PhD Student in Fluid Mechanics – realization of Unmanned Floating Vehicles (UVFs) for Extraterrestrial Missions

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 17 Mar 2021

Luleå University of Technology is experiencing strong growth with world-leading competence in several areas of research. Our research is conducted in close collaboration with industries such as LKAB, Ericsson, Boliden, ABB, Epiroc and leading international universities. Luleå University of Technology has a total turnover of SEK 1.8 billion per year. We currently have 1 770 employees and 17 200 students.

We shape the future through innovative education and groundbreaking research. Drawing on our location in the Arctic region, we create global societal benefit.

Take the opportunity to become part of the research groups in fluid mechanics, robotics and artificial intelligence at Luleå University of Technology. The research groups are part of the Department of Engineering Science and Mathematics and the Department of Systems and Space Engineering. You will work on developing new innovative solutions (vehicles) for future space missions in, for example, exploration and colonization of other planets, asteroid mining, and experimental planting. The vehicles developed must be able to operate under very different environmental conditions compared with on Earth and in extreme levels of autonomy to complete missions in unknown, unstructured and harsh environments. You will use modern methods in a creative environment and collaborate with companies and universities around the world.

For this, we are looking for you who have a master's degree or equivalent and who are interested in becoming an expert in the areas of fluid mechanics and robotics. The project includes both numerical and experimental parts, which means that an interest in both parts is important as well as a great interest in each subject area.

As a PhD student you become part of a creative environment within the research groups, the university and the industry through a strong network around the world.

Luleå University of Technology offers an exciting and stimulating environment consisting of researchers, other doctoral students and very good equipment for laboratory work. The university has knowledge and access to numerical tools and advanced experimental methods.

Fluid Mechanics includes flow in porous materials, multiphase flow and rheology linked to industrial manufacturing methods, flow optimization and flow design for energy technology applications and magnetohydrodynamics.

The project is conducted in close collaboration with the research group in robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI). The RAI-team conducts basic and principled research in all aspects of robotics with a specific focus on airborne-, space- and bio-inspired robotics.

Until now space robotics has included lightweight and flexible manipulators for tasks such as assembly assignments in orbit. The emphasis in recent decades has been on the design and adaptation of planetary missions with ground vehicles (UGVs), or rovers as they are typically called. Rovers generally have an excellent translation ability and are perfectly designed to work in rough terrain. They however have a limited movability in extreme environments such as sharp terrain and loose sand. They are also limited to working in 2D, which in turn limits the opportunities to explore caves, voids, deserts and other areas. In order to overcome these limitations the use of flying robots has become the latest trend in the field. These include the NASA mission Dragonfly (planned launch 2027) to Saturn's moon Titan to search for the origins of life.

Current PhD project focuses on design, modeling, simulation and control of similar futuristic unmanned floating vehicles (UVFs). These include specifically propeller-based vehicles for planetary operating conditions different from the Earth's atmosphere and operation in near vacuum. The design of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and UVFs strongly depends on the aerodynamics of the platforms, which in turn is directly dependent on the surrounding environment. The atmospheric conditions for space applications are very different as introduced above. A large part of the planned research is to build a thorough understanding of how the platforms' aerodynamics can be linked to design and control. To be able to do that we have to break ground with new validated aerodynamic models of UAV and UVF in space environments.

You will work with robotics in the form of practical laboratory work and development of UVFs and with fluid mechanics in the form of experiments to measure relevant flows as well as CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to model the aerodynamics of UVFs. A central part of the project is to validate model assumptions and build trust in your results.

We believe you have the interest and ability to immerse yourself in a field of knowledge and at the same time be enterprising and build a network in industry and at universities around the world. You should be able to work in groups as well as on your own and be interested in performing experiments, development work and numerical simulations (CFD). The project includes both practical and theoretical work.

Applicants must have at least 300 credits in Engineering Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Space Engineering or equivalent. 60 credits must be at advanced level, of which some courses are related to fluid mechanics and robotics/control theory. Experience in control theory and robotics and/or CFD is an advantage. Applicants should also have good skills in Swedish and English both speaking and writing. Communication skills, initiative and an open mind are important as well as theoretical and practical knowledge.

Read more: General curricula for the Board of the faculty of science and technology                                                                        

For questions concerning the project, you are welcome to contact Professor Lars-Göran Westerberg, Division of Fluid- and Experimental Mechanics, +46 (0)920-49 12 68, or Professor George Nikolakopoulos, Robotics and AI, +46 (0)920-49 12 98,

For questions about the Division of Fluid- and Experimental Mechanics, you are welcome to contact Professor Staffan Lundström, telephone +46 (0)920-49 23 92,

Union representatives: SACO-S Kjell Johansson +46 (0)920-49 18 09, OFR-S Lars Frisk, +46 (0)920-49 17 92.

We prefer that you apply for the position via the application button below, where you attach a personal letter as well as a CV and diplomas. Please mark your application with the reference number below. Applications and diplomas must be written in Swedish or English.

Reference number: 344-2021
Application deadline: March 17, 2021

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