PhD programmes - Science and Technology
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Home > Proposed research topics > 2018 - 34th cycle

2018 - 34th cycle

Materials Science and Engineering (area A)

- Reference persons: M. Benedetti, A. Molinari, M. Pellizzari

Title: Additive manufactured advanced Ti alloys for biomedical use. 1)

Ti and Ti-based alloys have unique properties such as high strength, low density and excellent corrosion resistance. These properties are crucial for the production of lightweight and high strength components for biomedical applications. Ni, V and Al in biomaterials were considered to be rather toxic due to ions releasing in the human body, suggesting that widely used Ti alloys like Ti6Al4V can be reasonably replaced by more suitable candidates. Recent results proved that Ti–Nb alloys have a good biocompatibility, viability and support osteoblast cell attachment. Cytotoxicity and cell viability of Ti–29Nb–13Ta–4.6Zr were found to be the same as CP-Ti, due to non-toxicity properties of the beta phase. Aim of this PhD project is to investigate the properties and use of some beta Ti alloys produced by additive manufacturing for biomedical applications. Part of the work will be focused on the process optimization, looking for defect free parts. Special emphasis will be paid to the correlation between process parameters and properties (density, microstructure, mechanical strength, fatigue resistance, biocompatibilty...).


- Reference persons: A. Dorigato, L. Fambri, A. Pegoretti

Title: Development of insulating materials with thermal energy storage/release capability. 1)

Among the different solutions proposed to face the increase in greenhouse gases emissions and the rapid enhancement of the cost of the energy, thermal insulation of the buildings and thermal management through thermal energy storage (TES) technologies can represent two effective answers. The idea of the project is to develop new insulating materials (such as elastomers and polymer foams) in which TES materials will be inserted during the manufacturing process, with the aim to develop novel insulating panels with thermal energy storage/release capability. Thermoplastic, thermosetting and elastomeric matrices will be considered, and different kinds of organic Phase Change Materials (PCM) will be investigated as TES systems. Particular attention will be devoted to the possibility to utilize fully natural based insulation panels constituted by biopolymeric foams and natural PCMs (i.e. fatty acids). Also tailored sandwich structures will be
considered within the project. The effect of the PCM addition on the foaming behaviour and on the microstructure of the resulting materials will be considered. Moreover, the correlation between the obtained microstructure and the macroscopic properties (thermal, mechanical) will be investigated.


- Reference persons: M. Fedel, V. Fontanari, S. Rossi

Title: Innovative enamel coatings with improved mechanical properties. 1)

The vitreous enamel coatings show excellent corrosion protection properties for steel and aluminum substrate. In addition, this deposits present good chemical resistance and interesting aesthetical properties. Due to their vitreous nature, these coatings shows a brittle behavior and limited mechanical properties, which limits the application of this kind of layer. The aim of the research is to improve the mechanical behavior with the modification of chemical composition of frits and of starting materials, the introduction of hard particles and reinforce as graphene flakes to improve the abrasion resistance and fracture toughness.


- Reference persons: S. Dirè, M. Fedel, S. Rossi

Title: Smart coatings for energy savings buildings. 1)

Organic coatings are widely employed to coat roofing materials not only to increase the durability and to modify the appearance. However, smart coatings have been developed in order to provide the buildings with improved energy efficiency. In particular, by changing the surface finishing and the composition of the coatings it is possible to obtain high solar reflectance to reflect solar radiation, as well as high infra-red emissivity to release absorbed heat. The aim of this research is to develop new smart “cool-roof” coatings and to study the effect of the weathering of the organic matrix on the energy-savings efficiency by means of lab scale and outdoor test.


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

Title: Study of solid and gaseous 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, with particular regard to the ultra-fine fraction. For this purpose, electron microscopy techniques based on imaging, electron diffraction and X-ray spectroscopy will be used and experimental protocols based on the combination of the above techniques will be implemented. Similarly, a suitable experimental set up, based on infra-red spectroscopy and gas chromatographic 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 emissions occurring during the production and recycling of the brake pads.


- Reference persons: P. Bosetti, V.M. Sglavo

Title: Development of P-3DP (Powder-based 3D Printing) process for the realization of cement-based or generally inorganic materials 1)

Additive manufacturing technologies are growing mature and widespread when dealing with polymers (FDM, SLA) and metals (SLM, EBM); nevertheless, there is a recent interest in the application of AM processes to fabricate other materials. In this regard, a special case is the fabrication by AM technology of cement-based or generally inorganic components to be used for constructions or refractory items, for it would enable the realization of complex shapes that are even more difficult to produce with conventional technologies than in the case of polymers or metals. In this framework, the candidate has to follow the development of a prototype P-3DP (Powder-based 3D Printing) machine.
The activities are as follows:

  1. Functional analysis of the current prototype, performance budgeting and identification of possible improvements;
  2. Process analysis and modeling: definition of quality function(s) and identification of process parameters and their effects;
  3. Re-design and improvement of the prototype, with special regards for automation, process robustness, flexibility to different materials, in addition to the output of step a;
  4. Process/Product validation: productivity, economical issues, mechanical and physical properties of products, also in comparison with other technologies.

Mechatronic and Mechanical Systems (area B)

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

Title: Development of methods and tools for the design and intelligent control of robotic systems 2)

Modern automotive, robotic and biomechanical applications and related research problems, require a concurrent design approach that considers the different aspects affecting the system, from sensing, to actuation, from system intelligence to control but also the interaction
with the user. The present PhD proposal should start from the above principles to develop new methods and tools for the design and control of robotic systems complemented with the visualization of the system state and interaction activity between human and robot by means of Augmented Reality tools. Investigated and developed techniques should be proved experimentally developing new prototypes or improving the ones already available in the Mechatronic Research Lab facilities.
Within the above depicted framework and context, this PhD may focus on three different research lines:
a) Development and analysis of novel actuation systems based on variable impedance and soft/smart materials for advanced robotic systems that feature intrinsic compliant/adaptable response to unpredictable operating conditions in unstructured environments (for more info email to: marco.fontana-2 [at];
b) Design and development of cooperative robots for Ambient Assisted Living based on measurement of human behaviours and interaction with the environment combined with Augmented Reality tools. (for more info email to: mariolino.dececco [at];
c) Development of novel theoretical and numerical methods for the solution of optimal control problems for motion planning and energy management of ground vehicles and mobile robots with special interest for real time applications and robust and fast convergences. (for more info email to: francesco.biral [at]


- Reference persons: D. Bortoluzzi, M. Da Lio

Title: Human-robot interactions based on mirroring mechanisms: human-vehicle collaboration in a driving simulator 3)

The research activity is performed in the frame of the EU Horizon 2020 project Dreams4Cars, which develops an automated driving agent.
The objective of the PhD project is to integrate the driving agent in a driving simulator and to carry out human-robot interaction experiments aiming at studying possible forms of collaborative driving. This can be realized when the agent is able to understand human intentions and viceversa (also referring to simulation and mirroring theories of cognition). Possible paradigms of automated driving according to the SAE automation levels will be studied, together with alternative collaborative control paradigms, such as, for example, the rider-horse  metaphor.


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 disrupt the way to conceive manufacturing and many applications. In the near future  any sectors from Smart Cities to environmental monitoring, from Smart Grids to medical applications will use the data fusion from hundreds  of smart devices. 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 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: Cooperative social localization 1)

This research topic is focused on development of distributed localization algorithms for social groups of human beings walking inside a semistructured environment. The algorithm will rely on social models of interactions for human beings, which have to be designed contextually. The objective of the research on localization focuses on determining the position and orientation of a mobile platform that is pushed by a human beings. The idea is to follow a multi-sensory approach of extrinsic and intrinsic platform localization algorithms that is able to exploit - whenever available - existing infrastructure deployed in the environment but also maintains some kind of survival functionality in case external infrastructure is mainly missing. In particular, collaborative localisation algorithms will be based on multiple sources of information from nearby platforms via an approach we call "social-localization".
The social-localization asks for models of the human behaviors in shared spaces. Two different models will be analyzed: competitive and cooperative. In the competition for shared spaces, a set of mathematical models describing motion patterns that arise when a groups of people compete for shared spaces. Instead, in the cooperation between users, we are searching for algorithms that are descriptive enough to potentiality estimate the coordinated behaviour among the users generated by the social activities.


- Reference person: D. Fontanelli

Title: Distributed control algorithms for a team of service robots 4)

This research topic is focused on the development of distributed control algorithms for a team of service robots behaving as social groups and moving in structured or semi-structured environments. In particular, the research will start from a team of wheeled service robots developed in the European project ACANTO, which are commercial walkers for elderly endowed with mechatronic, sensing and reasoning abilities. The control algorithms should take explicitly in due consideration the presence of the users in the control loop, thus implementing the “authority sharing” idea. With this paradigm, the robot intervenes only when necessary to guarantee the attainment of the desired destination while maintaining the social group structure and still be sufficiently gentle in steering the user.
Moreover, the presence of other human beings in the shared environment imposes additional constraints on the possible control actions planned for the system, which has to be socially acceptable by the other actors in the scene. To guarantee the fulfilment of this additional requirement, human motion models should be considered in the distributed control design as well. The short term goal is to design distributed control laws for wheeled robots trajectory control in shared spaces as conceived in the ACANTO project, while a long term objective is to define a new paradigm for the control of service robots, either wheeled, flying or legged robots, in a socially aware manner.


- Reference persons: D. Macii, D. Petri

Title: Instrumentation and measurements for smart grids 1)

This research area covers the development of novel measurement systems and techniques for the smart grid. Possible resarch topics include (but are not limited to): digital signal processing algorithms for Power Quality monitoring and Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs), time synchronization of networked distributed systems, algorithms for distribution systems state estimation (DSSE), power systems modeling, optimal placement strategies of measurement instruments on the grid, real-time monitoring systems based on wired and wireless technologies.


- 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: D. Petri

Title: Sustainable power generation and electric mobility in future distribution systems 5)

The structure of electric distribution systems is gradually changing due to the high penetration of renewable energy sources (RES), storage systems and the expected proliferation of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV). The purpose of the research is to develop novel models, parameter estimation techniques and control strategies to maximize the exploitation of RES and energy storage for electric mobility.
Indeed, PEVs become really sustainable only if they are supplied by clean energy. In addition, the impact of the diffusion of e-mobility on distribution systems performances (e.g. amplitude and frequency stability, power quality indexes) should be properly analyzed in depth possibly identifying effective countermeasures to address potential critical issues.


Operational Research (area B)

- Reference person: L. Mich

Title: Blockchain technology for smart contracts 1)

Mainly known for virtual currencies as bitcoin, blockchain technologies are described as disrupting and are changing economics and society with their applications. One of the areas in which blockchain potentials are native is smart contracts. Given its nature as open and distributed ledger that can be used to record transactions between two parties in a verifiable and permanent way, a blockchain platform can almost straightaway be used to implement contracts. To this end, blockchains are used to generate logs of contract milestones and make ensuring compliance, determining violations and assigning blame and penalties easier and faster. Our focus in the project is to speed up the process of generating smart contract code so that it is more systematic and less error-prone. As a first step, smart contracts expressed in natural language ought to be translated in a specification language that allows describing the content of the contracts in terms of a conceptual model. The goal of the project is to design a framework to semi-automate the process of translating textual contracts into blockchain specifications. In this context, the PhD activity implies an interdisciplinary study to gather and analyse real-life industrial contracts, design a conceptual model, and test the application of linguistic tools to support the translation of textual contracts into blockchain specifications.

2) UNITN and EU H2020 project "Safe Strip" (F. Biral)
3) UNITN and DII strategic project "VDSD" (M. DaLio)
4) EU H2020 project "Acanto" (D. Fontanelli)