PhD Studentship: Numerical and Experimental Study on Plasma and Electromagnetic Wave Interaction in

Southampton, United Kingdom
Jan 30, 2017
Jan 26, 2018
Contract Type
Full Time
Job Type
PhD / Doctoral
PhD Studentship: Numerical and Experimental Study on Plasma and Electromagnetic Wave Interaction in a Weakly Ionized

Flow Astronautics Group

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date:  Friday 26 January 2018

Reference: 831417AK

Project Reference: AACE-ASTRO-111

This PhD project aims to obtain quantitatively accurate, predictive understanding of plasma-electromagnetic wave interaction in harsh plasma conditions during hypersonic flights and to develop effective radio blackout mitigation approaches.

A radio blackout is one long-standing obstacle in the development of a hypersonic cruise vehicle that is one of the primary methods cost-effectively to access space. Vehicles flying at velocities near or above Mach 10, hypervelocity regime, within the atmosphere experience difficulties in communication and vehicle tracking including Global Positioning System (GPS) signal reception. This interruption in signal transmission and reception is known as radio blackout or re-entry blackout. Radio blackout is due to the plasma formed around a vehicle by aerodynamic heating, which can reflect or attenuate electromagnetic waves from and to a vehicle. Radio blackout currently persists for all hypersonic vehicles including space shuttles, re-entry capsules, and robotic spacecraft entering the atmospheres of other planetary bodies. When radio blackout occurs, vehicles lose precise guidance and manoeuvring initiated by a GPS satellite or control centre. Losing GPS signals and/or real-time monitoring can compromise the safety of the vehicle because it can travel hundreds of miles for a few minutes of a radio blackout. This safety issue becomes significant if the vehicle is capable of sustained hypersonic flight. A radio blackout also blocks the self-destruct signal that is sometimes necessary when an unmanned hypersonic vehicle strays off the desired trajectory.

Following will be the main objectives of the project:

• Obtain the detailed understanding of re-entry flows including the resonance vibrational excitation of N2 and the fluctuation of plasma parameters.

• Determine the scattering of electromagnetic radiation by metallic nanoparticles.

• Provide a comprehensive and high-fidelity dataset for the validation of physical models.

• Evaluate the feasibility of novel blackout mitigation schemes.

The project will approach to investigate radio blackout in different research paradigm which is considering the comprehensive electromagnetic model of electrons. Although the aerothermodynamic of a vehicle is the major mechanism to create a plasma layer around the vehicle, it has a limited role in describing the mechanism of radio wave attenuation. Therefore, understanding the detailed mechanism of radio blackout requires to consider electromagnetism in electron rich conditions.

We are looking for an applicant with a background in physics, engineering, or mathematics, and an appetite to learn and research across conventional discipline boundaries. The stipend is at the standard EPSRC levels. More details on research group and computing equipment are available

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Minkwan Kim, or Prof. Neil Sandham, Astronautics research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2716

To apply, please use the following website:

Further details:

  • Job Description and Person Specification