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Distributed wireless remote sensing in special nuclear material storage facilities


   Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

   Friday, August 19, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

There is a requirement to remotely monitor the condition of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) packages in multiple storage facilities across the United Kingdom. Currently, temperature and humidity measurement campaigns are time-consuming and require the involvement of different stakeholders and a significant number of manual handling processes. These monitoring campaigns are not able to provide near real-time data and limit the use of more advanced proactive store-operation modelling techniques. 

The objective of this project is to investigate the use of mixed-mode wireless communications to deliver a distributed remote sensing capability based on sensor nodes employing thermal energy scavenging. The project will explore the use of Radio Frequency (RF) and Acoustic communication modalities to address the different signal propagation challenges specific to each storage facility.

There are many challenges to operating a distributed wireless remote sensing system in these storage facilities. The project will include the following areas of research:  

  • Systematic characterisation of wireless RF and acoustic signal propagation in SNM storage facilities by experimental measurement and modelling.  
  • Application of advanced signal processing techniques and transducer arrays to mitigate for extreme propagation conditions.  
  • Development of dynamic power-budget management algorithms to support the use of energy scavenged from time-varying thermal sources.  
  • Optimisation of the design and positioning of conformally mounted transducers as the sensing and communication systems must be housed in standard SNM packages to enable the use of existing manually handling processes. 
  • Development of a system modelling tool to enable facility operators to explore use cases.  
  • Design, prototyping and critical evaluation of a technology demonstrator. 

The researcher will be based at the Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning (CINDe) at NNL’s Workington Laboratory in Cumbria. CINDe provides access to industry experts and specialist research facilities, including replicas of SNM storage facilities. Demonstration of research outcomes at CINDe will also provide the possibility of a deployment in a SNM storage facility on the Sellafield site. The Project is jointly supervised by Dr Antonio de Buono from The National Nuclear Laboratory.

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject, such as: Communication Engineering, Signal Processing, Electronic/Electrical Engineering, Physics or Nuclear Engineering. A combination of qualifications and/or experience equivalent to this level will also be considered.

Start date is September 2022, although an alternate start date of January 2023 may also be available.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.


Funding Notes

EPSRC iCASE studentship with the National Nuclear Laboratory which provides fees and standard UKRI stipend (£16,062 in 2022/23) with a £2,000 per annum top up for 4 years. In addition, necessary travel and consumable costs associated with the project are also supported.
Candidates must satisfy the EPSRC eligibility criteria for PhD studentships, such as a relevant connection with the UK, usually established by residence. The successful candidate will be expected to undergo UK Government security vetting to enable access to facilities.
The researcher will be based at the Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning (CINDe) at NNL’s Workington Laboratory in Cumbria (CA14 3YQ).

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