Transforming life and reliability of railway overhead electric power lines

EPSRC CASE PhD studentship
Transforming life and reliability of railway overhead electric power lines

Academic Supervisors
Dr David Fletcher and Dr Adam Beagles (University of Sheffield)
Industry Supervisors
Chris Bryan (Furrer+Frey GB Ltd)
Patric Mak (Network Rail Infrastructure Limited)

This is an exciting PhD research opportunity combining academic research with industry experience in the rail electrification area. UK rail electrification programmes are scheduled to run well into the 2020s so this studentship represents a significant career opportunity. It is also an excellent route to achieving impact from your research through transfer of the findings to industrial application. The research will build on output from existing projects at the university with Furrer+Frey and Network Rail, and will benefit from the unique expertise built in previous research in terms of mechanical testing and physically-based modelling.

As railways are increasingly electrified service levels depend on an increase in life and reliability of overhead electric power supplies beyond the performance of current materials and technology. Overhead power lines are highly stressed structures without redundancy. Their failure in service is caused by a combination of wear, fatigue cracking, and corrosion. Their life/failure is controlled by material behaviour under combined cable tension, dynamic load from current collection pantographs, and environmental loading (e.g. sparking and sidewinds).

Research will focus in two areas, with the balance dependent on student skills/preference and the developing needs of the industry partners: (i) Dynamic modelling of the overhead line catenary system (e.g. finite element). (ii) Fatigue failure of overhead line systems, and the application of new materials / configurations able to dramatically increase life. Through combining these areas of work the research will identify the mechanisms of material degradation controlling failure through modelling and/or experimental investigation, and use this data to predict behaviour of new and existing systems over a wide range of conditions. Alongside academic research in Sheffield, the PhD includes the opportunity to spend periods with the industry partners getting a real understanding of the problems of overhead lines, and to see how your research can be applied.