PhD Studentship: A MEMS Optical Switch for a Miniature Wide-band Radiometer for Terrestrial and Spa

United Kingdom
Jul 24, 2017
Jul 23, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
PhD Studentship: A MEMS Optical Switch for a Miniature Wide-band Radiometer for Terrestrial and Space Applications Astronautics Group

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date:  Saturday 21 July 2018

Reference: 899417AK

Project Reference: AACE-ASTRO-379

A new instrument is being designed and fabricated in the Astronautics group at Southampton University to study the radiative balance of the atmosphere of Venus. The instrument, a miniature wideband radiometer, is the primary sensor of a microprobe designed to be deployed in the Venusian atmosphere and take measurements as it drops down to the surface of the planet.

One of the main challenges for the reduced size device is the issue of calibration. The radiometer will use an in-situ calibration method whereby a blackbody source is integrated within the device and a MEMS micromirror is used to switch the input to the detector between the measured signal and the calibration target. The MEMS micromirror is therefore a key component to the instrument and its development is the topic for this PhD.

The project will involve: studying the overall instrument and identifying the critical issues and driving requirements of the design for the mirror; leaning about microfabrication processes and techniques and then fabricating the mirror here in Southampton’s world-class cleanrooms; and finally integrating the mirror into the rest of the device and performing appropriate calibration and testing for space flight, including vibration testing and thermal vacuum testing.

This exciting opportunity will allow the candidate to step into the field of miniaturized spacecraft instrumentation where miniature micromachined sensors are opening up new possibilities for terrestrial and planetary exploration. They promise high performance in a compact and robust package. In particular, miniature sensors allow the possibility of a large number of sensors to be deployed and return a high density of measurements from a large area in space and time. This creates significant new possibilities in the areas of Earth observation and planetary science: in-situ sensing in an atmosphere or remotely from small spacecraft, where mass, power and cost are limiting factors, will give detailed data with large coverage.

Ideally the candidate should have an MEng (with at least 65% mark) or MSc degree (or equivalent, or near completion) in Electronics, Physics, Materials Science, Aeronautics or Astronautics, or a closely related subject. Any experience working in a cleanroom is helpful though not a pre-requisite. This studentship is only available to UK/EU applicants for a period of 3 years. The research will be based in the Astronautics Group and will involve collaborations within the faculty as well as with groups in other faculties, such as in ECS in Southampton. The student will have access to training, laboratory facilities and to seminar and lectures and also to all university facilities for wider study, including the libraries, and recreation. The student would also be encouraged to attend three major conferences during their period of study, thus allowing them to develop their skills in communicating science and functioning as a member of the scientific community.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence, Astronautics research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2313.

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