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PhD Studentship: High precision motion control for automated robotic maintenance systems in fusion power plants


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Wednesday 05 April 2023
Reference:  ENG1617

Primary Supervisor: Prof David T Branson III (Chair of Dynamics and Controls, Faculty of Engineering)

Industry Collaborator: RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments), UK Atomic Energy Authority

In fusion power plants, there is a strong demand for developing automated robotic systems that allow for maintaining the plants at high performance and efficiency. RACE ( is motivated to deliver robotic solutions that enable fusion power plants as a part of the commitment of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). Specifically, a modern fusion power plant (e.g., ITER and DEMO) commonly comprises very large complicated mechanical assemblies, such as blanket or divertor modules. On the other hand, such assemblies (over several metres long at tons of weight) need to be installed precisely within an assembly tolerance of a few million metres. This yields a high manufacturing precision (about 0.1 mm) over a large volume (smallest component at 1×1.5×0.5 m3 for an individual ITER test blanket assembly for example), i.e., exceeding the capability and demand of typically automated manufacturing systems. Besides the challenge in manufacturing these assemblies, there is not yet any solution for automatically assembling and disassembling such large mechanical components at high precision, nor for repairing/maintaining an activated power plant. This project aims to resolve these challenging issues by realising automated, high-precision maintenance (such as assembling or disassembling) of large mechanical assemblies in fusion power plants.

This project will develop precision motion control over large volume areas, where dynamic interactions (e.g., assembly deformations as a result of handling, multi-body interactions caused by external contacts, or turbulent forces due to machining) occurs in maintaining systems for fusion power plants. The project will be conducted at the University of Nottingham.

The scientific challenges to be investigated can be summarised as:  

  • The heavy weight of such a large assembly will result in varying deformation or vibration of the robotic system itself, especially, when it is being transported or machined. This will require the development of accurate and efficient models for the entire system (robot and component) to enable more precise, model based, control.
  • To develop a control method for such complex systems, taking into account dynamic interactions, to enable precise motion control.

Entry Requirements: Starting mid-to-late 2023. We require an enthusiastic graduate with a 1st in engineering, maths, physics or a relevant discipline, at integrated Master’s level or with a relevant MSc (in exceptional circumstances a 2:1 degree can be considered). Due to the nature of funding and work only home/UK applicants will be considered for this position.

To apply please provide: 

  • A curriculum vitae (CV)
  • A cover letter summarising your research interests

For enquiries about the project please email Prof David T Branson III ( Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.

To apply visit: 

When applying for this studentship, please include the reference number (beginning ENG and supervisors name) within the personal statement section of the application.   



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