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Prestigious Strathclyde/NPL PhD Studentship: Expanding measurement limits of hybrid photonic voltage and current sensors

Project Description

The electricity transmission and distribution networks are undergoing a significant level of transformation because of the massive deployment of renewable energy sources, disrupting the conventional ways the networks are protected, controlled and maintained. These changes will be further compounded by the increased penetration of electric transportation charging stations, placing unprecedented burdens on the sections of future electrical grid. While grid reinforcement will be essential to cope with these new demands, a “smarter” way of dealing with the problem will be to combine grid reinforcement with methods to increase network visibility that can be used to introduce more advanced power system control and protection mechanisms. The Institute for Energy and Environment at Strathclyde has developed novel fibre-optic sensors and sensor interrogation methods that are capable of measuring a range of electrical and other physical parameters on the power network deployed over a wide geographical area. These distributed measurements can be used to assess exact state of the network so that novel protection and control functions can be successfully implemented, saving network operators a lot of expenditure associated with building new infrastructure. The technology is now being commercialised via a university spin-out company, Synaptec.

As part of a multidisciplinary research programme, jointly carried out with a number of industrial partners, this PhD project will investigate the metrological limitations of the novel hybrid photonic voltage and current sensors. The research will involve design, simulation and experimental investigations of the sensors based on the combination of fibre Bragg gratings and piezoelectric transducers that can be configured to measure voltage ranges from volts to kilovolts, enabling direct measurement of high voltage or, when combined with current transformers, Rogowski coils or shunts, also electrical current. The research will address such issues as material degradation, accelerated life testing, compensation against environmental and intrinsic effects influencing sensor accuracy, and proposing design modifications that will allow the transducers to meet the stringent IEC accuracy standards.

In the area of photonic sensor interrogation, the project will focus on the development of reliable techniques for high-performance interrogation of a large number of FBG based sensors over extended distances, including, among other things, aspects of redundancy within the photonic networks and photonic signal amplification for long-reach applications.

The general goal will be to push the boundaries of the photonic sensor and sensor interrogation technologies by addressing a range of engineering problems associated with performance and reliability in order to ensure wide industry acceptance of these novel systems. The project will involve both theoretical and experimental elements of research which will touch on the mixture of metrology, photonics, photonic system integration, sensor design and manufacture, electronics, and electrical power engineering. The project will be carried out in a small dynamic research team, in collaboration with National Physical Laboratory and key industry players in this area, and will offer an outstanding opportunity for the PhD student to engage with the major power system operators and equipment manufacturers.

The project will be supervised by Dr Pawel Niewczas, Prof. Graeme Burt (Strathclyde) and Dr Paul Wright (NPL).

Funding Notes

Entry Requirements:
A 2.1 and above degree in Physics, Engineering, or a related discipline.

These are fully funded studentships, and applications are welcomed from UK and EU applicants. An annual tax-free stipend of ca. £15000 is available to the successful candidates.


Orr, P., Fusiek, G., Niewczas, P., Booth, C. D., Dysko, A., Kawano, F., Nishida, T. and Beaumont P., “Distributed photonic instrumentation for power system protection and control”, 1 Jan 2015 In: IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. 64, 1, p. 19-26 8 p.

Fusiek, G., Nelson, J., Niewczas, P., Havunen, J., Suomalainen, E-P. & Hällström, J., “Optical voltage sensor for MV networks”, IEEE Sensors 2017, 30 Oct 2017 3 p.

L. Dziuda, P. Niewczas, G. Fusiek, J. R. McDonald, “Hybrid Fibre-Optic Voltage Sensor for Remote Monitoring of Electrical submersible Pump Motors”, Optical Engineering, Vol. 44, No. 6, pp 64401-1-6, June 2005

How good is research at University of Strathclyde in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 59.20

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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