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Developing a device for marine life and water quality monitoring


   Mechanical and Automotive Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

We have developed a prototype water quality monitoring device. It is autonomous, waterproof, floating, cost-effective, self-powered and self-righting with a small, high capacity, on-board, re-chargeable battery (solar powered) which drives the on-board electronics comprising of sensors, mobile phone SIM and satellite transmitter.

Programming was developed to enable data to be related to a cloud-based database via a dedicated website (accessible by mobile phone) facilitating analysis and seamless dissemination of water quality data in real time. The data can be used to inform prompt risk management actions, where the water quality falls below acceptable standards (eg. Water Framework Directive, WHO drinking water standards). Comparable state-of-the-art sea monitoring platforms are large, bulky, expensive and stand-alone.

The project aims for this to be an affordable, rugged, and simple-to-use device, suitable for deployment by laypersons in rural or remote areas of developing countries, where communities have little access to tested clean drinking water. They often have no idea about the safety of their local water supply, usually streams, ponds, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and at best hand-pump operated drinking wells.

The device can also be used for other water quality applications such as environmental monitoring (e.g. algal blooms (eutrophication from waste and fertilisers), oil spills, municipal wastewater and industrial discharges), ensuring optimal water conditions for sustainable aquaculture optimising food production and monitoring swimming pools.

Our current prototype (see photo) requires further development. It was successfully deployed in inland waterways (local canal, pond & swimming pool) and gave regular readings of water quality parameters which were relayed to a computer and mobile phone.

We are looking for a PhD student who will continue the R&D for this device to expand and diversify the monitoring payload for multiple applications. There are opportunities for the device to be patented and the student could be involved with setting up a spin-out company on the product (support & mentoring available at Brunel). We already have SMEs working with us to develop the product for them for a specific application.

The aim is to develop a product that can be deployed in multiple field applications to inform users regarding water quality for use in aquaculture for fish production, drinking water quality monitoring in rural areas and monitoring conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which may influence the distribution and abundance of whales and dolphins for a related project (yes you get to do field work and meet a dolphin or two).

You will be expected to work in a multi-disciplinary team of marine biologists, wildlife scientists, engineers, environmental scientists and microbiologists.

Research journey

Doctoral research programmes (PhDs) take a proud place in the world-class research environment and community at Brunel. PhD students are recognised and valued by their supervisors as an essential part of their departments and a key component of the university's overall strategy to develop and deliver world-class research.

A PhD programme is expected to take 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, with intakes starting in January, April or October.

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (1st or 2:1) or an international equivalent. A Masters degree is a welcome, but not required, qualification for entry.

Find out how to apply for a PhD at Brunel

Research support

Excellent research support and training

The Graduate School provides a range of personal, professional and career development opportunities. This includes workshops, online training, coaching and events, to enable you to enhance your professional profile, refine your skills, and plan your next career steps as part of the Researcher Development Programme. The researcher development programme (RDP) offers workshops and seminars in a range of areas including progression, research management, research dissemination, and careers and personal development. You will also be offered a number of online, self-study courses on BBL, including Research Integrity, Research Skills Toolkit, Research Methods in Literature Review and Principles of Research Methods.

Library services

Brunel's Library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 ebooks, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs. As well as the physical resources available in the Library, we also provide access to a wealth of electronic resources. These include databases, journals and e-books. Access to these resources has been bought by the Library through subscription and is limited to current staff and students. 

Dedicated research support staff provide guidance and training on open access, research data management, copyright and other research integrity issues.

Find out more: Brunel Library

Careers support

You will receive tailored careers support during your PhD and for up to three years after you complete your research at Brunel. We encourage you to actively engage in career planning and managing your personal development right from the start of your research, even (or perhaps especially) if you don't yet have a career path in mind. Our careers provision includes online information and advice, one-to-one consultations and a range of events and workshops. The Professional Development Centre runs a varied programme of careers events throughout the academic year. These include industry insight sessions, recruitment fairs, employer pop-ups and skills workshops.


How good is research at Brunel University London in Engineering?


Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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