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Novel technologies to study the initiation, development and impact of lightning discharges


   Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering

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  Dr Martin Fullekrug  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Lightning discharges remain an enigma to date despite intensive research. Whilst lightning discharges are used as an indicator for now-casting severe weather in meteorological operational services, the initiation of lightning discharges inside thunderclouds and consecutive discharge processes above thunderclouds, known as sprites, blue jets, gigantic jets, elves, terrestrial gamma ray flashes and terrestrial electron flashes, are the subject of intense research. This project will integrate existing technologies to enable fundamental scientific contributions to push forward the boundaries of knowledge on the initiation, development and impact of lightning discharges.

A key novelty will be the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) to construct reconfigurable three dimensional sensor networks. These networks will be used to measure the optical signatures of distant lightning discharges and the radio spectrum from ~4 Hz to ~1 GHz during field work in southern France in the summer months, where numerous thunderstorms occur.

Specifically, the project consists of three main elements (1) strategic planning of the project in the context of two forthcoming space missions to maximise the impact of the project, (2) conduct field work with novel experiments in southern France and subsequent interpretation of the collected data, and (3) application of the knowledge gained during knowledge transfer for the benefit of industry and a governmental agency.

(1) Strategic planning: The successful candidate will participate in meetings with the teams around two novel space missions to maximise the impact of the project in the context of the space missions. The two missions are the Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM) of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the micro-satellite TARANIS of the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The two space missions are pathfinder missions to prepare the forthcoming Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellite which features an optical lightning detection module in geostationary orbit.

(2) Conduct field work with subsequent interpretation of the collected data. The successful candidate will participate in field work in southern France in collaboration with the team of the Laboratoire Souterrain a Bas Bruit (LSBB) in Rustrel. The project will deploy three dimensional sensor networks to measure the optical signatures and the radio spectrum of distant lightning discharges, when numerous thunderstorms occur occurring during the summer months. Allied with interferometric methods, these measurements and the subsequent interpretation enable the detection of lightning discharges and consecutive discharge processes above thunderclouds.

(3) Application of the knowledge gained. The successful candidate will participate in knowledge transfer meetings for the benefit of industry and a governmental agency. The scientific outcomes of the project are of immediate interest to the UK MetOffice in Exeter and Bristol Industrial & Research Associates Ltd. (BIRAL), both of which operate lightning detection networks toward the now-casting of severe weather for numerous customers from industry.

At the end of the project, the successful candidate will be able to plan and conduct complex projects and manage the implications of the research toward applications in industry and for the needs of governmental agencies.

Funding Notes

This project will be funded by the Met Office (UK). The successful candidate will receive a full RC rate studentship, including:
- Home/Eu tuition fees
- £1,000 annual Training Support Fee
- annual stipend, £14,296 (2016-7 rate)

The funding is available for Home or EU applicants.
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