Postgraduate Research Opportunities with the SMART SYSTEMS INTEGRATION GROUP at Cork Institute of Technology Funded Masters and PhD positions Research in design and development of miniaturised electronic systems for structural, mechanical, biomedical and chemical applications Suitable for graduates in electronics, mechanical/manufacturing engineering, physics and related disciplines “Smart System”: A miniature and unobtrusive electronic system comprising sensors, data processing, decision making and communication, for example: a system that monitors temperature and mechanical stresses in a material a system that monitors and warns of excessive impact forces “Smart Systems Integration”: Putting a smart system on or in an object so that it does something useful, is reliable and does not interfere with the object’s ordinary function, for example: putting the temperature and mechanical stress sensing system in wet concrete to monitor curing putting the impact force sensing system in the base of a shoe so that it can warn a person with arthritis or artificial joints of potential acute or accumulated joint damage The Smart Systems Integration Group (SSIG1), recently funded under the Irish Technological Sector Research Programme, brings together research leaders from the Department of Electronic Engineering and of Department of Manufacturing, Biomedical and Facilities Engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (www.cit.ie) with the objective of establishing CIT as a Centre of Expertise in Smart Systems Integration. Smart Systems can enable entirely new applications and concepts across many engineering and non-engineering disciplines. However, they require multidisciplinary expertise in sensors, electronics, mechanics and manufacturing both to develop and to reliably integrate them into different applications. We therefore invite applications for funded postgraduate research positions to work on the four research projects described on the following pages. Successful candidates will have honours degrees in electronics, mechanical/manufacturing engineering, physics or related disciplines and will join a rapidly expanding community of 136 postgraduate research students at CIT, over 30 of whom are carrying out research in the Electronic Engineering and the Manufacturing, Biomedical and Facilities Engineering Departments. These Departments provide an excellent environment for postgraduate study with opportunities for attending at conferences, placements at other institutions and contacts with potential employers as appropriate. These Departments have recently been awarded Delegated Authority to award degrees to PhD level in recognition of the quality of their research and postgraduate supervision. The research supervisors will be John Barrett, Martin Hill and Gerard Kelly who between them have: 65 years of experience in national and international R&D Expertise in microsystems; Electronic component and system packaging; Electronic system design, systems integration and test; Micro- and macromechanical design and simulation; Reliability analysis Published almost 200 peer reviewed journal and conference papers Supervised and graduated 35 postgraduate students to masters and PhD Completed 55 nationally and EU funded large scale R&D projects and many further projects directly supported by Irish companies FOR FURTHER firstname.lastname@example.org 1 INFORMATION: please contact John Barrett The SSIG is a Technology Group within the CIT Centre for Adaptive Wireless Systems (aws.cit.ie ) at Research Project 1: Smart System for Monitoring of Concrete Curing and Structural Health. After concrete is placed, a satisfactory moisture content and temperature must be maintained, to aid a process called curing. Curing has a strong influence on the properties of hardened concrete such as durability, and strength. As concrete cures, its temperature needs to be controlled as the curing reaction gives off sizeable amounts of heat (and dries out) which in thick sections can cause cracking of the concrete and cause reductions in its characteristic strength. This may require either cooling the concrete via circulating water channels or conversely heating it for specific periods of time if weather conditions are too cold particularly in the first few days of the hardening process. Strength tests are carried out at 7 and 28 days. If the target strength is not achieved by these tests then the concrete may need to be ripped out and replaced which is extremely costly and exercise. The currently used approach to sensing curing is to use optical fibre sensors but these are only able to sense stress and cannot present a complete picture of curing. A smart sensor which constantly monitors the shrinkage, moisture content and temperature of the concrete as it cures and which could monitor and report the curing conditions of the concrete with time would be of immense benefit to the construction industry in controlling the quality and characteristic strength of concrete and in monitoring the structural health of RC structures on an ongoing basis. Success here will open up opportunities for embedding of wireless sensors in other materials and structures. Proposed approach: While MST sensors have been developed for temperature, mechanical stress and moisture, the corrosive nature of wet concrete needs to be particularly considered here in addition to the thermomechanical stresses. Packaging and encapsulation materials will therefore have to be selected with these in mind and tested for reliability in concrete. Temperature and stress sensors can be sealed in a metal enclosure (with the stress sensors monitoring deflection of the enclosure sides. A conductivity sensor on the outside of the case could be used to monitor moisture. It is likely that inductive coupling of data will be more effective than RF transmission through concrete. Research Project 2: Foot Impact Forces If you suffer from arthritis in the leg, medical advice for how much activity you can undertake is to “keep going until it hurts”. However, pain equals damage and an earlier need for joint replacement. Since the forces on the joints arise from impact, bending and twisting forces on the foot, if we could integrate a smart system into footwear to measure these forces on a continuous basis without interfering with natural gait, it might be possible to alert the wearer to excessive acute or accumulated forces before damage is done. Such a system could also be used to diagnose arthritis. The challenge is to make the impact monitoring system small and flexible enough to allow natural flexing of the shoe or boot while still being robust enough to withstand the wide range of stresses to which it will be exposed. Solving this problem would open up opportunities not only in, say, sports footwear but also anywhere that a completely flexible, robust Smart System is needed. Proposed approach: Use low-profile, flexible electronic assemblies distributed throughout the upper, sole and heel of the shoe/boot. Transmit to a watch or similar worn on the person. Research Project 3: Smart System for ENT Surgery In the Department of Electronic Engineering at CIT, researchers have carried out work with ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons at the South Infirmary Hospital in Cork on using drill acoustic signature analysis to identify if the drill is approaching critical underlying structures (aural, optic and facial nerves, sinuses, brain) during drilling of the temporal bone of the skull. This work, done with a large conventional microphone, has indicated that the position and amplitude of the main frequency peaks of the acoustic signature do correlate with bone thickness and the work has been published in one of the world’s leading ENT journals. To take this research further, the researchers need a “smart drill” integrating acoustic, vibration and force sensors transmitting at a high data rate to a signal processing unit for real-time analysis. The challenge here is how to make such a Smart System small and light enough that it does not interfere with drilling while at the same time making it robust enough to withstand the mechanical forces of handling and drilling. Success here will open up opportunities in the much wider applications in smart mechanical machining and in machine wear monitoring for preventative maintenance. Proposed approach: Integrate the sensors and essential local signal conditioning near the tip of the drill using the maximum possible miniaturisation compatible with mechanical robustness. Integrate more complete signal conditioning and communications electronics in the body of the hand grip. Workpackage 4: Smart Systems for Liquids MST sensors for measuring the parameters of water, chemicals and other liquids have been the subject of widespread research. Could we develop a floating smart sensor for liquid monitoring? According to research done by the CIT Centre for Adaptive Wireless Systems in association with the Irish Marine Institute, such sensors, appropriately distributed, could enable fine mesh wireless sensing networks for pollution event monitoring in fresh and sea water. The main challenges are to allow the sensor to contact the liquid without it being exposed to mechanical damage and for wireless signals to be sent out while protecting the rest of the smart system. Both surface monitoring and at a depth of 1 to 2 metres in needed. This implies a floating main unit with a suspended deep sensor – an interesting systems integration problem indeed! There is also the requirement for a high level of “intelligence” in the Smart System and a good battery capacity as it will have to function autonomously without maintenance. It will also need to be cheap enough to allow deployment in large numbers. We will liaise with CAWS and the Marine Institute on this application. Success here would open up opportunities wherever remote monitoring of liquids is required. Proposed approach: Use selective encapsulation to seal the electronics while leaving the sensing surface of the sensor exposed on the underside of the floating Smart System. Suspend a weighted deep sensor on a cable. Transmit data using an antenna in/on the float for the Smart System.