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PhD Studentship in Vibration and Impact Monitoring of Tram Operations

Groundborne vibration is a major concern for tram operators, due to the disturbance caused in nearby buildings and the potential for accelerated deterioration of track infrastructure. This project will research a form of track monitoring using the vehicles themselves as the primary instrument. Low-cost vehicle-mounted instrumentation will be used to record axle vibration signatures, along with positioning data, to map a tram network in terms of rail roughness (the primary cause of vibration). Such mapping aims to offer real-time continuous monitoring, enabling the formulation of a more efficient, optimised maintenance strategy that reduces vibration as well as costly track failures.

The project builds upon a 6-month EPSRC Partnership Development Award, which is currently developing a trial measurement system for installation late 2015 on trams of the Birmingham Metro. Once operational, vibration data will be acquired automatically and made available over the Web for processing. The objectives of the Studentship focus on the development of appropriate signal-processing techniques for the production of a live map of rail condition, and to establish the long-term relationships required for predicting rail deterioration. The research will involve the use of: analytical and/or empirical models of wheel-rail dynamic response; novel signal-processing techniques to compensate for vehicle speed, separate rail- and wheel-induced vibration, and characterise underlying roughness as well as discrete transient features and conventional, manual track measurements for validation purposes.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain) a 1st class, or high 2:1, honours degree in Mechanical, Civil or Information Engineering. The multidisciplinary nature of the project requires a candidate who is willing to learn new techniques over and above their core expertise, for example, in Dynamics and Signal Processing.

The PhD studentship is funded by the UK EPSRC and is available for October 2016 entry to the University of Cambridge. Home students are eligible for full funding including the University Composition Fee and Student Maintenance at standard EPSRC rates. EU/Swiss students can be considered for a Fees-only award. There is no funding available for Overseas applicants.

Expressions of interest, together with a CV and the names and contact details for two referees, should be sent to Dr James Talbot (

Applications should be made on-line via the Cambridge Graduate Admissions Office before the deadline: With Dr Talbot identified as the potential supervisor.

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