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Postgraduate research project

Adapting to the rough seas using a tunable stiffness soft robot

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

This is an exciting opportunity to work on a multidisciplinary project in soft robotics and fluid dynamics and control at one of the UK's leading departments for fluids research. You will focus on developing a soft robotic control surface with tunable stiffness properties that can adapt to varying inflow conditions.

The interaction between fluids and flexible structures is found everywhere, with examples in both animal locomotion and bio-inspired engineering devices. Flexibility enables adaptation to change in fluid flow by bending, twisting, and countering the oncoming flow. This has significant applications for bio-inspired robots where efficiency, manoeuvrability, and obstacle avoidance are crucial requirements. Additionally, tuning and controlling the flexibility of the control surfaces, particularly in response to gusts, can further enhance the advantages.

The flow around flexible control surfaces, especially in underwater robots, is characterised by nonlinear and unsteady phenomena resulting from high amplitude pitch kinematics and intricate fluid-structure interactions. The broad scope of this study is to develop a soft robotic control surface with tunable stiffness properties that can quickly respond to varying inflow conditions. The robot will be tested in Southampton’s recirculating water tunnel using particle image velocimetry and direct force measurements. Appropriate control techniques will be explored and implemented.

This project will enhance your skills in: 

  • motion control
  • building rigorous experimental set-ups
  • coding of image and signal processing
  • scientific planning
  • writing
  • presentation of international exposure

You will have access to training in general manufacturing skills in our extensive workshops. You will have the opportunity to work with a vibrant cohort of PhDs and postdocs who will be a part of your network.