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PhD student: Non-invasive detection of location and amount of ice and water in the fuel tank

In the research group Materials Performance and Nondestructive Testing of the Department of Materials Engineering we offer a 3-years research and training position, in collaboration with Brussel Airlines, in the field of non-destructive testing (NDT) and structural health monitoring of aircraft components, potentially leading to a Ph.D. degree. In addition, the applicant will follow an extended training in Aircraft Maintenance according to the EASA rules, part 66 at Brussels Airlines in Zaventem (Belgium). All research and training activities are part of the EU-funded International Trainings Network (ITN) “Training Network in Non-Destructive Testing and Structural Health Monitoring of Aircraft structures (NDTonAIR).

Condensation inside the fuel tanks during aircraft cycles or when filling aircraft tanks with kerosene, relevant amounts of water will collect in the fuel tanks that potentially leads to misreadings of fuel meters or at certain aircraft types will partially block the suction mouth of fuel feed tubes to the engines from the tanks due ice blocks. It furthermore enables microbial corrosion inside the tank that even harm the structural elements of the tank, resulting in large and costly repairs with long aircraft grounding times. There is up to now no generally accepted “non-invasive” method available to determine the moment when "water draining" has to be performed or to determine if after the draining the maintenance can ensure all water is drained and no ice blocks or water is still present inside the tank.This method and its information could be used to optimize the draining procedure or time to drain, or could deliver the aircraft OEM’s important data to redesign the draining concept to be more efficient in draining water from the fuel tanks.
The detection of the "damage mode" water/ice in the tank is an ideal field of application for diverse advanced acoustic, ultrasonic and thermal NDT methods which would be an excellent tool to increase the performance of maintenance operations.
The research objectives thus include the detection of water in the tank including an estimate of its volume as well as estimates to the applicability including an economic analysis on the feasibility.
The work will be performed in the facilities of Brussels Airlines and when related to the Ph.D., in the research group Materials Performance and Nondestructive Testing of the Department of Materials Engineering as well as the Laboratory for Soft Matter and Biophysics of the Department Physics and Astronomy at KU Leuven, including short-term research and training stays at international project partners. As apart of an International Training Network (ITN) of the EU, candidates must prove to fulfil the respective eligibility criteria for this position: (i) not residing in Belgium for at least 24 months in the last 3 years, and (ii) having not more than 4 years of research experience (working as researcher after obtaining your master’s degree). 
As the research topic is situated in the field of diverse fields of non-destructive testing and/or materials and mechanical engineering, applicants require to have an excellent proven background in related natural or engineering sciences, including profound knowledge on signal processing as well as on the respective hard- and software. 

Master degree in one of the following fields (or similar): Materials Science, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering,Physics, Natural Sciences, ...
A strong interest for multidisciplinary research is required.
Communication skills: ability to work both independently and in a team.
Appropriate skills in English speaking and writing are mandatory.

The project offers funding for a 3-year program towards a Ph.D. at the KU Leuven within the Department of Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Science.
KU Leuven offers an exciting multi-disciplinary research environment, a broad gamut of training courses for Ph.D. students, competitive salaries or scholarships and full social an medical insurance.

Contact detail

How to apply:
You can apply for this job no later than December 01, 2016 via the online application tool.
Send application to
For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Martine Wevers, tel.: +32 16 32 13 03 , mail: martine.wevers@kuleuven.be or Dr. Helge Pfeiffer, tel.: +32 16 32 12 32 , mail: helge.pfeiffer@kuleuven.be.

Job profile

Working hours
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
Working place
3000 Leuven
Area of expertise
Material Science & Engineering, Physics, Mechanical Engineering