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  Lithium battery and composite fires

   Department of Mechanical Engineering

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  Prof Etienne Robert  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In the aerospace and ground transport industries, electrification of propulsion and reduction of vehicle weight through increased use of polymer matrix composites (PMCs) are the spearheads of the effort to decrease emissions. In both cases, fire resistance issues need to be addressed to ensure that the safety of the occupants is not compromised by this technological shift. Through our partnership, we will develop advanced numerical simulation tools increasing the fundamental understanding of this critical problem, backed up by experimental validation using realistic flames.

This collaborative research project is supported by five industrial partners with active research and development programs in the aerospace, fire safety and transport electrification sectors. The problems of fire resistance for batteries and PMCs used as firewalls share many similarities. In both cases, fire-driven failure is often controlled by feedback loops between the heat-driven outgassing of the solid material (be it the PMCs or a battery) and the gas-phase reaction of the combustible species exiting the surface exposed to fire. Composite structures and electrical power supplies in transportation systems must therefore be constructed to prevent this coupling between the gas-phase reactions supplying heat and the solid substrate supplying combustible species, so that fire does not spread to the point of component failure. Novel simulation tools and approaches are needed as current practice can lead to unsuccessful certification testing, leading to long and more expensive development cycles. For the problem tackled in our project, this means better characterizing the properties and risks associated with battery fires while simultaneously improving numerical simulation to provide predictive capabilities for ignition and interactions between flames and combustible walls.

The project will be carried out at the Laboratory for Reactive and Multiphase Flows (LaMuReF) at Polytechnique Montréal, the academic supervision team will include Prof. Etienne Robert (combustion experiments) and Prof. Bruno Savard (combustion modelling).

Description of positions

PhD positions are available with a focus either on numerical methods, experimental work or following a hybrid approach. 

Experimental work will include the detailed characterisation of the outgassing associated with the thermal degradation of PMCs and lithium-based batteries. The testing conditions will be chosen to mimic those imposed in standardized certification protocols for aerospace components.

The numerical simulation work will include high-fidelity DNS development for the interactions between a turbulent flame and a solid surface through which combustible gaseous species are emitted. Knowledge gained through this effort will guide the implementation of coarse-grain models in commercial solvers to capture combustion dynamics in realistic geometries for battery packs and composite structures.


The required background for these positions is a Master of Science (MSc or equivalent). Candidates with diplomas in mechanical, physical, chemical or material engineering will be preferred. Excellent communication skills in technical English (both oral and written) are essential for all positions. The selection process will be made on the basis of academic merit, language skills and publication record. The applicants must be strongly motivated for graduate studies and be able to work independently towards the objectives of the project.


Individuals interested in joining the project should send:

1.    Brief curriculum vitea along with their transcripts;

2.    An example of technical writing in English where the applicant is the main author (paper, report or master thesis for example).

3.    A list of publications where one section is devoted to articles accepted/published in international refereed journals and one other section where all the other communications (conferences, books, papers not written in English, etc.) are listed;

4.    A one-page letter explaining for which position profile (experimental/numerical/hybrid) is the application, the expertise of the candidate and relevant contributions to research. 

Applications should be sent by email to Prof. Etienne Robert and Prof. Bruno Savard: [Email Address Removed]

Incomplete or non-conform applications will not be considered. The applications received will be evaluated as they arrive, starting on October 15th 2021, for a project start in the first half of 2021.

About Polytechnique Montréal

Founded in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one Canada's top engineering teaching and research institutions and first in Québec for the size of its student body and the scope of its research activities.

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