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School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

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Dr S Glover No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Aerospace Engineering Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

With the unilateral adoption of all electric and hybrid electric powertrains for passengers’ cars, the security, health and safety of lithium battery is of paramount importance. Current lithium-ion cells are known to be a high fire risk, both in use and in storage. However, through the development of new design methodologies and technical material innovation, the risk can be mitigated. This project will investigate the early detection, prevention and suppression of exothermic reactions that take place within the current lithium-ion battery arrays. Early detection of thermal variations by the battery management system via sensors working with an appropriate algorithm will activate a deployment system for targeted suppression. The next level of mitigation will involve the intelligent design and development of a segregated array packaging system equipped with smart sensors which via machine learning will work as an early prevention system.

Recent announcements in the UK press on the complete ban on the sale of new diesel and gasoline powered vehicle by 2030 signifies and confirms the future complete adoption of the electric powertrain for transport propulsion. The adoption will be unarguably worldwide as evidenced by the rise of Electric Vehicle (EV) related manufacturing, research and vehicle sale around the globe. Energy storage in terms of power density per unit volume litre and per unit mass is a unilateral area of intensive research and development. Current state of the art energy storage technology is based on Lithium chemistry, but it still falls short of the specific weight and volume energy target sets by fossil fuels. Although great success has been made on lithium battery commercialization, safety concerns have emerged because of unexpected fires. Some lithium batteries can display a tendency to ignite under extreme operational conditions and initiate fires or release toxic gases, thus creating a hazard. Smart sensors that adapt to environment and driving style will process the collected information via machine learning algorithms and enhance the early detection and prevention capability. Moreover, as lithium-ion battery technology moves to larger scales, from single cells to modules and packs, assuring their safety is an issue of growing severity and stakes. This project addresses the emerging safety concerns in the EV market by developing the adaptive learning technology that enables early detection, prevention and suppression, revolutionising the way we think about cars.

Project Objectives

•Identify, define and quantify feasible active and passive fire suppression systems or methodologies for transport energy storage arrays in the areas of:

oStructural fire / heat containment and compartmentation

oEarly warning detection

oTargeted suppression, containment and / or detachment

oSafer anode, cathode and electrolyte chemistries / active materials to prevent, slow or break exothermic chain reactions

•Define and quantify the performance of individual methodologies by experimentation and data analysis

•Define and quantity different approaches of individual or combined methodologies

•Quantify and rank the potential impact of the identified systems and methodologies as individual or combination on vehicle performance, economics and manufacturing potential.

•Design and develop a prototype for validation

•Develop interconnected smart sensors linking driving style, environmental conditions and battery temperature monitoring via machine learning


Doing a PhD in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is a highly rewarding experience. You will carry out your research in a friendly and supportive environment, supervised by academics who are leaders in their field, using well-equipped laboratories and research facilities, alongside students from all over the world. We have around 100 students enrolled on a PhD at a time. The School has a vibrant PhD student mentoring programme and a student led Research Culture Committee.

The School’s research is focused around six interconnected research themes: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Future Aircraft, Composite Materials and Structures, Simulation Technologies, Clean Energy and Biomaterials and Biomechanics.

PhD opportunities are available in a wide range of subjects aligned to the specific expertise of our PhD supervisors. Many are linked with leading companies and organisations.

Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in the research activities undertaken within the School. Students attend international conferences and participate in relevant external academic and industrial networks worldwide.

  • The School has strong links with both local and international engineering employers, and has longstanding relationships with companies such as Airbus, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren F1 and Rolls-Royce.
  • PhD research contributes to major interdisciplinary centres in the University, including:
  • •Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE)
  • •Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC)
  • •Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC)
  • The School has well equipped laboratories and great research facilities. PhD students share offices alongside postdoctoral staff. The School has Research Culture Committee to enhance the research environment of the School and support PhD students.

Funding Notes

Industrial partnership with SHELL and Horiba provides the opportunity for a well-performing student to arrange for 3 – 6 months of industrial placement either with SHELL (Netherlands), Horiba (England/Japan) or Fuelcon (Germany).

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