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PhD scholarship - Instrumentation of mechatronics systems with fibre Bragg grating sensors

PhD Scholarship - Load monitoring, failure prediction and design optimization for mechatronic systems with optical fibre Bragg grating sensors.

For 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you’ll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators and especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3.500 employees, we are the largest Flemish-speaking employer in Brussels, an international city with which we are all too happy to be connected, and around which our four campuses are located.

Position Description

We are looking for an excellent PhD candidate in Photonics/Mechatronics to join our team: You will join the Brussels Photonics (B-PHOT) research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium to reliably instrument mechatronics systems such as drive trains and electric motors with optical fiber-based sensors. You will have access to the state-of-the-art fiber sensing lab at VUB B-PHOT's facilities for prototyping, characterisation and testing of a novel reliable installation technique allowing quasi-distributed strain and temperature measurements with these optical fiber-based sensors. You will co-deploy and co-demonstrate the instrumentation on selected test rigs in collaboration with other research groups and universities within Flanders Make, the strategic research centre for the manufacturing industry in Flanders. The open position is part of the Flanders Make strategic research project “FIBERMECH” - Fiber optics & predictable physical models towards load analysis in mechatronic systems.

PhD project context

For the validation of machine prototypes, strain and temperature measurements with a known small uncertainty are required to provide feedback in the prototype design process. This applies for example to the thermal evaluation of electric motors where operating at high-power density may lead to excessive temperatures, or to the verification of high strain levels in extensive load cycles within mechanical structures (system housing & rotating components) that may lead to fatigue issues. An inaccurate knowledge of both quantities (strain and temperature) may thus lead to excessive safety factors, over-dimensioned systems or in case of under-dimensioning; failing prototypes. The SBO project FiberMech aims at unlocking the potential of distributed strain and temperature estimation in mechatronic systems at lower cost/time and improved accuracy with respect to conventional strain gauges and thermal sensors. A more time/cost-efficient, but elaborate measurement campaign will decrease the number of design iterations and save expensive physical prototyping. To reach this objective, we aim to take advantage of optical fiber sensors for dynamic mechatronic systems. In particular, FiberMech will deliver tools and methods for the reduction of fiber optic sensor measurement uncertainty to accurately identify strain/temperature.

The tools and methods will be developed for mechatronic products covering a broad application field: (1) estimation of mechanical inputs for multiple force components; (2) improved temperature estimation in electric motors; (3) estimation of torsional loads and bending moments for electro-mechanical rotary drivetrains. Small validation cases will also be defined with the User Group members to evaluate the feasibility of the reusable results in an industrial environment.

You will be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of annual positive evaluations of the PhD activities), with a planned starting date of 01/03/2023. You will receive a PhD grant amount defined by government regulations. IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.

Here are 4 reasons to apply:

  • You will join an open, committed and diverse working environment.
  • You will be part of a fantastic team. People who are 100% their authentic selves with tremendous know-how, each with their own specialisations.
  • Every opportunity to further develop your competencies. You continue to grow and develop in your position, because we encourage lifelong learning through training courses, webinars, conferences, workshops, etc.
  • We strongly encourage initiative and creativity.

In addition to a great job in a pleasant collegial atmosphere and an attractive PhD grant amount with generous insurance, the VUB offers its employees numerous other benefits (e.g. exceptional leave scheme, reimbursement of commuting expenses, possibilities to work from home, eco vouchers, discounts via Benefits@Work, 35 days of leave per year for a fulltime contract, quality meals at an attractive price in our campus restaurants, ...).


Research profile (skills/qualifications):

  • Master’s degree in Physics, Electromechanical Engineering, Applied Mathematics or a diploma recognized as equivalent by competent university authorities.
  • You have a keen interest to conduct ground-breaking research in the fields of applied Photonics and Mechatronics and the ambition to obtain a PhD in Engineering.
  • Excellent experimental and computational skills are required. Experience with fiber optic sensors is a plus.
  • Proficiency in both spoken and written English (typically CEFR level C1 or equivalent) is required. The candidate will have the opportunity to take evening classes in English to improve his/her language skills if needed.
  • You look forward to transfer your knowledge and insights to students at Master level with great enthusiasm.
  • The candidate is expected to be able to carry out his/her research activities independently and in a critical manner, whilst having excellent communication skills and a positive attitude
    towards collaboration.
  • The candidates should be prepared to travel within Flanders in the frame of research collaborations and potentially worldwide for participation in conferences.
  • Knowledge about photonics and mechatronics is a plus.

Candidates that have not yet acquired their Master’s degree can apply and participate in the selection procedure, but need to offer proof of registration in their Master’s programme and need to have complied with all diploma requirements before starting their position at VUB. The candidate is expected to endorse the educational vision of the university (full text available on the university website). Female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.


Apply online before 1st February 2023 with your detailed CV (including a copy of your Master diploma and a Transcript of records), letters of recommendation, any supporting documents demonstrating technical skills (thesis or scientific paper) and an application letter.

Do you have questions about the job content? Contact Dr. Ir. Sidney Goossens (sidney.goossens@vub.be) by email.

If your application is selected based on the CV and accompanying documents, you will be invited for a teleconference interview. In case of a successful interview, you will also have to take an online 360 test (for performance assessment).

The planned starting date is 1 March 2023.


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