of co-planar electrodes generate an electric field distribution in the material that monitors the changes in the permittivity. As opposed to ECs that flow parallel to the surface, making it unfit for detection of delamination defects, and have a penetration depth limited by material’s electrical conductivity, magnetic permeability, and frequency, the CI method can well complement the EC testing shortcomings in the detection of delamination defects and in providing a larger penetration and sensitivity depth.

The non-contact nature and the rich and broad range of information acquired by these two NDE methods unlock unique characterization capabilities that can complement and underpin other NDE inspection findings. Therefore, the overarching project’s aim is to leverage defect detection capabilities of both EC and CI for CFRPs and form a unique hybrid dual-sensor system for increased inspection reliability and to build on the past pioneering successful automated NDT developments for inspection of CFRPs achieved through several projects with Spirit AeroSystems

The project is relevant to the many industrial sectors using CFRPs, such as Aerospace, Defence, Automotive & general High-Value Manufacturing, transforming their production strategies to reduce cost.

Aligned with the financial commitment from the industrial partner, the project scope is centered around the current NDE demands of Spirit AeroSystems with the target to a) develop and deliver more industry-focused NDE solutions to promote the partner's and UK's business growth, and b) to introduce development program for the student, where highly demanded skills by the industry, access to a network of NDE experts in academia and industry, access to the state-of-the-art research facilities, and specialized NDE training can be offered to the student.

The project will make extensive use of the £2.5 million cutting-edge Sensor Enabled Automation & Control Hub (SEARCH) hosting several advanced industrial robots and NDE equipment at the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE) at the University of Strathclyde. The student will have access to and will work closely with the Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) established by Spirit AeroSystems at their Prestwick manufacturing facility and NMIS facilities in Renfrew.

The student will work within an internationally renowned and growing team of diverse and multi-disciplinary researchers and engineers, physicists, and mathematicians and will receive a full NDE training package through FIND CDT and a university training for working with advanced industrial KUKA robots, different NDE controllers, and sensor technologies.

Eligibility: The project is funded by EPSRC, Spirit, and NMIS. Therefore, the applicant should meet the EPSRC studentship eligibility criteria:

  • possess an Upper second (2.1) UK BEng Honours or MEng degree in relevant engineering disciplines (Electrical, Mechanical, Naval, Design and Manufacturing, etc.) or physics-related subjects
  • be a UK or an eligible EU national and adhere to EPSRC eligibility criteria

Candidates with the Knowledge and experience of the following are desirable:

  • physics of electromagnetism, and NDE techniques such as eddy currents and capacitive inspection
  • programming and coding platforms such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, C, C#, and C++

Find out more information regarding the EPSRC student eligibility.

How to Apply: Candidates requiring more information, and interested in applying should email Dr. Ehsan Mohseni via .

Thereafter, they should submit their CV, academic transcript, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the position, to .

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Ehsan Mohseni, lecturer at Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE). His research interests include electromagnetic and acoustic non-destructive evaluation, robotic inspection, and data fusion.

Additional Supervisors:

Prof. Gareth Pierce, Spirit AeroSystems/RAE Research Chair and the Co-director of CUE

Dr. Kenneth Charles Burnham, Industrial supervisor and knowledge exchange at NMIS


Funding Notes

Funding is provided for full tuition fees (Home/EU applicants only, refer to the eligibility section). The student will receive an increased industry-supported stipend and substantial equipment and travel funds for the duration of the project.

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