PhD programmes - Science and Technology
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Home > Proposed research topics > 2017 - 33rd cycle

2017 - 33rd cycle

Materials Science and Engineering (area A)

- Reference persons: M. Benedetti, I. Cristofolini, V. Fontanari, A. Molinari

Title: Metallurgical and mechanical properties of additively manufactured cellular structures. 1)

Additive Manufacturing (AM), aka 3D printing, is already revolutionising the way we produce and design. Anybody can quickly go from a CAD model to a finite object. AM is gaining increasing interest due to the possibility of producing parts with functionally graded open-cell porous metals. Their purpose is to adjust the elastic properties to the specific application. Even if the technology is ready for this step, the properties of the objects are not always known and need to be improved. For instance, the fatigue performance of porous metals is extremely important to ensure long-term implant stability, because porous metals are sensitive to crack initiation and propagation even at low stresses under cyclic loading conditions. Nevertheless, fatigue and fracture toughness properties of these materials are poorly understood and the way they can be enhanced is not clear yet. This research project is aimed at investigating the mechanical and metallurgical properties of metallic foams. Students interested in this project should be highly motivated, have an aptitude for both programming and experimental work, and will be rewarded by the acquisition of technical skills that are highly appreciated in the industrial field.


- Reference persons: R. Ceccato, F. Deflorian, S. Dirè, S. Rossi

Title: Cataphoretic deposition of organic coatings with functionalized graphene. 1)

Organic coatings are used for improving the corrosion behavior of steel components by reduction of ions, water and oxygen diffusion. The cataphoretic deposition is a suitable technique to prepare homogeneous coatings on complex shape components, with improved barrier effect. Moreover, graphene can be added to protective coatings as barrier reinforcement filler, due to its structural and chemical properties. The aim of the research is to prepare graphene-filled cataphoretic coatings, and study both graphene functionalization for improved filler dispersion and suitable processing for achieving preferential filler orientation inside the layer, with the aim of increasing the corrosion protection properties. In addition, other filler properties as conductivity will be studied to transform the protective layer in a smart coating.


- Reference persons: G.F. Dalla Betta, L. Pancheri, A. Quaranta

Title: Surface treatments of silicon detectors through atmospheric plasma jet. 1)

Processing of materials through atmospheric plasma presents several advantages with respect to traditional vacuum based methods. Besides the cost reduction for the equipment, plasma treatments at atmospheric pressure allows the formation of chemical active species with a minimal surface damage. By this way functionalizations, patterning and chemical modifications of surfaces can be achieved with fast and low cost processes. Moreover, thin film manufacturing and synthesis of nanomaterials can be obtained owing to the non-equilibrium conditions in the plasma plume. During the three years of Doctorate School the candidate will develop and study an atmospheric plasma set-up in order to enhance the sensitivity and the selectivity of silicon detectors by growing organic, inorganic and nanostructured films on their surface. Functionalization processes will be also explored in order to promote the grafting of either molecules or chemical reactive species suitable for sensing applications.


- Reference person: M. Fedel

Title: Development of new chemical conversion treatments on aluminium alloys for surface functionalization. 1)

The surface of many aluminium alloys has been treated with Cr6+ compounds for many years. Chromates have been recognized to be able to properly functionalize the aluminium surface, providing chemical and electrochemical stability, very good durability upon exposure in aggressive environments and an effective interaction with organic coatings (paints). However, on September 21st 2017 the EU is going to ban the use of hexavalent chrome solutions for surface finishes. In this context, during the last decades, the material scientists have been developing new environmentally friendly chemical treatments to functionalize aluminium surface, such as: sol-gel coatings (mainly based on Si, Zr & Ti alkoxide precursors), Ti,Zr-fluoric acid based conversion layer, lanthanides (mainly Ce and La) based conversion coatings and layered double hydroxides (LDHs). Among them, the latter seems to be a particularly interesting solution for the functionalization of light alloys (Mg & Al based) surface. By modifying the chemistry of the LDHs conversion treatment it is possible to obtain a special microstructure to tune the surface wettability of Al from hydrophilic to hydrophobic, to promote the formation of reservoirs for chemical species, to deliver drugs, to exchange ions, to improve the optoelectronic properties, the corrosion resistance and the anti-fouling. In this frame, the aim of the PhD project is to develop new surface functionalization treatments for aluminium alloys based on LDHs .


- Reference persons: S. Gialanella, C. Menapace, G. Straffelini

Title: Study of emissions from brake materials. 1)

Emissions of road transport have been recognized as a significant contributor to air pollution, particularly within major cities. Exhaust and non-exhaust traffic-related sources are estimated to contribute almost equally to vehicular traffic emissions. Non-exhaust particulate matter (PM) can be generated by brake, tyre, clutch and road surface wear. PM may even come from resuspension of deposited material at the roadside. Emissions from brake wear is a significant contributor, particularly within areas with high traffic density and, therefore, high braking frequency. For this reason, the significant reduction of this kind of emission has become the focus of research efforts in many countries all over the world. In this framework the present PhD research  project will focus on the analysis of brake wear emissions. Both solid particles and volatile species will be analyzed. For the solid particles a filter system, like for instance electrical low pressure impactor will be connected to a pin on disc tribometer in order to collect the emitted particles. A suitable characterization procedure for their analysis will be developed. Similarly, a suitable experimental set up, e.g., gas chromatography instrumentation, will be arranged to collect and analyze the volatile components of the emissions. The volatile products are actually relevant both for the in-service brake emissions, and also for the gaseous emission occurring during the production of pads (scorcing). Eventually, another aspect that will be considered in the Project concerns the end of life recycling of the pads, to provide a competitive approach to the present landfill disposal.


- Reference persons: C. Migliaresi, A. Motta

Title: Advanced systems for Tissue Engineering applications 1)

The proposed activities refer to materials and procedures for Tissue Engineering applications. In particular projects on the methods of fabrication of scaffolds, new polymeric or hybrid materials, scaffolds design referred to specific requirements, the evaluation of the interaction between scaffold materials and cells, design and use of dynamic cells culturing tools and specific target applications are examples of possible research topics. 


- Reference person: V.M. Sglavo

Title: Sintering of ceramics under electrical field. 2)

The aim is to analyze, understand and optimize the sintering process of ceramics activated by the application of an electrical field for the production of self standing components or coatings.


- Reference person: V.M. Sglavo

Title: Production of inorganic materials by additive manufacturing (3D printing). 2)

Innovative processes will be studied and optimized for the production of inorganic materials (starting for example from glass or ceramic powders) by additive manufacturing techniques using a power bed multi-jet printing process.


- Reference person: V.M. Sglavo

Title: Innovative ion exchange processes for glass tempering. 2)

Innovative ion-exchange techniques will be studied for the mechanical reinforcement of silicate glass with specific regard to electric-field assisted and salt bath-free processes.


Mechatronic and Mechanical Systems (area B)

- Reference personsF. Biral, M. Da Lio

Title: Cooperative safety functions for intelligent vehicles and roads. 3)

This year a new H2020 EU project named "SAFE STRIP" has been funded that aims to introduce a disruptive technology to embed C-ITS applications in existing road infrastructure, including novel I2V and V2I functions into low-cost, integrated strips markers on the road; to make roads self-explanatory and forgiving (due to advanced cooperative functions) for all road users (trucks, cars and vulnerable road users, such as PTWs riders) and all vehicle generations (non-equipped, C-ITS equipped, autonomous), with reduced maintenance cost, full recyclability and added value services, as well as supporting real-time predictive road maintenance functions.

In this context two main research lines are foreseen:

  • road surface condition estimation : it is required to develop algorithms for the estimation of the road surface friction and conditions fusing road sensor informations with those provided by vehicles equipped with intelligent systems. This is expected to be an enabling technology to increase efficacy of ADAS systems.
  • intelligent ADAS for non equipped vehicles: based on the global consistent and shared road scenario (enhanced Dynamic Local Map, eDLM)) made available by Safe Strip Infrastructure it is required to develop basic driver assistance systems (ADAS) specifically designed for non equipped vehicle that will benefit from several C-ITS functions (eg. Cooperative safety functions, 2) Road work zones and railway crossings warnings, 3) Merging/intersection support) without integrating any such systems.


- Reference persons: D. Bortoluzzi, F. Biral

Title: Modeling and identification of mechatronic systems for accurate prediction of system dynamic response 1)

In many engineering applications an accurate mathematical model is required to describe the dynamic behaviour of a mechatronic system, i.e. a dynamical system in which mechanical, electronic and control functionalities are integrated. The availability of a reliable mathematical model makes it possible to predict the behaviour of the mechatronic system in different possible conditions, constituting a fundamental design and/or development tool (for example it plays a central role in optimal control formulations, and system optimization). Given a system, different techniques may be used to extract information about its dynamics through the analysis of its behaviour in testing conditions. The development of a dynamical model of a mechatronic system must also take into account accuracies of the measured quantities and provide a statistical assessment of the properties identified. Moreover, the knowledge of the possible field of application of the model itself together with its inner limits is a key factor, which allows to understand when an extension must be formulated or another model needs to be developed. Techniques for the definition of a model, for the estimation of its parameters and for the assessment of its domain of application will be developed and applied to different cases of study of particular interest in the mechatronic field. Investigated and developed techniques should be proved experimentally using experimental data from an aerospace scientific mission and the autonomous ground and aerial vehicles that are available in the Mechatronic Research Lab facilities.


- Reference persons: M. De Cecco, F. Biral

Title: Measurement and modelling of human motor behaviours. 1)

Motor or sensorimotor skills are abilities that require close coordination of motor control with feedback in response to sensorial perceptions of the environment and  and proprioception. This includes a wide range of human and animal behaviours, such as locomotion and manipulation. The measurement and modelling of human motor strategies is crucial for different aims such as sport performance optimisation, rehabilitation purposes, for creating artificial systems and robots that show naturalistic, versatile, and effective behaviours and thus able to interact/cooperate with humans, just to cite a few.

The proposed research will focus on: 1) measurement of human behaviours and interaction with the environment; 2) inverse modeling that fits the experimental observation with muscle activations, i.e. identification of underlying motor/muscular activations and objective functions in different situations or their deviation from normal behavior (e.g. using dynamic optimisation and optimal control); 3) develop novel methods that, exploiting the direct (through sensors) and indirect measurements (i.e. the internal parameters obtained through modelling), provide to an observer the user behaviour augmented with the measured parameters via Augmented Reality. The observer could be the subject itself in training session, a clinician during a rehabilitation, or a robot that mimic the user behavior thus reproducing a true hempatic interaction. Target applications are human motion optimization and rehabilitation, assistive robotics.


- Reference persons: L. Zaccarian, M. Fontana

Title: Hybrid Lyapunov methods for control of power converters with applications. 1)

Nonlinear hybrid dynamical systems are now well described by a suggestive framework developed in the past 15 years by R. Sanfelice, R. Goebel and A.R. Teel and well summarized in their 2012 monograph. Among the many useful features of this hybrid formalism, recent papers revealed its advantage in describing the behavior of power converters comprising switching devices, and synthesizing suitable hybrid control laws ensuring reduced distortion levels, averaged switching frequencies, and adaptability in the presence of uncertainties. The goal of this PhD activity is to learn the tools of hybrid Lyapunov theory to develop novel control laws for power converters and validate them on a number of relevant case studies comprising design and control of smart materials actuators and generators, together with their electrical drivers, synchronization of inverters on micro-grids and possible additional technologies requiring high performance control of power converters.


Electronic Systems and Integrated Microelectronic Systems (area B)

- Reference person: G.F. Dalla Betta

Title: Micromachined silicon radiation detectors 1)

This activity aims at developing novel radiation sensors based on bulk micromachining of silicon by means of Deep Reactive Ion Etching (DRIE) and/or wet etching (e.g., by TMAH). These types of sensors exploit the 3rd dimension within the silicon substrate to offer several interesting features, among them enhanced radiation tolerance, high speed, low power consumption, etc. Examples of activities in this field within INFN and EU funded projects are sensors with three dimensional electrodes and/or active edges, for High Energy Physics and X-ray imaging applications, and hybrid detectors of thermal neutrons based on perforated silicon sensors coupled with converter materials. The PhD research activity will deal with one or more of these projects and will be focused on the design, TCAD simulation, and experimental characterization of prototypes, both in laboratory and in beam tests, also in collaboration with research partner institutions.


- Reference person: D. Brunelli

Title: Smart and Efficient architectures for Internet of Things 1)

Internet of Things (IoT) and smart sensors will disrupt the way to conceive manufacturing and many applications. In the near future many sectors from Smart Cities to environmental monitoring, from Smart Grids to medical applications will use the data fusion from hundreds of smart device. New technologies, interfaces, scalability and flexibility, energy neutrality and power management of sensors and cloud of sensors are some of the new challenges in research.  The proposed Ph.D. activity aims at designing, developing and validating new and smart embedded architectures and solutions for the Internet of Things, with the ultra-low power design as a main driver. 


- Reference persons: D. Macii, D. Petri

Title: Energy management and monitoring solutions for smart grids 1)

This research area aims at developing a multi-level  framework to estimate the state of a grid and to optimize smart grid management. The research will cover different domains and will include studies in one or more of the following topics: load and generator modeling (especially based on distributed energy resources - DER); time synchronization over local and wide area networks, phasor measurement techniques, storage system analysis, dynamic estimation of parameters under stationary and non-stationary conditions, scheduling algorithms. Particular attention will be devoted to simulations of real scenarios, possibly based on records of experimental data.


- Reference person: L. Pancheri

Title: Sensors based on avalanche detector arrays 1)

The goal of this activity is the development of novel sensors and systems based on silicon avalanche detector arrays. Advances in fabrication processes enable the realization of pixelated sensors with low noise and unique features like single-photon detection capabilities and picosecond timing resolution. The monolithic co-integration of sensors and electronic readout circuits and the availability of 3D integration technologies can be exploited to realize sensor systems with innovative architectures. Avalanche diode arrays find industrial and research applications, including Time-Of-Flight ranging, time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, Positron Emission Tomography, Raman spectroscopy and particle physics. This activity combines device and circuit-level approaches to design sensors array tailored to a specific application. Devices and circuits are analyzed and designed using CAD tools, fabricated in either custom or CMOS processes and validated through extensive experimental laboratory characterization, also in collaboration with research partner institutions.


- Reference person: G.F. Dalla Betta, A. Quaranta

Title: Development and characterization of 3D sensors for particle physics and neutron detection 4)


The position is intended for candidates interested to work in the field of radiation detectors. In particular, the Trento group has a strong expertise in the development of silicon sensors for High Energy Physics applications. In the past years, the research efforts have been mainly devoted to silicon detectors with three dimensional electrodes and active edges: the group has been responsible of the 3D pixel sensor design for the ATLAS Insertable B-Layer, and is currently leading the Italian INFN R&D effort towards a new generation of downscaled (smaller and thinner) 3D pixel detectors for the ATLAS tracking detector upgrades at the High-Luminosity LHC. Leveraging this experience, the group has recently also started to develop new devices for neutron detection and imaging based on 3D sensor technology.

Candidates are expected to be involved in this projects with activities in sensor design, TCAD simulation, and experimental characterization, including beam tests and radiation hardness tests. 


Operational Research (area B)

- Reference person: S. Bortot, R.A. Marques Pereira

Title: Aggregation functions in models of decision and choice. 1)

Operational research offers a variety of mathematical methods which are central to modelling and optimization in decision science, individual and social choice theory, management and organization sciences, industrial engineering, and many other fields of applied investigation. The aim of the doctoral program is to develop a strong interdisciplinary background in decision and choice theory, which is one of the core areas of research in the department.

The research project will be focused on aggregation functions which play a key role in decision and choice theory, particularly when direct forms of dominance do not hold. Fundamental instances of aggregation functions are the weighted mean (WA) and the ordered weighted mean (OWA), which in turn are special cases of Choquet integration. The ordered weighted mean (OWA) is a symmetric aggregation function which, when equipped with monotonic weighting, offers a representation of majorization and is relevant in a large class of problems in operational research, multicriteria decision making, social welfare and inequality, mathematical programming, and optimization.

A degree in engineering, science, or economics is usually required for admission to the doctoral program, together with a solid mathematical background.



1)    UNITN

2)    UNITN and Department of Industrial Engineering (DII)

3)    UNITN and EU H2020 project "Safe Strip" (F.Biral)

4)    INFN