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Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy for subsea applications

Project Description

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a widely used technique to obtain the elemental constituents of a sample. The process uses a short pulse of focused laser light to evaporate a minute volume of a target substance by highly localized heating to temperatures greater than 5000 K. The plasma which is formed in the process emits spectra of light as it cools. This light spectrum can be used to identify the atomic elements present in the material and their abundance. The entire measurement takes less than one second and can be repeated at rates of 10 to 20 times per second. The proposed research will investigate extension of the LIBS process to deep water and down-hole scenarios.

While much study has been made of LIBS applied to surfaces covered in a thin film of water, very little has been published on the formation of a plasma and its development at high water pressures. The PhD project will involve both experimental and theoretical work to develop LIBS for deep sea applications.

The investigation will include the application of LIBS at high water pressures to the detection and possible quantification of corrosion in subsea pipelines and structures. The decommissioning of offshore oil and gas structures produces many by-products which arise from a range of oil and gas production activities. Quantitative identification of these by-products is essential to determine safe decommissioning procedures. LIBS is ideally suited to the detection and quantitative measurement of such products including inter alia lead and other heavy metals.

Other applications this project can be extended to will include:

• Detection of contaminants in water, this would include hydrocarbons which will be an indication of damaged pipeline
• Identification of steels in structural components
• Geological analysis of the sea floor
• Monitoring of environmental properties at depth
• Downhole measurements of rock structures, analysis of coal for underground coal gasification

The successful candidate should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Electrical/Electronic Engineering; Physics; Mechanical Engineering; Chemical Engineering.

Advantageous to have knowledge in Laser and Optics.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Informal inquiries can be made to Dr T Thevar () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ().

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. It is for self-funded students only.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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

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