The University of Southampton

Mechatronic Technologies

Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary engineering branch that integrates mechanical, electrical, electronic, photonic and software engineering. At the core of our research lies the design of intelligent systems, where the convergence of photonics, with mechanical components, electronics, and advanced software leads to ground-breaking advances. Photonics, with its focus on the manipulation of light, adds a new dimension to mechatronic systems, enabling unprecedented levels of precision and adaptability.

The research of the group is aligned to development of smart machines, smart structures, automated systems, and energy storage that leverage photonics and photonic fabrication for enhanced functionality. The work holds significant promise for a variety of industries, including manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace.

By working closely with industry partners, the research group ensures that their innovations are not only academically rigorous but also practically impactful. This collaborative approach across different Schools (Photonics, Engineering and Chemistry) enables the group to address complex challenges in the real-world.

All PhD projects:

  • Entry Requirements: A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent). 
  • Closing date: Applications are accepted throughout the year. The start date will typically be late September, but other dates are possible.
  • Funding: For UK students, tuition fees and a stipend at the UKRI rate plus £2,000 ORC enhancement tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years (totalling around £21,000 for 2024/25, rising annually). EU and Horizon Europe students are eligible for scholarships. CSC students are eligible for fee waivers. Funding for other international applicants is very limited and highly competitive. Overseas students who have secured or are seeking external funding are welcome to apply.
  • Apply online here


PhD opportunities exist in the following areas:

Disruptive Approach using Additive Manufacture for Optical Fibre Fabrication

Supervisors: Christopher Holmes, Pawel Maniewski, Jayanta Sahu

This PhD is at the cutting edge of optical fibre technology, pioneer unconventional methods for laser-based glass 3D printing, focusing on tailored materials for highly customized optical devices—a potential industry game-changer. 

Optical fibre is the pinnacle of silica glass technology and has revolutionized worldwide communication. The project pursues the next chapter of optical fibre fabrication through use and development of laser-based Additive Manufacture (AM). This is an attractive way of fabrication, where reduced waste and short production cycles are widely recognized. Furthermore, additive manufacturing enables to utilise designs and materials that are not possible to obtain with traditional methods.  

Over the course of the project, the successful candidate will focus on development and characterisation of highly customized materials and feedstocks, which shall be then evaluated in laser-based fibre fabrication. 

The project includes the use of University of Southampton cleanroom facilities, optical laboratories, and extensive material analysis. The planned research is part of a collaboration between University of Southampton and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden) and there is support to travel and conduct experiments in Sweden. 


Advanced Drivetrain Monitoring through use of Machine Learning and Optical Fibre Speckle Patterns (GE Aerospace)

Supervisors: Christopher HolmesMartynas Beresna, Timothy Lee

Embark on a ground-breaking Ph.D. journey poised to revolutionize the field of large aerial drone condition monitoring. 

Through harnessing the power of Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced optical sensing technologies the vision of our team is to usher in a new era of precision and efficiency for aviation. 

According to the FAA's projections, by 2030, large drones (with payloads exceeding 90 kg) are expected to outnumber traditional aircraft by a ratio of 3 to 1. Despite this promising trajectory, the primary challenge lies in ensuring safety due to the constraints of limited ground crew. 

This PhD considers development of optical speckle patterns analysed by machine learning, to interpret strains and temperature changes along the length of an optical fibre. Strategically integrated into an airframe this would enable real-time condition monitoring in a package that streamlines Size, Weight, Power (SWAP) metrics, considered essential for aviation. 

With a focus on elevating sampling frequency of current technology from 10Hz to over 10kHz and developing more innovative AI algorithms, this collaborative project, in partnership with GE Aerospace, aims to reshape the landscape of optical sensing technology for rotorcraft drivetrain monitoring. 

Join us at the forefront of innovation and contribute to the future of high-performance condition monitoring.


Disruptive manufacturing approach to enable safe and high energy batteries

Supervisors: Christopher HolmesPier Sazio, Nuria Garcia, Andrew Hector

Ensuring the safety of lithium batteries is a top priority in battery development. Safety concerns are inherent in current lithium-ion batteries and stem from the use of organic liquid solvents. Solid state batteries offer the potential for inherent safety and higher energy density. However, despite these advantages, their current practical performance is hindered by significant challenges in materials and manufacturing processes. 

This project will employ a novel and disruptive manufacturing approach, never used before in the battery field, to produce all-glass solid-state batteries with enhanced performance and safety. The fusion draw method, used commercially for smart phone screens, will be employed to produce ultrathin and virtually defect-free films that will be sandwiched together to form the batteries. The project builds on the success of a previous project, led by Chris Holmes and Pier Sazio, in which the same manufacturing method was used for producing planar optics. The selection, synthesis and characterisation of the materials to build the batteries will be done in collaboration with battery experts from the School of Chemistry (Nuria Garcia-Araez and Andrew Hector). The project will also involve two postdoctoral researchers (one hosted in ORC and the other one in Chemistry), and a suite of word-class manufacturing and characterisation facilities, leveraging a recently awarded, £1.2 million, research grant. 


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