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PhD Studentship: Extra-long compliant snake robot capable of self-localisation for inspection in fusion power plants


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Tuesday 30 July 2024
Reference:  ENG1752

UK Atomic Energy Authority and University of Nottingham sponsored PhD scholarship – Extra-long compliant snake robot capable of self-localisation for inspection in fusion power plants

Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) in Manufacturing and On-Wing Technology, The University of Nottingham.

Applicants are invited to undertake a 3-year PhD program in partnership with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to address key challenges in robotic deployment systems enabling repair automation. The successful candidate will be primarily based at the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre in Manufacturing and On-Wing Technology, (, Department of Mechanical, Material and Manufacturing Engineering, Faculty of Engineering. The department has an excellent international reputation for high-quality theoretical and experimental research funded by EPSRC, IUK, EU and the manufacturing industry. There is an opportunity to being hosted by  UKAEA’s Culham Campus for part of the project.

UKAEA runs the UK’s fusion research programme and has until recently operated Joint European Torus (JET) fusion experiment on behalf of scientists from 28 European countries; now it is leading the decommissioning of the JET machine. UKAEA’s wider mission is to lead the commercial development of fusion power and related technology and position the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy. UKAEA is keeping the UK at the forefront of fusion as the world comes together to build the first powerplant-scale experiment, ITER – one step away from the realisation of nuclear fusion as a low carbon energy source. UKAEA is involved in future fusion demonstration powerplant design activities such as DEMO and UK’s own future STEP powerplant.

This specific project will be part funded by RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments, RACE was founded in 2014 as part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) fusion research and development programme - to create robots for operating in some of the most challenging environments imaginable. The main research focus of this PhD program is the intelligent design and control of an extra-long compliant snake robot capable of self-localisation for inspection in fusion power plants. In this role, you will be at the forefront of research that offers robotics and AI technological innovations with an aim to improve the quality of inspection for fusion power plants. As a result, this position offers the opportunity for work with the UKAEA.

This project is related to the development of robots and AI-based localisation strategies to support the aforementioned tasks with the following actions:

  • Literature review of robots for working in confined spaces and their localisation strategies. 
  • Design and manufacture of an extra-long compliant snake robot for reaching deep inside confined spaces, such as pipes and vessels. 
  • Kinematics, static and dynamic models of the snake robot.
  • Localisation of the snake robot with various sensory feedback, including vision and Fibre Bragg sensors. 
  • Demonstration for evaluating the developed snake robot and its navigation and localisation strategies.

We are seeking talented candidates with:
 First or upper second-class degree in Mechatronics/ Robotics/ Mechanical/ Computer Science or related scientific discipline.

  • Outstanding analytical and numerical skills, with a well-rounded academic background.
  • Demonstrated ability to develop precision Mechatronics systems and algorithms.
  • Ability to develop kinematic and/or dynamic analysis of Mechanical/Robotic systems.
  • Ability to implement control and kinematics with hardware-in-the–loop.
  • Background with relevant packages (e.g., MATLAB, SolidWorks/Creo, ROS/ OpenCV/ python, LabVIEW/C languages).
  • A driven, professional and self-dependent work attitude is essential.
  • Experience working within the industry will be an advantage.
  • The ability to produce high-quality presentations and written reports.

This is an excellent opportunity to work on Robotics and AI with strong links to industrial applications and key skills and knowledge in preparation for a high-impact, high-technology research or industrial career.

Funding Notes

The scholarship on offer (to eligible students) comprises a tax-free stipend (£19,237 a year), tuition fees paid, and a generous study package. 

Eligibility: Only UK Higher Education “Home Fee” status applicants and EU residents satisfying the three-year residency requirement are eligible. 

Please contact Dr Xin Dong, for further information, Email: Tel: 0115 846 6395

Deadline: Until filled. 

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