STEM Summer Research - Limerick Courses

You will earn 6 research credits over 6 weeks, conducting faculty-supervised, hands-on, directed study research projects with results that will culminate in the preparation of a research paper.  You will complete a minimum of 240 hours on research in and out of the laboratory.

Faculty mentors will work closely with you to direct your continued growth and knowledge development in the chosen research topic discipline.

  • Make sure your courses transfer back for credit with your home school – this is your responsibility.

Choosing Your Research Project

  • Review Project titles and descriptions below.
  • List 3 (in order of preference) in your personal essay.
  • Program is highly individualized, with limited enrollment.
  • You will need to complete a brief Literature Review in consultation with your research supervisor prior to departure before the start of the program. More details here.
  • We encourage you to contact Arcadia’s Assistant Dean of STEM programs, Dr. Jessie Guinn, to discuss your particular research interests further.

Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, Materials Engineering

Course ID Title Credits Syllabus
LIME RSLW 392S International Independent Research in STEM Fields 6 PDF

Summer 2020 Projects

 

Security risks for the modern/electric vehicle

Disciplines: Computer & Software Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Newe

This project will investigate the susceptibility of electric vehicles, and modern vehicles, in general, that can be wirelessly/plug-in accessed, to hacking. Dr. Thomas Newe is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems. The student should have a basic background in data communications and security. With the worldwide growth of Electric vehicles, the topic of car hacking and connected vehicle security is poised to become one of the most talked-about (and worried-about) issues in the industry. The electric vehicle, by its very nature, has large computing capabilities and this capability makes it susceptible, and a target for hackers. In recent years the movie industry has dramatized car hacking in movies such as The Fast and the Furious movie, The Fate of the Furious. While the movie is fictional it will prompt a lot of what-if comments and this will attract the hacker to have a go.

Aim: This project will investigate the possibilities of hacking the modern vehicle and it will outline measures (IDS-Intrusion Detection Systems and IPS-Intrusion Prevention Systems) that can be taken to prevent such hacking. The networks involved in such systems; for vehicle control, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, charging, roadside communications, systems interconnect, etc. will be documented as will the security measures/protocols they implement.

 

Blockchain and the Digital Twin

Disciplines: Computer & Software Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Newe

This project will investigate the role of Blockchain in Digital Twin technology. Dr. Thomas Newe is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems. The student should have a basic background in Computer Eng/Science and a knowledge of data security. The digital twin is being used to provide the link between the physical manufacturing world and the digital one, and blockchain is necessary to guarantee security and traceability of data used for this. Blockchain has evolved into the essential tool necessary for providing full transparency for the transfer of data into the Digital Twin.

Aim: This project is to investigate how blockchain can be used for traceability and what tools are necessary for its deployment in the digital twin.

 

Role of Meninges in Concussion: Mechanical and Structural Characterisation of Porcine Meninges Membrane

Discipline: Biomedical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. John Mulvihill

Research field of the research project: Soft Tissue Biomechanics, concussion

Background: Concussion awareness is increasing almost daily in most mainstream sports. A concussion is one of the mildest forms of brain damage. However, it is this mildness of injury which makes it one of the most insidious, as repeated and undetected concussions can lead to permanently altered brain function. There is currently no scientific test for concussion – only a subjective assessment. The meninges are a series of membranes that envelop the brain to protect it during impact. The purpose of this project is to mechanically characterize this membrane using, uniaxial, biaxial and fracture toughness techniques, along with electron microscopy. The project will also apply an injury mimicking concussion on the brain and comparing the effect of concussion on mechanical and structural properties of the tissue

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Are the mechanical properties of the meninges location dependent within the brain? What effect would this have on location-specific concussive impacts and cortical protection design?

Background that the student needs to have: The students should have a lot of knowledge and experience in mechanical characterization experiments, and hyper/linear elastic stress analysis. The students should have a basic background in biology.

Analytical techniques to be employed: Uniaxial testing of porcine tissue, stress/strain analysis, statistics, electron microscopy (will provide training).

 

The effect of constraint on quench induced residual stresses during precipitation hardening of 7000 series aluminum alloys

Disciplines: Aerospace & Materials Engineering
Supervisor: Professor Jeremy Robinson, Associate Professor of Aerospace Materials

Research field of the research project: Aerospace Metallic Materials, Stress Analysis.

Background: Aerospace aluminum alloys rely on rapid quenching from temperatures close to 500°C to permit the development of strength by the metallurgical process known as precipitation hardening. This period of rapid cooling is usually carried out by immersion in cold water. An unavoidable consequence of this is the introduction of large magnitude residual stresses. These stresses must be relieved prior to the material being subsequently processed or used. A new method of accomplishing this is reported to involve constraining the material during the aging stage of the heat treatment. Aging involves reheating the material in the range of 100 to 200°C to promote precipitation of hardening phases. This project will aim to assess if this method to see if it can indeed relieve the residual stresses and to what degree.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Does constraining heat treatable aluminum alloys during the aging process results in reduced residual stress magnitudes.

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in metallic materials and linear elastic stress analysis methods. The project will involve quite a lot of practical work in the laboratory both heat-treating aluminum alloys and stress determination.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The primary method of residual stress characterization will be x-ray diffraction.

 

Computational modeling of mechanical behavior of lightweight carbon fiber materials

Discipline: Mechanical Engineering
Supervisor: Professor Noel O’Dowd, University of Limerick Chair in Mechanical Engineering

Research field of the research project: Computational Mechanics

Background: Engineering design is increasingly based on computational tools such as the finite-element method. The use of microstructurally based numerical models has gained increasing acceptance in engineering design and has been shown to provide accurate predictions of mechanical behavior. Such models can also be used to optimize the material microstructure to improve performance. This project will focus on carbon fiber reinforced composites, lightweight materials, previously used mainly in aerospace but now increasingly used in automotive and energy applications (e.g. wind turbine blades). These materials are important because of their lightweight in conjunction with excellent mechanical properties.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can the mechanical response of carbon fiber composites under complex loading conditions be accurately predicted using microstructurally accurate models.

Background that the student needs to have: Mechanical Engineering (or related discipline) and an interest in the mechanics of materials. Experience with MATLAB is required. 

Analytical techniques to be employed: mechanics of materials, finite-element analysis, possible extended finite-element methods (XFEM), depending on experience.

 

Playground Science for School Teachers

Discipline: Science Education
Supervisor: Professor Conleth Hussey, Professor of Lightwave Technology

Background: Having participated in open-days and school visit days for children and young people with science tricks and demonstrations I think there is a need to upskill the teachers with some of the basic science involved in pendulums, balancing a pole, getting a ball to ride up the side of a bucket, the siphon, etc.

 

The underlying mathematical framework in the architectural process of Christopher Alexander

Discipline: Science Education
Supervisor: Professor Conleth Hussey, Professor of Lightwave Technology

Background: The acclaimed and outspoken architect Christopher Alexander trained initially as a mathematician and has made original contributions to the field of computer science but is more famous for his unorthodox approach to architecture. This project will explore Alexander’s processes to see if we can extract his mathematical ontology and apply it elsewhere.

 

An Experimental Investigation of Composite Action in Double Layer Bending Active Gridshells made from Engineered Timber

Disciplines: Civil & Materials Engineering
Supervisor: Tom Cosgrove Prof. of Civil Engineering

Background: Shells are curved 3-dimensional, structurally efficient forms. Gridshells are similar but made from long laths arranged in a curved grid. A bending active gridshell [BAG] is made by bending a flat grid on site to create a double-curved gridshell. BAG members must both flexible and strong. Solid timber laths may fracture during forming due to defects like knots. Engineered timber such as Oriented Strand Board [OSB] can avoid this problem. For larger spans, multiple layers, each relatively flexible, may be independently formed and then locked together using timber shear blocks to yield a composite BAG of great stiffness and strength. Research at the University of Limerick being conducted in conjunction with our industrial partner Smartply-Medite is researching the use of OSB laths in double-layer BAGs. The research is both experimental and computational and examines the factors affecting the degree of composite action between layers. 

Research Question: What is the degree of composite action apparent in curved double-layer assemblies of Irish OSB and does this change with time?

Student Pre-requisite Knowledge: Elementary mechanics of materials, standard engineering theory of bending, MS Excel. For a student with MathLab and/or FEA skills there are a variety of related modeling problems to be examined.

Research Tasks:

  • Reviewing supplied literature and updating the literature database.
  • Experimental testing OSB & steel double layer flat/curved assemblies.
  • Computational: Modeling work for a student with MathLab and/or FEA skills.
  • Analyzing and writing up results.

This work has relevance for the understanding and design of a large range of structural forms and materials.

Collins, M., O'Regan, B. and Cosgrove, T. (2015) 'Potential of Irish orientated strand board in bending active structures', International Journal of Civil, Structural, Construction and Architectural Engineering;, 9 (3), 305-312.

Collins, M. (2016) A Computational and Experimental Study of Irish Orientated Strand Board in Bending Active Gridshells, unpublished thesis (Ph.D.), University of Limerick.

Collins, M., Cosgrove, T. and Mellad, A. (2017) 'Characterisation of OSB properties for application in gridshells', Materials and Structures, 50(2), 131.

Mellad, A., Collins, M. and Cosgrove, T. (2018) 'Composite Action in Double Layer Bending Active OSB Gridshells', in Civil Engineering Research in Ireland (CERI2018), University College Dublin (UCD), Civil Engineering Research Association of Ireland (CERAI),

Collins, M. and Cosgrove, T. (2019) 'Dynamic relaxation modeling of braced bending active gridshells with rectangular sections', Engineering Structures, 187, 16-24.

 

Paper folding Axiomatics

Discipline: Science Education
Supervisor: Professor Conleth Hussey, Professor of Lightwave Technology

Background: When the botany professor Kazugo Haga discovered the mathematics of paper folding – Origamics- little did he know that he was founding a revolution in how mathematics might be taught to children. This project will take up his project with a view to re-enchanting mathematics education that relies on the child's intuition and not on learned exercises from textbooks.

 

Finite Element modeling of quenching of aluminum alloys to account for thermal fluid interaction

Disciplines: Material Science & Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. David Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Processing Technology

Research field of the research project: Aerospace Metallic Materials, Stress Analysis, structural finite element analysis

Background: Aerospace aluminum alloys rely on rapid quenching from temperatures close to 500°C to permit the development of strength by the metallurgical process known as precipitation hardening. This period of rapid cooling is undertaken by immersion in cold water. An unavoidable consequence of this is the introduction of large magnitude residual stresses. Finite element modeling of residual stress development during quenching has been successfully completed at the University of Limerick whereby the predicted stress has been found to closely match the experimentally determined values. However, recent studies have shown that the predicted displacement observed at the start of the quench does not accurately match the experimental case. This project will aim to further model the process using the commercial code ABAQUS, to attempt to account for this discrepancy.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can finite element modeling accurately predict the displacement of a complicated part during the quenching process?

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in metallic materials, finite element analysis and be comfortable in using advanced finite element software.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The ABAQUS Finite element method will be the primary software used for this project.

 

Computer-Aided Motion Analysis of an Electric Vehicle using Solidworks

Discipline: Mechanical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. David Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Processing Technology

Research field of the research project: Computer-Aided Motion analysis.

Background: Electric vehicles are becoming very popular worldwide due to environmental concerns and numerous governments around the world are giving financial incentives to encourage consumers to make the switch. As part of the engineering degree at the University of Limerick, first-year students design a basic vehicle to transport a bottle of water up a 15m slope. The students are given many variables, including different wheel sizes and pulley sizes. They must use a 1mm aluminum sheet to manufacture a chassis and mount a 12v electric motor. The students use theoretical calculations to estimate the optimum pulley and wheels to maximize speed up the slope with the aim of being the fastest car to complete the race. Videos from previous races can be found online (e.g. ). The aim of this proposed project is to create a “Digital Twin” of the winning car from 2019 using SolidWorks. This will require a student to create a full 3D assembly of the vehicle in SolidWorks from which they can undertake a motion study and calculate the torque and forces involved. Should time permit, the student will model more than one vehicle for consistency. The aim is to test if the equations used by the students to optimize the design are fit-for-purpose and also create a useful software tool that will aid designers of electrical motor-driven vehicles. This project fits closely with the new Confirm Research Centre which is currently developing Digital Twins of manufacturing processes used by multinational companies based around the University of Limerick.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can SolidWorks be used to accurately create a digital twin of a simple electric vehicle.

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in Solid Modelling using SolidWorks or a similar package. They should also have a fundamental knowledge of stress analysis and motion analysis.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The SolidWorks software package will be the primary software used for this project.

 

Spatial Skill Development in Engineering: An Intervention to Support First-Year Engineering Students in Working with Spatial Information

Disciplines: Engineering Education/Psychology
Supervisors: Dr. David Tanner, School of Engineering; Dr. Diarmaid Lane, School of Education

In an increasingly visual world, spatial data are embedded across disparate disciplines including, Engineering, Architecture, Business, Geography, and Medicine among others. Both 2-D and 3-D spatial data can be found in drawings, diagrams, flowcharts, graphs, x-rays, scans and other computer models. It is common for Engineering students to struggle when working with spatial information at the commencement of third-level degree programs. In recent years, researchers have found a significant positive correlation between spatial skills and overall success at the third-level. Research has also found that spatial skills can be improved significantly through appropriate intervention and this can have a significant impact on retention in first year of university. Furthermore, studies have found that more female than male students require and benefit from this support, especially in the STEM disciplines. In this project, we will conduct research to establish the specific needs of first-year Engineering students at UL in addressing deficiencies they might have when working with spatial information. This intervention will have the potential to transform the students learning experience and develop the skills for their future professional careers.

Required Applicant Background: The applicants should have previous experience in engineering graphics and working with CAD software. The applicants should also have an interest in mixed methods research and psychology of learning.

Research Methodology: The researcher will develop a series of online spatial skill development lessons for Engineering students. These lessons will be developed subsequent to a thorough analysis of existing interventions along with face-to-face interviews and surveys.

 

Capillary Performance of Multi-porous Wicks for two-phase heat transfer devices

DISCIPLINE: MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
SUPERVISOR: DR. VANESSA EGAN

Research field of the research project: Thermal Management for 5G Networks, Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, Heat Pipes

As 5G technology is successfully developed and integrated into systems the thermal management of the electronic components required, becomes increasingly important. Heat pipes are passive, two-phase heat transfer devices, which offer high performance and reliability and are becoming increasingly common as devices to transfer heat in circuits. In addition, there is a demand for compact cooling solutions where a single heat pipe is used for multiple components and is arranged to fit within the housing/structure (see figure below). However, existing heat pipes under-perform in these cases and component overheating can occur. This project is focused on the design of heat pipes and in particular, novel wick structures, that can increase their performance for use in populated systems.

Figure 1: Heat Pipe arrangement for compact housing with multiple heat sources.

The wick is a critical component of the heat pipe as it provides the capillary pressure to drive the two-phase circulation while providing a path for the return of the working fluid. Most existing homogenous wicks for heat pipes are made of grooves, wire meshes or sintered metal powder. Wick design is focused on increasing capillary pressure (ΔPc) and permeability (K), however the former is achieved through numerous small pores while the latter requires a grooved structure, i.e. large pores. Recent research in this area has focused on the design of non-homogenous wick structures in an attempt to maximize both of these competing variables. This project aims to contribute to this research by examining the permeability and capillary pressure of multi-porous sintered metal wick structures using experimental test rigs. Particle size distribution analysis and SEM imaging of the sintered wicks will provide qualitative information on the porosity distribution within the structures. During the project, the student will receive training in 3D printing/fabrication techniques, SEM imaging and particle size distribution and will also gain experience in working in a thermo-fluids research laboratory.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can multi-porous wicks improve the performance of heat pipes for use in multi-component cooling.

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a background in theory relating to fluid mechanics and heat transfer. The project will involve quite a lot of practical work in the laboratory so experience in this area would be beneficial.

Analytical techniques to be employed: Infra-red thermography, Hydrodynamic and Heat Transfer Measurement, SEM and Particle size analysis.

 

Phosphor recovery by thermal technologies of dairy waste products

Discipline: Chemical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Witold Kwapinski, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering

Phosphorous (P) is essential for life, but it is a finite resource. The industrialization of food production in order to feed a rapidly expanding population is giving rise to serious leakage of P through the global agricultural food system. This is particularly pertinent in the dairy industry, where losses of P are causing environmental damage and ultimately putting food safety at risk. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) undertaken at moderate temperatures (160-315°C), and pressures up to 15MPa is a qualifying ‘strubias’ technology, typically used for treating wet wastes producing a hydrochar and a liquor. in the project, you will investigate the effects of process parameters on P and carbon recovery from dairy process waste streams. We will also provide a detailed analysis of P solubilization and precipitation as recovered phosphate salts.

Student 1: The work will focus on development and optimize dairy production waste (DPW) treatment termal technologies for the production of concentrated P-rich by-products with high fertilizer added value; Produce P-rich hydrochar from DPW, and establish process conditions for P-solubilisation and characterization of P species in HTC liquor.

Student 2: The work will focus on optimization low-temperature incineration process to release bioavailable P (ash); Model role of combustion conditions in determining bioavailable P in DPW ash; Recover struvite from ash and HTC products; Characterize soluble P and contaminants in ash fractions from bed, cyclone and baghouse filter, to identify optimum ash fraction for purification.

 

Production of bio-based solvents from lignocellulosic biomass

Discipline: Chemical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Witold Kwapinski, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering

The decomposition of biomass-derived formic acid is finding an increased prominence, as we seek a sustainable source of molecular hydrogen for hydrogenating biomass platform compounds into advanced biofuels and bio solvents. Producing hydrogen from formic acid has led to appreciable improvements in the light of a cost-effective green process. Formic acid is produced along with levulinc acid in an equimolar ratio by the hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass under acidic conditions. The low cost, abundance, and ability to hold molecular hydrogen up to 4.4 wt.% of formic acid, is an added advantage. Exploiting the in situ produced hydrogen enables us to avoid the use of an expensive external source of molecular hydrogen in addition to its transport handling. Our research group has its main focus on developing a novel heterogeneous catalyst of a low cost, enabling us to decompose formic acid while hydrogenating levulinic acid, where this adds to sustainability, circular utilization of catalyst as well as more economic atomic steps.

Our work will start with preparing active carbon support doped with low-cost active metal. Our approach is problem-oriented and we seek to maintain metal active sites that would have dehydrogenation/hydrogenation potential. Therefore, we propose a co-doping process as a further step while investigating its effect on both conversion and selectivity.

 

Pyrolysis process as a sustainable management option of poultry manure

Discipline: Chemical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Witold Kwapinski, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering

Raw poultry manure (RPM) is a chicken waste that is produced from normal operation of hatcheries, turkey, broiler and egg-laying. Huge amounts of RPM are annually produced in the world. In the USA, the annual production of litter dry matter was estimated to be more than 44 million tons. The composition of poultry manure is very variable and mainly depends on the type of feed. It generally contains high levels of organic carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus which are indispensable macro-elements for soil fertility improvement and crop growth enhancement. The good management of this biowaste has been pointed out as an urgent priority due to its possible negative effects on human health and the environment.

Biochars made from RPM in the process of pyrolysis is highly porous carbonaceous materials, could be valorized for agricultural purposes as soil amendments, for climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and removal of greenhouse gas emissions, and for environment preservation since they exhibited large capacities in removing various pollutants from both liquid and gas effluents.

We study the effect of adding biochars made of different conditions to the various soils on growth and water use efficiency of maize and barley growth.

 


Grade Scale for University of Limerick - AACRAO EDGE

The following information is vetted and provided by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) on the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE).

Letter Grade Percentage Ranking U.S. Equivalent
A+/A/A- 70 - 100% First Class Honours A
B+/B/B- 60 - 69% Second Class Honours Upper B+
C+/C/C- 50 - 59% Second Class Honours Lower B
D+ 45 - 49% Third Class Honours C+
D/D- 40 - 44% Pass C
F 0 - 39% Fail F
Intellectual property copyright AACRAO EDGE