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High resolution coherent imaging with sub-millimetre wave radar

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD is a CASE award funded equally by EPSRC and industrial sponsor QinetiQ.

Until recently the use of the region of the RF spectrum termed ‘sub-millimetre wave’ (300 to 1000 GHz) has received little attention. It sits between the millimetre wave (30 to 300 GHz) and Terahertz (>1000 GHz) bands where radar and spectroscopy techniques are well-established. QinetiQ is recognised as a World leader in radar techniques applied to predominantly military and security applications at frequencies up to 94 GHz. An internally funded QinetiQ study into low Terahertz applications has identified the region between 100 and 400 GHz as suitable for extending QinetiQ’s radar capabilities and opens up new opportunities not feasible at lower frequencies. Currently, QinetiQ has no RF capability above 100 GHz, in particular, component technology and facilities to carry out work at these frequencies. QinetiQ has strong capability in signal processing techniques and providing innovative, bespoke radar solutions for challenging radar requirements.

The University of St Andrews is one of 2 universities in the UK with strong radar capabilities at sub-millimetre wave frequencies and has demonstrated radars at 220 GHz and 340 GHz. The PhD is designed to build on the University’s practical capabilities and experience at frequencies up to 400 GHz and on QinetiQ’s knowledge of the military and security domains and experience of synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

Scope of the PhD
Radar at sub-millimetre wave frequencies offers new opportunities by exploiting the high angular and range resolutions to provide detailed coherent imaging in a compact physical envelope. Until recently devices for power generation, receiver elements and antennas have been either experimental or prohibitively expensive and achievable radar performance has been limited by noise figure, power generation, propagation characteristics and manufacturability. Currently the main applications are for short range automotive radar and for concealed weapon and IED detection. QinetiQ has an interest in military and security applications especially for imaging difficult targets.

The PhD is intended to investigate novel techniques to use sub-millimetre wave radar to provide very high resolution, coherent imaging against ‘difficult’ targets. ‘Difficult’ includes targets with low radar cross section, fluctuating targets and targets that are difficult to discriminate against other targets. Specifically, this is likely to include change detection techniques, motion compensation, complex SAR imaging and auto-focusing. The scope is focused on SAR but could include real-beam imaging.

It is envisaged, budget permitting, that a linear, rail-mounted sub-millimetre wave radar system will be constructed to record measurements and to evaluate algorithms developed during the PhD. The PhD shall also explore the limits of range resolution, with bandwidths >10 GHz, and how this relates to the capability to discriminate and characterise targets. If necessary for a particular application, polarisation and propagation effects shall be considered.

QinetiQ hopes to increase its understanding of the capabilities of sub-millimetre wave radar and, subject to IP considerations, develop the ideas generated into military and security applications.

Here are some examples of the types of application that QinetiQ would be interested in;
• Characterisation of surface texture and features, for example, detecting wear and tear on road and airport runway surfaces
• Detection of targets in a high clutter environment, perhaps through gaps or transparent materials
• Geolocation using SAR and/or multiple sensors
• Imaging to detect variations in surfaces, moisture content, cracks in buildings, vegetation, man-made vs natural features, wave profiling
• Vibrometry for engine vibration, fault detection
• Detecting very slight movements of objects exploiting Doppler
• Mounting a sub-millimetre wave radar on an unmanned air vehicle (UAV)

The majority of the PhD work shall be carried out at The School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews but a minimum of 3 months in total shall be carried out working with the SAR group at QinetiQ’s site at Malvern, Worcestershire. Working at Malvern will require security clearance although no information disclosed under the PhD will be classified.

Funding Notes

Funding Notes
This PhD will be 50% funded by QinetiQ as a CASE studentship and 50% from an EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership studentship.

Eligibility: EPSRC funding requires UK resident status. As you will be expected to spend some time working at QinetiQ’s premises in Malvern, UK, which will require UK security clearance, it is highly preferred that candidates are UK nationals.

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Physics?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 36.90

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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