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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Developing an automated active thermography system to characterise the structural integrity of advanced materials PhD

School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing (SATM)

About the Project

Cranfield University is currently seeking a top class candidate to undertake both fundamental research and a technology development initiative leading to PhD awarded. This opportunity provides the individual to develop a technology demonstrator at the technology readiness level – TRL4. The PhD is focusing on the advancement of Thermal Non-destructive testing or T-NDT. The project aims to develop methods to inspect and characterise the health of a component at any given time.


The primary focus of this PhD is to advance the area of Thermal Non-destructive testing or T-NDT. The ability to inspect and characterise the health of a component at any given time has been pivotal for high value asset owners with focus on not just the fidelity of the decision but also the overall reliability to predict impending failure. This not just prevents catastrophic failure but also supports maintainers to plan for timely maintenance avoiding significant loss of productivity due to downtimes and much stronger control on the availability of the asset on the whole.

 This PhD will not just develop a technology demonstrator but exploit the fundamental physics of the materials thermal behaviour. This will include not just measuring those material properties through advanced technologies but also the development of advanced algorithms to address a modern data science problem; and advance the general understanding on critical deteriorations and their mechanisms to the world.

 Direct maintenance experience in-terms of non-destructive evaluations (NDE) together with strong understanding of material failure analysis [FRACAS], data analytics [MATLAB, Python] and putting them to use would be welcome.


The aim of this PhD is to develop an automated active thermography system that combines both reflection and transmission modes to provide a hybrid inspection system capable of characterising damage occurring in carbon fibre composites. The inspection system will be a ‘one-click’ system capable of not just performing the inspection but also post-processes the data providing a statistical output with confidence.

The PhD

The ability to develop a fully automated inspection system that is capable of fully charactering the damage with a level of confidence is being proposed as part of this PhD. Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) composites are being increasingly used as primary aircraft structures. These materials offer better damage resistance together with improved strength-to-weight performance due to their low density. However, damage detection in these advanced materials is a challenge in itself and thus there is an ever-growing need to assess their health. Non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques have now been proven to be effective in capturing the health of the component without causing further damage to the part. Pulsed thermography is now an established technique to assess damage in CFRP laminates. With multiple modes of inspection, pulsed thermography can be carried out in both the reflection mode, where the heat excitation and the infrared camera are on the same side and transmission mode where the infrared camera records rise in temperature from the back surface of the laminate. A majority of the research is currently focussed on reflective mode with pulse flash as a prominent heat excitation source. The current challenge is to combine both methods in a unified system where data captured using multiple infrared cameras can be post-processed to provide new understanding of the data.


1. Conduct literature review to exploit reflection and transmission modes of thermography;

2. Develop AI based machine learning algorithms to post-process multimode inspection data;

3. Build a demonstrator and retrofit the set-up on to a robotic arm;

4. Perform a parametric experimental test sequence to validate the inspection system;

At Cranfield, the candidate will be based at the Centre for Digital Engineering and Manufacturing (CDEM), which hosts cutting-edge simulation and visualisation facilities. The student will have access to cooled and uncooled state-of-the-art infrared camera systems, high-end computers for algorithm development, in-house technologies including digital platforms to present digital data to the inspector. The work developed will be presented to industry partners /advisory board of the centre for their validation and comments. 

Entry requirements

Candidates should have a minimum of an upper second (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) preferably in Mechanical Engineering / Industrial Engineering / Physics but candidates in other degrees related to Engineering or related quantitative fields would be considered. Candidates with an MSc degree in these disciplines will be desirable. Experience in T-NDT and software competence in MATLAB, Python, C/C++ is preferred.

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD; open to UK, EU and International applicants.

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