Industry Doctorate: Automated Manufacturing of Smart Concrete Components
4 year industry-focused PhD project with enhanced £19k / year stipend, funded by COWI, Highways England, and the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering Industry Doctorate Programme in Advanced Manufacturing.
This PhD project will demonstrate the automated integration of sensors into precast concrete construction elements. Wireless electronic- and skin- sensors will be embedded and surface mounted onto concrete elements using robotics, during off-site manufacturing on a lab-scale production line.
These smart concrete elements will automatically set up ad-hoc, self-repairing wireless networks with neighbouring smart elements. This could support the seamless tracking of elements’ locations, loads and performance throughout storage, transport, construction and utilisation. Unlike manually retrofitted sensors, automatic sensor deployment during manufacturing reduces installation errors and construction project delays.
This approach forms new, distinct UK capabilities in construction manufacturing that have a high global demand. Concrete is the most utilised material in construction, and today, asset managers worldwide are struggling to optimise the maintenance of their growing, ageing concrete population. This is causing infrastructure systems to break down more frequently, for longer, and cost more time and money to recover. This challenge can be addressed by intelligently scheduling maintenance, and by validating and improving structural design, but this demands real-time performance monitoring. Sensors themselves are affordable, but their use in construction is uncommon because sensor installation and data management campaigns pose significant labour costs and risks to productivity. This PhD project seeks to eliminate these risks and make smart, resilient structures the new norm by innovating the off-site manufacturing process.
This project’s outcomes are to demonstrate:
• proof-of-concept demonstrations of the robotic installation of wireless sensors into and onto precast concrete elements;
• assessments of process quality, via the performance and robustness of smart elements during accelerated ageing;
• demonstrations of ad-hoc wireless networks between multiple smart elements, producing cloud data of live loads / risk ratings and;
• business case and impacts reports which outline pathways for commercial implementation, and impacts on/from precast manufacturer supply chains.
Successfully developed technologies may be demonstrated on upcoming high-profile transport construction projects within the UK.
In addition to the standard benefits of a PhD project, successful candidates will benefit from:
i) an enhanced £19k per year stipend for the 4 year duration of the PhD project;
ii) desk space, technical support, work experience and training at COWI’s Glasgow offices;
iii) technical support and guidance from Highways England;
iv) 60 credits of Researcher Professional Development training courses from the University of Strathclyde (gaining an additional PGCert qualification).
Home/EU fees & a stipend of £19k per anum will be paid.
Applicants should have/expect a distinction pass at Master’s level, or a first class/ 2:1 BEng/BSc Honours degree, in an Engineering or Physical Sciences subject. Candidates with strong experimental skills are particularly welcome to apply. Experience with robotics, sensors, programming and/or hardware development environments and languages is advantageous but not essential.
Overseas applicants are welcome to apply provided those applicants can: self-fund the shortfall in fees between international and EU/UK rates and have IELTS minimum 6.5 if applicable. If you are an overseas applicant, contact [Email Address Removed] before applying.
How good is research at University of Strathclyde in Civil and Construction Engineering?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 20.20
Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)
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