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Home > Proposed research topics > 2016 - 32th cycle

2016 - 32th cycle

Materials Science and Engineering (area A)

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

Title: The mechanism of anisotropic sintering shrinkage in Powder Metallurgy. 1)

The project aims at investigating the mechanisms responsible for anisotropic sintering shrinkage in uniaxial cold compacted metallic green parts. The topic has been subject of quite an extensive experimental and theoretical work at Trento University along the past five years, with a physical metallurgy approach based on the shrinkage kinetics between two deformed particles. This work has led to the formulation of a new shrinkage kinetic equation accounting for the deformation of the powder particles, and to the formulation of a theory based on the effect of structural effects on the bulk diffusivity. These outcomes have to be improved, accounting for the particle size distribution in a real green part, for the coordination number and for the effect of green density on the sintering driving force. The projects will use dilatometry to investigate shrinkage kinetics of green specimens and a suitable characterization technique to investigate the microstructure of the green parts. Tests will be carried out on both iron and a material displaying a larger shrinkage in the typical sintering conditions of the industrial production.


- Reference persons: A. Pegoretti, F. Deflorian, L. Fambri

Title: Development of new structural composite materials for thermal energy storage and release. 1)

Thermal energy storage (TES) and release systems and currently under investigation in several application fields, such as civil and industrial building constructions and renewable energies exploitation. A possible TES mechanism is based on the melting/crystallization processes of polymer compounds. This project is aimed at developing new structural composites in which high mechanical properties are coupled with TES features. The interest is for both thermosetting and thermoplastic matrices reinforced with high-performance fibers. Several aspects must be investigated, ranging from the matrix composition, the processing conditions and the resulting thermo-mechanical properties. Finally durability aspects will be investigated.


- Reference persons: F. Deflorian, A. Pegoretti

Title: Functional nanocomposite coatings for corrosion protection. 1)

New advanced nanostructured organic coatings are very attractive for corrosion mitigation because they can combine barrier properties with new function, as, for instance, energy saving (insulation) or energy storage features and self-healing properties. The project intends to develop and characterize new functional protective coatings for industrial applications based on the combination of nanoparticles and advanced polymeric matrices.


- Reference persons: S. Gialanella, G. Straffelini

Title: Development of novel eco-friendly friction materials for disc brake systems. 2)

The reduction of exhaust emissions from internal  combustion engines for road transportation has enhanced the relative incidence of other  pollution, namely particulate matter (PM), sources mostly associated with wear phenomena going on in road vehicles.  The wearing out of brake pads and discs is nowdays one of the main contributors to PM emitted from a vehicle, with an important airborne fraction. For this reason the significant  reduction of this kind of emission has become the focus of major  research efforts in many countries all over the world. Different, combined strategies are being adopted to achieve this task, based both on materials development and optimization of braking control. Of course, the development of new brake systems should not jeopardize the safety requirements, but  should rather result in better brake performances, including a monotonic and constant behavior all through the useful life span.

The present research is about the development of novel friction materials, processed using high energy ball-milling to refine the grain structure of selected components. An originally developed procedure will be adopted to prepare pins for wear testing on a pin-on-disc tribometer, operated at room and high disc temperatures. Wear products will be examined with conventional materials characterization techniques, in order to identify the main active wear mechanisms and their dependence on materials properties and test conditions. Another specific task of the research is to evaluate the reliability of pin-on-disc testing in assessing the properties interesting also for real application.


- Reference persons: C. Migliaresi, A. Motta, D. Maniglio

Title: Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering. 1)

The research project should refer to materials for biomedical application synthesis, modification and physical and biological characterization and preferably for Tissue Engineering applications. Knowledge of biological principles is not a pre-requirement, however proposals containing studies on the interaction of materials with cells/proteins will be favorably considered.


- Reference persons: A. Quaranta, S. Rossi

Title: Nanostructured luminescent systems for radiation sensors. 1)

The research activity will be focused on the synthesis of radiation detectors based on luminescent quantum dots. In particular, the final goal is the realization of a nano-dosimeter for the quantification oif the energy released by ionizing radiations (ions, neutrons, gammarays) within nanometric volumes. Luminescent quantum dots will be produced and dispersed in several matrices (organic, inorganic and hybrid systems) The changes of luminescence yield, lifetime and spectrum after the irradiation will be correlated to the absorbed dose. Detection methods based on photoluminescence measurements with pulsed sources and with imaging detectors will be exploited. The production of electroluminescent devices for the direct imaging of the radiation damage will be also developed. In particular, thin electroluminescent sheets based on organic or inorganic dots will be produced and the dose released by the ionizing radiation will be related to the localized luminescence loss of the device.


- Reference person: G.D. Sorarù

Title: Nanostructured ceramics with hierarchical porosity for water filtration and purification. 1)

This project aims to develop polymer-derived aerogels and foams with tailored porosity of the Si-O-C-N and B-N systems for the efficient filtration and removal of pollutants from water such as heavy metals, or organic compounds (herbicides, dyes used in textile industry, pharmaceutical compounds of large use belonging to the family of emerging organic compounds (EOCs). The individual project has 1) synthesis and characterisation of SiOCN and BN aerogels by pyrolysis of preceramic aerogels; 2) synthesis and characterisation of SiOCN and BN foams through an innovative replica method recently developed in our lab; 3) evaluation of the adsorption and filtration properties of the porous ceramics. Part of this project will be carried on in collaboration with the University of Montpellier, Institut Europeen des Membranes (IEM), Montpellier, France.


Reference person: V. Fontanari, M. Benedetti

Title: Development of a twin disk test rig for the investigation of different tribosystems for gearing applications. 7)

Surface damage due to rolling and rolling/sliding contact is one of the major concerns in the design of gear teeth, bearings and cams. The analysis of new materials solutions and/or different lubrication systems can be investigated in laboratory tests trying to reproduce the ‘in service’ contact condition on simplified specimen geometry. The number of parameters that can influence the materials behavior is very large: loading history, lubrication condition, temperature, rolling/sliding ratio, surface finishing, surface treatments,…. Moreover during the test several measurement have to be collected in order to trace the damage evolution: specimens weight loss, surface deterioration, friction coefficient evolution,..

The available experimental devices do not succeed for an efficient control of all these parameters, being based on configurations usually lacking in flexibility.

The present research is aimed at investigating the tribological behavior of new materials solution for gearing application. Particular attention will be paid on gears, working under very severe conditions: i.e. mixed lubrication regime, high sliding to rolling ratio, high contact loading. In order study the wear mechanisms and to build up a map of performances of the different tribo-systems, a new testing machine has to be firstly developed and specific testing procedures have to be set and validated. The research will be based both on experimental and numerical investigations, specific skills in mechanical design, mechanics of materials and numerical analysis of highly non linear problems using the finite elements method are therefore necessary.


Reference person: A. Molinari, I. Cristofolini

Title: Influence of geometry on dimensional behavior of PM parts. 7)

The project aims at investigating the influence of the dimensions and geometry of parts on the dimensional change on sintering of uniaxial cold compacted green parts. Axialsymmetric parts with different H/D ratio will be produced by cold compaction to different green 3 densities. They will be sintered in different temperature and atmosphere conditions. The influence of the H/D ratio and of the sintering parameters on the anisotropy of shrinkage will be investigated experimentally, by measuring parts by means of a CMM. Moreover, a theoretical analysis of compaction and of sintering will be implemented, to develop a model able to predict the influence of the two processes on the shrinkage along different directions. 


Mechatronic and Mechanical Systems (area B)

- Reference persons: E. Bertolazzi, F. Biral

Title: New optimal control methods for complex dynamical systems. 1)

Many engineering and biomechanical applications and research problems, such as (but not limited to) ground/aerial vehicle dynamics motion planning, energy management, human/robot prediction, require the solution of large and/or complex non-linear optimal control problems. Dynamical systems of interest may change number of states and dynamic behaviour (hybrid system) and are described by differential algebraic equations with possible discrete states. This PhD will focus on the theoretical and numerical aspects arising in the solution of non‑linear optimal control problems arising from such challenging engineering and biomechanical applications. The goal of this PhD study is the development of novel numerical methods for the solution of optimal control problems for the above dynamical system with special interest for real time applications and robust and fast convergence. 


- Reference persons: F. Biral, M. Da Lio

Title: Understanding, modeling and learning of human sensory-motor strategies and skills. 1)

Motor or sensorimotor skills are behaviors that require close coordination of motor control with feedback from the environment. This includes a wide range of human and animal behaviors, such as locomotion and manipulation. Understanding, modelling of human motor strategies and skills which are effective and generalizable is crucial for predicting and studing human motion and creating artificial system and robots that shows naturalistic, versatile, and effective behaviours. The focus of research is two-fold: 1) the understanding of inverse modeling that fits the experimental observation, i.e. identification of underlying objective functions of human motions in different situations or their deviation from normal behavior (e.g. using dynamic optimisation and optimal control) and 2) develop a novel method which combine concepts from optimal control with machine learning to acquire motor skills autonomously and scalable to layered systems. Target applications are human motion, such as cycling, human walking and running and arm-finger task executions.


- Reference Persons: F. Biral, D. Bortoluzzi

Title: Non-linear model predictive control for path tracking of autonomous ground and aerial vehicles with learning abilities. 1)

The use of model-based controller systems for ground and aerial vehicles requires reliable dynamics models. The reliability consists in accurate prediction of the vehicle’s behaviour, both to estimate the current vehicle state and predict the future motion within Receding Horizon Control scheme (such as Non Linear Model Predictive (NLMPC)).

NLMPC commonly uses models that have the capability to reproduce the complex dynamics of the real system, by remaining as simple as possible, for online computation. Nevertheless their perfromance highly depends on the accuracy of estimated parameters and of the dynamic model used. Agressive vehicle's manoeuvres and working at the limit of manoeuvrability stress the model capability to correctly predict the system evolution with enough accuracy to keep the path tracking error sufficiently small.

Thus it is not only a problem to accurately identify the model/environment parameters but also to learn the relevant model inaccuracies that affect the control system performance which are not captured by the deterministic model in such extreme manoeuvres.

The research should investigate the theoretical and practical methods, gleaning from a broad variety of methods (such as Recursive Least Square, Moving Horizon Estimation to Deep Learning) and with open minded approach, for modelling vehicle dynamics in a way that it can adapt to different working conditions and learn the unknown dynamics complementing the deterministic model used in the NLMPC. The learning should be done both on-line from repetition of tasks or off-line by re-living logged and modified manoeuvres. Method to assess the learned model accuracy should be studied too.

Investigated and developed technique should be proved experimentally using the autonomous ground and aerial vehicles that are available in the Mechatronic Research Lab facilities.


- Reference person: P. Bosetti

Title: Multi-material additive manufacturing methods for graded and multi-functional components. 3)

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is expected to have a profound impact on the way manufacturers make almost any product. It will become an essential ‘tool’ allowing designs to be optimized to reduce waste; products to be made as light as possible; inventories of spare parts to be reduced; greater flexibility in the location of manufacturing; products to be personalized to consumers; consumers to make some of their own products; and products to be made with new graded composition and bespoke properties. Discovery, understanding, and innovation in AM is a key element of the research strategy of this PhD topic. The overriding concerns of AM research and the broader community prioritize process control (repeatability) and the effects of (multi) material deposition – be this from a design, manufacturing or material standpoint. This broader research challenge not only exists to counter the lack of innovation currently afforded by current AM processes and systems but also the requirements of new multi-material AM that aims to produce graded and multi-functional components in single builds. Among others, the following topics have to be assessed, both from process and from system point-of-view:

  • Deposition: it is an overarching challenge both in term of design, material and process capability and is core to the AM potential advantage.
  • Graded Deposition: it is, in effect, the next stage on from deposition, whereby materials are mixed and deposited on an ever-increasing resolution in order to effect greater and more complex functionality from graded material placement. The development of graduated structures that are fully designed and understood in terms of their final properties and capabilities is a significant multidisciplinary activity.
  • Process Control: will enable existing and future AM processes and systems to actively monitor and adapt the AM processes in order for them to produce the functionalized component with the correct resolution, accuracy, and repeatability, not seen in todays single-material systems.
  • Function: will enable components that have greater functionality through optimal design and material deposition methods. This challenge will be to ascertain the benchmarks for a given function (i.e. thermal conductivity or electrical resistivity) and seek out new ways to enhance this functionality; for example, through greater design freedom and capability or through the development of new materials and process enhancement.

The research activities will be carried out both in the DII laboratories in Povo and in the new facility located in Rovereto, were the PhD candidate will have the opportunity to work on polymeric and metallic (including multi-material) SLS/SLM 3D printers, and on an Additive Manufacturing-enabled 5-axes milling machine tool.


Electronic Systems and Integrated Microelectronic Systems (area B)

- Reference person: D. Brunelli

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

Internet of Things (IoT) and smart sensors will strive many applications and research areas of the near future ranging from Smart Cities to environmental monitoring, from Smart Grids to medical applications. In addition to new technologies, interfaces, scalability and flexibility, energy neutrality and power management of sensors and cloud of sensors is facing new challenges in research. The proposed activity aims at designing, developing and validating new and smart embedded architecture for IoT to improve the energy efficiency of applications towards Energy Neutral Systems.


- Reference person: D. Macii

Title: Indoor localization and positioning. 1)

The worldwide turnover related to indoor navigation is expected to reach 2.6 billion dollars in 2018 at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 42%. Several large ICT corporations as well as many start-up companies worldwide are currently developing technologies for indoor navigation both at hardware and at software level. In this context, the purpose of this research is to develop distributed localization algorithms for social groups of humans moving inside a semi-structured environment. The algorithms to be developed will have to rely on social models of interactions for human beings, which have to be designed contextually. Such a "social-localization" requires models of the human behavior in shared spaces. Two different types of  scenarios will be analyzed: competitive and cooperative.


- 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

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. Fontanelli

Title: Decision making in requirements engineering for complex domains. 4)

Assistive robotics is an ever increasing research area nowadays, mainly due to the steadily growing of the aged population. Many national and European research initiatives focus on the development of solutions to prolong the independent living of elderly people. In this framework, solutions aiming at providing physical support and/or social engagement to seniors is becoming prominent. Planning and executing social activities with the physical support of (passive) service robots, such as intelligent wheeled walkers, become feasible once the group of seniors involved in the social activities can be accurately localised inside the desired environment. The goal of this research project, closely related to the EU project ACANTO, is to study effective solutions for human beings localisation inside instrumented environments, considering a single individual or a social group, which involves the development of proper human motion models.  Particular emphasis is devoted to localisation solutions based on (passive) service robots used to support elderly people in their navigation duties. The solutions provided could be extended during the research period to a broader class of wheeled robots, such as intelligent transportation systems. The research foreseen in this project will cover all the research and development phases, starting from the conception of the idea and the design of the solution to the experimental validation in real scenarios.


- Reference persons: D. Fontanelli, M. De Cecco

Title: Distributed control of autonomous or semi-autonomous robots in human populated environments. 5)

Robots are becoming more and more pervasive in daily life. Autonomous robots sharing the same environment with human beings are nowadays available in smart industries as well as in museums or hospitals (e.g., tour guided robots). In the near future, autonomous driving cars and service robots in general will become a commonplace in Smart Cities. Autonomous behaviours can be blended with the presence of the human in the loop, such as passive robotics systems (for example, smart walkers like the FriWalk of the EU project ACANTO) or road vehicles with assistive driving capabilities, thus becoming semi-autonomous. The objective of the presented research project is to study distributed control approaches of groups of autonomous or semi-autonomous (assistive) robots in uncertain environments, with special emphasis on environments shared with human beings, thus endowing predictive models of people behaviours. Both theoretical and practical results are expected.


- Reference persons: D. Stoppa, L. Pancheri

Title: CMOS readout ASIC for single-photon and radiation detectors. 6)

The research activity will be focused onto the design, simulations and characterization of CMOS IC multi-channels readout of SiPMs and SDD detectors fabricated within full custom FBK technology. In particular for SiPMs, ultra-low noise ASICs with picosecond time resolution will be developed, fabricated and tested. The developed SiPM-ASIC will be assembled in a compact photonic module consisting of an array of SiPMs coupled to a scintillator crystal, and an FPGA devoted to the pre-processing of the ASIC output data. Concerning the SDD-ASIC a proof of concept module will be realised and tested. The ideal candidate must have a Master degree in Electronics, Telecommunication or Physics, very good knowledge of semiconductors device physics and excellent skills in analogue circuits design. Some competences on FW and FPGA programming are also appreciated. Further information is available at, while informal enquiries may be sent to Dr. David Stoppa (stoppa [at]


- Reference person: L. Lorenzelli, G.F. Dalla Betta

Title: Technologies and devices for next generation of microsystems. 6)

The next generation of Micro/Nano Systems has to provide advanced functionalities through combination of innovative nanomaterials and micro- nanotechnologies, for envisaging an increasing technological development on a broad range of powerful applications addressing societal challenges. If the major technological issue of the microelectronics is related to the scaling down of the critical dimensions and to reduction of the power consumption and costs, the full exploitation of microsystems requires innovative concepts, improved integration level, advanced processes, and pioneering designs and simulation approaches for materials and devices to be integrated in reliable, performing and cheap practical systems. In order to satisfy all these expectations, the integration of  heterogeneous micro-nanotechnologies with new active, responsive, and nano-engineered materials, (e.g. piezoelectric, ceramics and polymers) plays an important role. The PhD activity will be focused to identify the technological orientation and future challenges offered by the connection between innovative materials and micro/nanotechnologies; for improving, in terms of integration and reliability, the performances of microsystems and MEMS/NEMS.The ideal candidate must have theoretical and technical background in the fields of Microelectronics/MEMS/Physics and material science. A preferential criterion is a previous experience in design and modelling of microdevices and/or in microfabrication techniques (basic). Further information is available at, while informal enquiries may be sent to Dr. Leandro Lorenzelli (lorenzel [at]


- Reference persons: D. Petri, L. Crema

Title: Modelling and engineering of energy storage systems to balance variable and intermittent energy sources. 6)

The wider market penetration of renewable energy systems are leveraging the problem of the grid stability and security of supply to a critical level in several countries. Intermittent and variable sources in time and in magnitude are difficult to manage and distribute, with the proper demand response. A big effort is so dedicated in developing new storage solutions able to reduce the specific problem to a sustainable level. Different technologies have indeed important limitations in density, in cycling, in security of supply and reliability, in costs, in down- and up- scalability. Hydrogen or novel Batteries, among other technologies, have a big potential in matching the scope on a wide range of applications and through different possible storage solutions. The efficient system integration of materials and components in a power to power or power to gas  configuration will be the scope of the dedicated research within the PhD study. System integration will regard advanced modelling and engineering of novel storage solutions. Further information is available at, while informal enquiries may be sent to Dr. Luigi Crema (crema [at]


Operational Research (area B)

- Reference person: L. Mich

Title: Decision making in requirements engineering for complex domains. 1)

The overall objective of this research project is to develop methods and tools supporting requirements engineers to make optimal decisions in the early steps of software systems requirements analysis. In particular, decision making support is critical in complex contexts, characterized by a variety of actors and constraints. The research will concentrate on the analysis of the knowledge available for such contexts. Linguistic tools and decisional models will be applied to address the extraction of information from, usually, unstructured documents, and the problem of multi-criteria decisions, investigating new decisional models as those used for the AlphaGo project. The ideal candidate must have or be prepared to acquire knowledge in natural language processing, statistics and conceptual modelling.



  1. UNITN
  2. EU Project REBRAKE (G. Straffelini)
  3. UNITN and Department of Industrial Engineering (DII)
  4. EU Project ACANTO (D. Fontanelli)
  5. UNITN and EU Project ACANTO (D. Fontanelli)
  6. "Bruno Kessler" Foundation (FBK)
  7. Department of Industrial Engineering