A fully funded PhD studentship (up to £17k pa tax-free bursary and fees paid) is available to develop novel optical instrumentation for robotics and automation. This exciting opportunity is focussed on the measurement of the angle/pose of articulated arms found in many applications in robotics and automation, including high-precision robotic manufacturing, aerospace manufacturing, autonomous construction vehicles, and applications to snake-like continuum robotics that are important for a range of application areas in confined spaces such as nuclear energy, disaster relief or robotic surgery. Read more Read less

This project will focus on the development, construction and testing of fibre optic shape sensing instrumentation in the form of a sensing ‘tape’ that can be integrated into a robotic arm structure to provide high-quality measurement of joint angles and arm position/shape. Such a sensing approach will have a wide range of applications: In industrial robotic arms, the proposed sensor will offer higher-resolution and higher-bandwidth measurements of joint angles/robot pose offering improved performance and new techniques in robotic manufacturing. For example, higher measurement bandwidth will enable new approaches to vibration correction leading to higher quality and productivity. In automation, the sensors could be applied as a retrofittable upgrade to improve the performance of low cost industrial arms and enable the automation of articulated joints used in heavy construction vehicles.

The project will include the development of the signal processing system from an existing prototype, investigation of the physical packaging of the fibre sensors for different applications in robotics, and application trials with our internal and external partners including; Cranfield University Welding and Laser processing Centre; the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) - a UK high value manufacturing catapult centre.

This is an EPSRC/Cranfield University sponsored position in the Centre for Engineering Photonics at Cranfield University. The Centre for Engineering Photonics is an internationally leading optical sensing and instrumentation research centre with a broad portfolio with an emphasis on the development of instrumentation to tackle engineering measurement problems, while offering scope for more speculative, blue sky research. We are a wholly research based centre, with modern well-equipped laboratories, and as such can offer a unique supervision environment with the opportunity to be part of a larger research team.

All students are provided with full training in photonics techniques, optical fibre handling and signal processing. Additionally all students are encouraged to complete a programme of courses in transferrable skills, making them highly sought after by employers and our students go on to successful careers in the fields of their choice, often in research or development roles in industry, government funded establishments and universities.

This project offers the chance to make a contribution at the forefront of modern instrumentation, robotics and automation research, combining laboratory based research with real-world application experience via instrumentation trials in different application areas. The studentship also offers scope to learn highly-transferable, in-demand skills with funding available for additional technical skill training e.g. FPGA / LabView/ Python / C programming and to attend and present at national & international conferences.

At a glance

  • Application deadline28 Aug 2020
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date28 Sep 2020
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK
  • Reference numberSATM0075

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline, such as engineering, or the physical sciences and / or an MSc in a relevant subject. This project would suit candidates with a background in the physical sciences / engineering, who want to apply their skills in real world applications.

Applicants are welcome from a wide range of backgrounds and many of our students complete a PhD following a period (or even a career) in industry and we can offer flexible start dates throughout the year.


To be eligible for this funding, applicants must be a UK national. We require that applicants are under no restrictions regarding how long they can stay in the UK i.e. have no visa restrictions or applicant has “settled status” and has been “ordinarily resident” in the UK for 3 years prior to start of studies and has not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

Explore financial support opportunities in our funding finder.

About the sponsor

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Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:
Dr. Tom Charrett E: t.charrett@cranfield.ac.uk T: +44 (0)1234 750111 Ext: 8205
Or Prof Ralph Tatam E: r.p.tatam@cranfield.ac.uk T: (0)1234 750111 Ext: 4630

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form.

For further information contact us today:
E: study@cranfield.ac.uk T: 44 (0)1234 758540