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University of Bath

Student projects in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems

Find out about current projects from our PhD students.

Picture of Cohort 2 AAPS Student sat at desk
Photo of Lois Player, Cohort 2 student, sat in a seminar.

Students starting in 2019

Automated simulation management of complex co-simulation test systems for advance propulsion systems

  • Student: Vicentiu Iulian Savu
  • Supervisor: Chris Brace
  • Industry Partner AVL
  • AAPS Research Theme: Digital Systems, Optimisation and Integration

Complex automotive propulsions systems of the future will be developed using a combination of experimental and simulation techniques capturing the different physical phenomenon of the systems (battery chemistries, combustion, electric drives…). At different stages of the propulsion system development phase, co-simulations will be used as a combination of different mathematical models and also real hardware in Hardware-in-the-loop configurations. However, this reliance on simulation requires high confidence in the accuracy of the simulation model to ensure high quality data and results are obtained. The aim of this PhD thesis is to create a methodology for monitoring the co-simulation and to terminate it at the earliest possible moment in case an error occurs. This error could be cause by systems errors (software component crash, Real time simulation misses deadline…) or by simulation errors (instable signal, low signal quality, wrong trigger sequence, incorrect frequency….). It is expected that the student will produce a prototype implementation of their methodology and demonstrate this in the prototype factory at the new Institute for Advanced Propulsion Systems (IAAPS).

New Materials for Automotive Tribo-chemistry

  • Student: Ciaran Llewelyn
  • Supervisor: Andrew Johnson
  • Industry Partner: Infineum
  • AAPS Research Theme: Low Carbon Fuels

Optimum lubrication and low-friction in automotive applications represents a potential for reduced energy consumption and emissions in engines. Moving engine components operate under high-temperature and high-pressure conditions where oil additives activate to form sacrificial protective tribo-films, which in turn reduce friction and wear. This synthetic tribo-chemistry based PhD will focus on the design, synthesis, characterisation and tribo-testing of new inorganic molecules designed to form wear resistant and low-friction films at points within the engine where friction and wear are present.

Interaction between different categories of road user

  • Student: Catherine Naughtie
  • Supervisor: Ian Walker
  • AAPS Research Theme: Driver and User Behaviour

Our streets are shared by multiple types of user. At the extremes, vulnerable pedestrians might occupy urban spaces with vastly more dangerous heavy goods vehicles. Such interactions introduce many disparities and asymmetries in terms of the ability of one party to harm another, and the extent to which each party is legally and physically regulated. A key issue is how these different classes of road user can effectively communicate with one another. This becomes more pressing as we consider the possibility of future autonomous vehicles, which entirely lack a human component and so might communicate very differently (e.g., they are unlikely to interpret informal signals the way a human driver would). All this takes place within a built environment which is regulated by a legal system and surrounded by cultural influences such as news and mass media. This PhD will look at how communication between road users currently takes place and how people, policy and engineering might be changed to facilitate and improve this.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell for Small/Medium Aerospace Applications

  • Student: Elisabettamaria Schettino
  • Supervisor: Alfred Hill
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Chemical Energy Converters

We propose the use of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) for the direct conversion of hydrogen storage vectors such as ammonia to electrical energy. SOFCs have several advantages over PEM, including, multi-fuel capability, resilience to poisoning from fuel impurities and lower use of precious metal catalysts.

Chemical molecules such as ammonia have the potential to be excellent hydrogen storage vectors for aviation fuels. They do not require high pressure containment but still achieve very high hydrogen storage densities arising from the hydrogen stored within their chemical structure. However release of the hydrogen requires a catalytic conversion and ppm levels of ammonia are a poison for PEM fuel cells so a SOFC is required.

The project proposes the (1) characterisation and (2) optimisation of SOFCs for usage in aerospace electric propulsion applications. Characterisation of the cells will focus on cycle efficiency of different fuels (Ammonia, hydrocarbons, H2) and the internal chemistry/catalysers used. Optimisation will be on structural weight reduction, power transfer efficiency, and thermal management of waste heat using AM.

WP1: Exploration of Fuel Cell topology / architecture / fuel: To investigate the most suitable fuel, catalyst and electrolyte performance and topology for aerospace applications. Bath already has equipment required to quantify the conversion efficiencies of the cells while some will be purchased directly as part of the project.

WP2: Integrated thermal management: This will investigate different materials and 3D geometries to highly integrate cells and their thermal management making use of extensive simulations. AM heat exchangers and cell components will be prototyped and tested. This will include consideration of fast start-up capability by application of direct radio-frequency heating.

WP3: Technology demonstrator: a prototype SOFC stack to be produced to demonstrate feasibility.

Thermodynamic and kinematic analysis and modelling of the ISOTOPE-X cross-linked opposed-piston free-piston engine

  • Student: Alex Young
  • Supervisor: Jamie Turner
  • AAPS Research Theme: Chemical Energy Converters

The research will investigate a new concept of free-piston engine for which a patent has been applied for by the University. This concept (known as “ISOTOPE-X”) is mainly intended to function as a range extender for a battery electric vehicle. The project will investigate the performance of the machine firstly as a combustion engine, including possibilities afforded by the flexibility of the piston motion, to in turn establish the requirements placed on the electrical components, and then secondly model these to gauge the feasibility of the whole device. Control requirements will also be studied, including the potential benefit of using “bounce chambers” for instantaneous energy requirement reduction, and the use of pumping chambers for scavenging air supply the cylinders.

The combustion modelling will include the possibility to vary the compression ratio and so investigate the feasibility of using some form of compression ignition to further improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Heat transfer effects will be quantified as part of establishing the losses and also the magnitude of the thermal challenge passed to the magnets of the electrical machine.

It is anticipated that an initial conceptual design will be modelled and that as the analysis progresses and new insights are gained that updates to the design will be incorporated at various stages.

A significant potential avenue is the investigation of hydrogen as a fuel for the machine, since with advanced combustion modes enabled by variable compression ratio it is possible that this combination could be effectively zero emission and more efficient than a fuel cell for heavy duty applications, while being cheaper too.

Structural Batteries Project A: Atom-scale modelling, anode development and charging rates/battery cycling

  • Student: Thomas Barthelay
  • Supervisor: Andrew Rhead
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Low Carbon Fuels

Batteries based on carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) have the potential to supply power with an improved overall efficiency (vehicle power to weight rather than battery power to weight) compared to current battery technologies. By integrating batteries into the structure in the form of CFRP, lightweighting is not only achieved from the change in material but also from the removal of the non-structural dead weight of conventional batteries and their casements. For example, in automotive applications, structural batteries achieve a 26% theoretical mass saving over use of separate systems for energy storage and load carrying. The current state-of-the-art in structural batteries is a half-cell based on a structural cathode. Significant work is required before a full cell can be manufactured and expected to sustain loading for multiple discharge and mechanical load cycles. Three projects are suggested which focus on challenges at different length scales this is project A:

Atom-scale modelling, anode development and charging rates/battery cycling: This PhD will focus on optimising the construction of the anode of a CFRP structural battery (the cathode being investigated at Chalmers University in Sweden) and assessing its performance under load. Work will be undertaken in atomic modelling of the anode and the change in ion migration pathways as the anode is stretched by intercalation (absorption) of ions and mechanical loading. Work will focus on the electrochemical aspects of anode development and leave mechanical aspects to the other projects.

Structural Batteries Project B: Fibre matrix interface scale - Battery concepts and fibre electrolyte electrical connectivity

  • Student: Rob Gray
  • Supervisor: Andrew Rhead
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Low Carbon Fuels

Batteries based on carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) have the potential to supply power with an improved overall efficiency (vehicle power to weight rather than battery power to weight) compared to current battery technologies. By integrating batteries into the structure in the form of CFRP, lightweighting is not only achieved from the change in material but also from the removal of the non-structural dead weight of conventional batteries and their casements. For example, in automotive applications, structural batteries achieve a 26% theoretical mass saving over use of separate systems for energy storage and load carrying. The current state-of-the-art in structural batteries is a half-cell based on a structural cathode. Significant work is required before a full cell can be manufactured and expected to sustain loading for multiple discharge and mechanical load cycles. Three projects are suggested which focus on challenges at different length scales this is project A:

Fibre matrix interface scale - Battery concepts and fibre electrolyte electrical connectivity: Work in this PhD will focus on both creation and development of new structural battery concepts and on the dual role of the supporting matrix. The matrix must both mechanically support the fibre, for which complete wetting of the fibre by the matrix is optimal, and allow ion migration, for which partial wetting of the fibre, in some battery constructions, is optimal as it allows liquid electrolyte to be in contact with the electrically conductive carbon fibre electrodes. The interface between the fibre and resin is subject to interface chemistry including sizing/functionalisation of the carbon fibres and processes which can control the wetting of the fibres by the matrix. Exploration of both will be key to this PhD project.

Design and validation methods for additively manufactured heat exchangers

  • Student: Edgar Romero
  • Supervisors: Joseph Flynn and Oliver Pountney
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Chemical Energy Converters

With electrification being one of the biggest potential disruptors in modern transport, there is a growing need for lightweight, reliable and efficient thermal management systems. Conventional solutions will struggle to keep future powertrain and propulsion systems cool without incurring significant mass penalties. In addition, future systems are likely to be highly complex, which may also negate the performance benefits. Recovering waste heat will also be a priority to reach desired overall system efficiencies – affecting both the environment as well as operational economics. Advancements in additive manufacturing technologies combined with mathematical/parametric modelling enable the construction of radically different heat exchangers. These units can be designed to reflect their function and application in particular environments. In this PhD, Edgar will focus on engineering methods development to design and validate high-effectiveness, additively manufactured heat exchangers. This research will consider both analytical and experimental techniques. A modular approach is proposed with a focus on heat transfer through thin-walled components and balancing the trade-off between effectiveness and pressure drop across the unit. Finally, this project will consider further integration with computational intelligence or optimisation techniques in order to radically accelerate the development of complex heat exchangers.

Closed cycle water injection for internal combustion engines

  • Student: Immanuel Vinke
  • Supervisor: Sam Akehurst
  • Industry Partner: Solenal GmbH
  • AAPS Research Theme: Digital Systems, Optimisation and Integration

This project investigates a pathway to making water injection for combustion engines mass market proof. Water injection for combustion engines has been implemented a number of times into limited production motor vehicles to enable higher engine performance, mainly with forced induction. In these cases, the technology was used to lift the knock limit by decreasing combustion temperatures. However, water injection enables better thermal efficiency with lower combustion temperatures which can decrease particulate, CO, CO2 and HC emissions together with fuel consumption. Nowadays, a large portion of engines utilise forced induction which at certain times requires extra cooling where the engine is made to run rich. Having lower combustion temperatures removes this need. Furthermore, as mentioned, with lower combustion temperatures, engines could run higher compression ratios which would make engines smaller, hence reducing rotational masses and improving fuel consumption. These potential benefits reflect the current drive toward more efficient and cleaner combustion engines. Electrification is one of the pathways being implemented to fight global warming but combustion engines are set to be part of the majority of drivetrains available in the next few decades. One of the reasons why water injection has not made its way into mass production vehicles is the need for the consumer to refill the water tank after relatively short intervals with distilled water from the grocery store. This is impractical and not acceptable for consumer satisfaction. This project aims to produce a solution where the water vapour in the exhaust gas is condensed to liquid form, cleaned and stored to then be injected back into the engine to result in a closed cycle. There are several issues that need to be addressed when proposing such a solution. Among those are water pH values, moulding, freezing and impurities within the condensed water.

Through the sponsoring company, a natural non-toxic additive is in development and may be used for the purpose of the project to potentially eliminate some of the issues with closed cycle water injection. The proposed solution should then be capable to run several thousand kilometres without a refill of the additive, similar to the AdBlue principle in diesel engines. Depending on the progress of the research, a prototype of the whole system is possible where a side effect of the water injection may be that the currently imposed GPF filter for gasoline engines could be removed due to water injection reducing the particulate emissions. This would be a positive side effect since less aftertreatment would result in a weight and efficiency benefit.

Students starting in 2020

Leidenfrost propulsion for cooling flows in AM parts

  • Student: Onur Tokkan
  • Supervisor: Andrew Rhead
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Chemical Energy Converters

Water droplets placed on a surface heated to a sufficient temperature (the Leidenfrost temperature) levitate on a film of their own vapour. A recent Nature article showed that adding a sawtooth pattern to the heated surface causes these levitating droplets to be propelled (even uphill!). Very recent work at Bath has shown that this propulsion can be achieved in mm diameter enclosed pipes. This opens the way to exploitation of Leidenfrost propulsion for active cooling systems that operate without moving parts and use waste heat energy for the thermal pumping effect. In this project we will seek to extend this work by using AM techniques to created 3D printed cooling systems with internal ratchet microstructures. Work will focus on optimum fluid/surface choices (experiments have previously been confined to water) and ensuring AM quality is sufficient to reliably allow propulsion as surface roughness can cause an increase in the Leidenfrost temperature. The effect of pressure on heat transfer will be studied both experimentally and numerically and set in context against current systems.

Psycho(patho)logical predictors of (automotive related) pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours

  • Student: Lois Player
  • Supervisor: Punit Shah
  • AAPS Research Theme: Driver and User Behaviour

The supervisory team are currently involved in research providing crucial data to inform the upcoming implementation of Clean Air Zones in the UK. CAZs aim to significantly reduce the use of older vehicles, and equally encourage UK residents to upgrade to, and use, more environmentally friendly forms of transport including new hybrid vehicles. We are conducting research on understanding the psychological processes underlying support and opposition to the CAZ. This will focus on qualitative data (e.g., following interviews) and cursory experiments.

Lois will complete her PhD, though publications, starting with an in-depth review of the relationships between normal and psychopathological (i.e., abnormal) psychological traits, environmental attitudes, and pro-environmental behaviours (Article 1). For example, building on some of our ongoing work (Taylor…Shah, under review), this will follow a line of theoretical enquiry on the links between autism, mental health conditions, and pro-environmental (automotive) behaviours. Based on the review of the literature, partly using data collected as part of the CAZs implementation, Lois will complete a series of empirical studies (Articles 2-5) to assess the various psycho(patho)logical predictors of pro-environmental behaviours, accounting for climate change beliefs and environmental attitudes, with a focus on understanding any potential barriers to engaging in pro-environmental behaviours.

Overall, the proposed work will feed into existing CAZ projects, and thereby governmental policy, but also generate new findings that will be important for understanding and changing, both attitudes and behaviours, towards the use of more environmentally friendly vehicles and public transport.

Life cycle assessment of current and future passenger transport technologies in the UK

  • Student: Joris Simaitis
  • Supervisor: Sophie Parsons
  • AAPS Research Theme: Sustainability and Low Carbon Transition

In the coming years, the electric powertrain is expected to replace fossil fuelled vehicles. From an environmental perspective, there are still many uncertainties when assessing the potential life cycle impacts of future powertrain technologies. Many factors effect electric vehicle environmental performance - from electricity grid mix used to driver behaviour. A detailed evaluation of these sensitivities is required in order to understand when and under what driving conditions the electric powertrain is desirable. This is not only important to informing future vehicle LCA methodology and approaches, but is also important to policy-making – ensuring transportation in the future really does enable the UK Government to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

This research is expected to be highly multidisciplinary, meaning Joris will need to get to grips with a range of transport technologies, where he will be using life cycle assessment and driver behaviour data to perform a detailed analysis of the sensitivities and uncertainties relating to electric vehicles. The project will involve programming in advanced LCA software using Python.

Crude Sulfate Turpentine as a new source of biorenewable fuel

  • Student: Aaron Lister
  • Supervisor: Steven Bull
  • AAPS Research Theme: Low Carbon Fuels

Dwindling fossil fuel supplies and global warming mean there is an urgent need to develop biorenewable replacements for the petrochemical based fuels and lubricants consumed by the automotive industry. Bioethanol from fermentation of lignocellulose biomass and other high energy biofuel replacements derived from hydrogenated vegetable oils have been developed, however many of these biofuels have low densities and volumetric heating values.

Terpenes represent an alternative class of naturally occurring hydrocarbons which have comparatively higher densities that make them ideal-fuel replacements/additives. Nature produces an estimated one billion tonnes of terpene annually, which is a sufficient volume to consider using these hydrocarbons as replacement biofuels. Recent developments in industrial biotechnology have also demonstrated the potential of engineering metabolic pathways into microbes for the industrial production of economically important higher terpenes. The cheapest commercial sources of terpene currently available is Crude Sulfate Turpentine (CST) which is produced as a waste by-product of the Kraft paper pulp process (approx. 240,000 tonnes p/a) and gum turpentine (110,000 tonnes p/a) that is available from sustainable tapping of pine trees. Both turpentine sources are comprised of a mixture of cyclic monoterpenes (-pinene, -pinene, 3-carene and limonene), that are currently used as chemical feedstocks by the flavour/fragrance industries or burnt on-site to provide a cheap energy source for the pulping plant.

We have recently developed a catalytic two-step ring fragmentation/hydrogenation protocol to convert CST into a ‘sulfur free’ p-menthane biofuel containing controllable amounts of aromatic p-cymene. The monocyclic saturated branched ring structure of p-menthane means that it should exhibiy excellent automotive biofuel properties (high energy, branched, resistant to oxidation, low freezing point, non-carcinogenic). This project will optimise the chemical route from untreated industrial CST (e.g. desulfurisation technology, catalyst recycling) obtained from a Swedish paper mill (Södra) to produce p-menthane/p-cymene blends (ratio dependent on partial hydrogen pressure) whose combustion performance (e.g. melting point, cloud point, cetane level, temperature performance, combustion kinetics/pathways) will then be optimised to enable field tests to be carried out in different types of combustion engine.

AI approaches to automate Bill of Materials Validation.

  • Student: James Angus
  • Supervisor: Chris Brace
  • Industry Partner: Quick Release
  • AAPS Research Theme: Digital Systems, Optimisation and Integration

A Bill of Materials (BoM) is a document that lists all of the components and resources needed to build a product, in this case a vehicle. Each car has around 15,000 components. If any of these components are missing or incompatible the factory cannot build the vehicle. The problem is made more complex because vehicle makers offer an almost infinite variety of model variations and customisation options. Each of these needs a complete and accurate BoM if the manufacturing process is to succeed. Therefore, each BoM must be validated to ensure it is correct before the vehicle can be built. Techniques exist to automate this validation process, but there is still a heavy reliance on expert knowledge to ensure that nothing is missed or duplicated.

Using AI techniques, it may be possible to understand the variant configuration of each buildable combination and thus eradicate miss-builds and provide vehicle makers with the good information across the whole product line-up which will allow for more accurate planning in terms of assembly as well as financial control. There is a rich dataset of historical BoMs available which can be used to help with this process, as well as access to human experts whose knowledge may able to be represented in an automated procedure. It is likely that the most effective approach will combine these two approaches.

Project Title: Structural batteries mechanical resilience

  • Student: Paloma Rodriguez Santana
  • Supervisor: Andrew Rhead and Alexander Lunt
  • Industry Partner: GKN
  • AAPS Research Theme: Low Carbon Fuels

Batteries based on carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) have the potential to supply power with an improved overall efficiency (vehicle power to weight rather than battery power to weight) compared to current battery technologies. By integrating batteries into the structure in the form of CFRP, lightweighting is not only achieved from the change in material but also from the removal of the non-structural dead weight of conventional batteries and their casements. For example, in automotive applications, structural batteries achieve a 26% theoretical mass saving over use of separate systems for energy storage and load carrying.

The current state-of-the-art in structural batteries is a half-cell based on a structural cathode. Significant work is required before a full cell can be manufactured and expected to sustain loading for multiple discharge and mechanical load cycles.

Micromechanical scale - Mechanical resilience: During charging, ions are absorbed into the fibre (intercalation) which causes the anode to swell. Swelling impacts the residual stress state, mechanical properties and microstructure of the composite material, and may result in microscale fracture. Such physical changes will critically influence the ability of the material to hold charge and carry structural load. Work in this PhD will focus on use of synchrotron techniques to measure fibre scale mechanical properties of both anodes and cathodes during charge cycling, accumulation of microscale damage and understanding of ion intercalation patterns within the anode. Work will progress to understand similar properties under axial fatigue loading.