PhD programmes - Science and Technology
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Home > Proposed research topics > 2015 - 31th cycle

2015 - 31th cycle

Materials Science and Engineering (area A)

- M. Benedetti, V. Fontanari  - Modelling and simulation of metallic materials and mechanical components.

Numerical modelling is becoming more and more important in any aspect involving the simulation and design of components and processes covered in industrial engineering. Therefore, the proposed research project will involve the development of efficient and reliable methods that can be used to understand the fundamental phenomena that govern microstructure and mechanical behaviour of metallic materials as well as to incorporate this knowledge into the design and production of various machine components. Particular emphasis will be placed on the validation of the proposed modelling methods on the basis of a sound experimental activity. Specific research topics include: (i) explicit dynamic finite element simulation of the surface treatments of shot peening, (ii) structural and fluid-dynamics finite element analysis of the lubricated contact conditions in worm gearing, (iii) propagation of fatigue cracks through the residual stress field produced by heat treatments and other manufacturing processes (forging, rolling, casting, welding, shot peening), (iv) experimental and numerical investigation of the micromechanical behaviour of porous and cellular materials. 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.


- F. Deflorian, S. Diré, S. Rossi   - Functional coatings deposited on magnesium alloys substrates.

Beside the high technological impact and wide applications in transportation field, magnesium substrates suffers of severe chemical stability problems. For reducing the corrosion phenomena, the development of innovative nanostructured coatings is a promising processing. The research activity will be focused on the optimization and characterization of the interaction at interface of Mg-based substrates and functional coatings prepared by wet chemistry.


- L. Fambri, A. Pegoretti  - New polymer nanocomposites for 3D printing.

The overall aim of this project is to create a new generation of feeding materials to be used in the fused filament fabrication process (also known as fused deposition modelling), to drastically improve the performances of 3D-printed components. In particular, the strategy is to develop new polymer-based nanocomposites and to extrude them in forms of filaments suitable to feed commercially available 3D printers. Specifically, the research will evaluate the effects of nanofillers on the following properties of 3D-printed parts: i) mechanical properties (rigidity, strength, toughness, impact resistance, creep stability), ii) thermal properties (thermal conductivity, specific heat, thermal diffusivity, thermal degradation, heat distortion temperature), iii) functional properties (electrical conductivity, electro-mechanical response), iv) durability (resistance to UV degradation, gloss and colour maintenance), v) product quality (roughness, dimensional accuracy).


- L. Fambri, A. Pegoretti  - Nanocomposite polymer foams.

Polymer foams are widely used in several industrial applications where thermal properties (for insulation) or mechanical properties (for impact protection) are required. This PhD project is aimed at improving the thermo-mechanical properties of polymer foams by the introduction of nanofillers. The investigation will be focused on both thermoplastic and thermosetting polymer matrices reinforced with various amounts and types of nanofillers. Depending on their morphology, nanofillers can be classified as i) isodimensional (3D, nanoparticles with a characteristic dimension less than 100 nm), ii) bi-dimensional (2D, nanofibres or nanotubes with a diameter less than 100 nm), iii) mono-dimensional (1D, lamellar nanoplatelets with a thickness less than 1 nm). A particular attention will be given to carbonaceous nanofillers such as carbon nanotubes and graphene. Nanocomposite foams will be obtained preferentially by using supercritical carbon dioxide as a foaming agent.


- S. Gialanella, M. Pellizzari, G. Straffelini  - Study of wear mechanisms in brake systems, with particular regard to disc materials.

Description: The main task of the research is understanding the main wear mechanisms in disc brake systems in order to develop better materials as concerns durability, performances and reduced particulate matter emissions.

Activity: Cast iron discs are worldwide used in brake systems and contribute to a significant extent, together with brake pads, to particulate matter emissions coming from vehicular traffic. Since this is becoming an issue of major concern for its health and environmental implications, the request for novel more durable materials is growing fast. In this research wear tests, namely pin-on-disc, involving materials for brake disc systems will be conducted under different load, speed and temperature conditions. The relevant products will be analyzed in order to identify the main wear mechanisms and to infere the critical aspects and better guidelines to follow in the development of new materials and, in the case of discs, for the design of adequate surface treatments. The usual materials characterization techniques, like optical and electron microscopy, diffraction and spectroscopy techniques will be intensively used for this research.


- L. Lutterotti, G. Pepponi   - Development of multi-techniques systems and methodologies for material characterization in the fields of material science, cultural heritage and environmental control. *

Description: Portable and lab instruments will be developed along with tmeasurements and analyses protocols using X-ray diffraction, fluorescence and reflectivity coupled with optical and vibrational spectroscopies.

Activity: The activity concerns mainly the development of smart instrumentation and methodologies integrating X-ray diffraction, fluorescence and reflectivity with optical and vibrational spectroscopies. Part of the work will be based on the development of acquisition and analysis software starting from the MAUD software. This will include the preparation and use of databases for storing and comparing results. The methodologies will be tested and validated on samples of interest for material science, cultural heritage and environmental monitoring applications.

Required expertise and skills: interest for materials analysis, basic knowledge of spectroscopies and software programming skills.

The main goals of the work are:

- The combination of different spectroscopies both at the experiment and analysis level;

- The development of portable and smart integrated instruments, this is of particular importance for the cultural heritage and environmental control.


- A. Quaranta, D. Maniglio   - Micro and nano-patterned biocompatible materials for optical sensors.

The activity will be focused on the development of procedures for the production of micro and nano-patterned structures on biocompatible materials, like silk fibroin and chitosan. In particular, the student will work on breath figure arrays synthesis or on periodic structures patterned by means of optical methods, like UV polymerization or laser ablation. After this first part, the patterned structures will be used for the development of optical arrays, like microlenses or periodic structures for SERS. The functionalization of the optical arrays with luminescent compounds like dye molecules or quantum dots will give rise to the production of optical biosensors for the detection of chemical compounds in living systems.


- V.M. Sglavo   - Electric-field assisted sintering of ceramics characterized by viscous flow or liquid phase sintering

The aim of the project is to analyze the sintering process of ceramic materials typically occurring through viscous flow or liquid phase sintering when an external electrical field is also applied; the expected results should point out the processing conditions (voltage, current intensity, temperature) suitable for some specific compositions selected among others for their industrial importance.


Mechatronic and Mechanical Systems (area B)


- F. Biral, L. Zaccarian   - Optimal control for hybrid dynamical systems. **

This PhD activity will focus on the theoretical and numerical aspects for the off-line and on-line solution of non‑linear optimal control problems for dynamical systems with discrete-continuous states. The hybrid Dynamical systems of main interest are in the automotive field such as hybrid transmission systems which are characterized by discrete-continuous states. However, an extension of the developed optimal control techniques to more general classes of hybrid systems is foreseen and desirable. The goal is the development of novel analytical and numerical methods for the solution of optimal control problems for the above dynamical systems both for off-line and on-line energy management applications and problems that involve continuous-discrete states.


- E. Bertolazzi, L. Zaccarian   - Optimal control methods for mechatronics systems.

The PhD activity will focus on the theoretical and numerical aspects arising in the solution of non‑linear optimal control problems for challenging engineering mechatronics applications. Dynamical systems of interest in mechatronics applications are described by differential algebraic equations with possible discrete states and hybrid dynamical systems. The goal of this PhD project 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.


- P. Bosetti  - Maneuver planning and tracking for robotic ground- and aerial vehicles: theoretical approach and development of testbed and testing facilities.

The candidate doctorate student will investigate the implementation of optimal manoeuvre planning and tracking for robotic vehicles, with particular focus on UAVs and drones. That implementation — grounded on and enabled by past expertise and knowledge of the Group of Mechatronics — is expected to encompass both the development and customisation of vehicles, and the realisation of an indoor testing facility. There will be significant interaction with the University-funded project D-FAB, which aims at the development of drones for automatic search of people buried in snow avalanches.


- P. Bosetti, M. De Cecco - Computer animation and its applications to mechatronics: industrial automation and human rehabilitation. **

Recent developments and progress in the field of real-time 3-D graphics on portable computing platforms enable the application of Computer Animation, Augmented Reality, Shared Human-Machine Control, and Serious Gaming to novel application fields as Human Rehabilitation and Industrial Automation. The perspective Doctorate student will have to approach the problem by building up a background theoretical knowledge and software tool library, then move to apply these tools to at least two case studies on both target application fields. There will be significant interaction with the EU-funded project UNCAP, which aims at the development of serious games for human rehabilitation.


- M. De Cecco, G. Nollo, D. Petri   - Integrated measurement of stress, motion capture and environmental parameters in subjects with cognitive and/or motor impairment. ***

Chronic diseases and their consequent impairment of the cognitive and motor functions are becoming a more and more relevant problem for modern societies that are undergoing rapid demographic changes. Advanced technologies are supposed to be determinant to enable new services and provide assistive devices for patient home care. However, real life applicability of these technologies needs to be proved on real settings and their efficacy needs to be tested as regards environment and patient. In this context, accurate measurement of stress and effort (performed at any level, i.e., muscular, cardiovascular, or cerebral) combined with the subject behavior (motion of the subject while interacting with the assistive device) and the environment status is determinant for assessing the cost/benefit ratio of each specific assistive technology. The final goal of this project is therefore to implement a multisensorial platform able to collect multivariate biological signals, motion capture and environment related interaction parameters and to elaborate them in order to provide physicians with a measurable indicator of the user point of view and performances achievable. Operating in the context of integrated system physiology evaluation of effort and adaptation to task will be assessed as whole on the entire body response thus providing a holistic estimation of potential improvement of life condition. There will be significant interaction with the EU-funded project UNCAP, which aims at the development of an assistive domotic ambient for patient with cognitive dysfunction, and with the Ateneo project BEES, for which DII lab at BIOtech collaborates for developing technologies for investigating human and animal brain functionality through multivariate signal analysis.


- M. Da Lio    - Modelling human sensory-motor abilities and application to robotics.

This PhD project focuses on the study of human motor strategies and how they can be exploited to engineer robots that can collaborate with humans in an emphatic fashion. The project will build on the NoTremor EU project and in particular will investigate human abilities to track simple target (experimental activity with a computerized device). Several aspects will be investigated, in particular focusing on the study of how humans form internal models of the task they are facing. In parallel the project will also build on the adaptIVe EU project where (for driving tasks) a co-driver with human-like abilities will be built. Experiment in the driving simulator environment will be carried out with the same goal of understanding human control strategies. There is a chance that UNITN become partner of yet another EU project dealing with the design of advanced driving agents for which this PhD will constitute an important contribution. The student will participate to work (and international meetings) in the above projects.


Electronic Systems and Integrated Microelectronic Systems (area B)


- D. Brunelli   - Smart and efficient architectures for internet of things.

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, high-traffic high-speed multimedia ubiquitous communications, self-deployment/self-organizing behavior, low electromagnetic radiation, scalability and flexibility, energy neutrality and power management of sensor and cloud of sensors is facing new challenges in research. The activity proposed aims at designing, developing and validating new and smart embedded architecture for IoT to improve the energy efficiency of applications towards Energy Neutral Systems and using advanced power management techniques for addressing the challenges in the area of sensors for IoT and sensors for cloud.


- D. Macii   - Indoor localization and positioning.

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.


- D. Petri, D. Macii   - Energy management and monitoring solutions for smart grids.

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.


- L. Pancheri    - Sensors based on avalanche detector arrays.

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.


- G.F. Dalla Betta     - Micromachined silicon radiation detectors.

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, 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.


- G.F. Dalla Betta, D. Stoppa    - Silicon Photomultipliers CMOS Readout ASIC for Biomedical Applications *

The research activity will be focused onto the design, simulations and characterization of CMOS IC multi-channels readout of SiPMs detectors fabricated within full custom FBK technology. In particular, ultra-low noise ASICs with picosecond time resolution will be developed, fabricated and tested. The developed 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.

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 David Stoppa (stoppa [at]


- G.F. Dalla Betta, L. Lorenzelli    - Study of innovative designs and technologies for microanalytical systems *

The PhD activity will focus on the design, fabrication and experimental testing of microsystems and sensors for agrofood applications. The position will be inserted in a research group currently involved in EC projects promoting the use of microsystems for the analysis of safety and quality of foods, and in particular in dairy industry.


 The ideal candidate has theoretical and technical background in the following fields:

  • finite element simulation
  • microfabrication techniques
  • material science
  • analytical chemistry
  • biotechnologies
  • biochemistry
  • electronics and measurement systems


A preferential criterion is previous experience in microfluidics, microsystems and experimental testing of analytical systems.


Operational Research (area B)


- R.A. Marques Pereira   - Aggregation functions and multicriteria evaluations in decision modelling.

Operations research, also called decision science or management science, is a field that combines technological and management perspectives in problem solving, making decisions, and managing risk and uncertainty in complex systems. It provides a rigorous description of deterministic optimization and stochastic modeling, a basic coverage of applications in operations engineering and management information systems, and an in-depth coverage of applications in the selected concentration of limited resources. The aim of the program is to provide a strong disciplinary background in one of the core areas of research in the department, i.e. decision modelling. Research activities will be mainly focused on aggregation functions that play a key role in decision 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 graduate program, together with a solid mathematical background.


* project (co-)financed by the "Bruno Kessler" Foundation (FBK)

** project financed by the Department of Industrial Engineering (DII)

*** project cofinanced by the IEEE Association, Department of Industrial Engineering (DII)