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Faculty of Engineering

PhD Studentship - UK/EU

PhD Project: Lubricant influence on LSPI (low speed pre-ignition) in modern, energy efficient, gasoline engines for passenger cars and minimising the impact upon reliability and durability
School of Mechanical Engineering

We are seeking a talented graduate engineer with a good understanding of analytical chemistry techniques as well as basic organic chemistry. Knowledge of and/or interest in lubricant/fuel formulating would also be advantageous. This 3.5 year PhD project is sponsored by two global industrial partners and will offer a unique opportunity to visit the corresponding sites and experience research in an industrial context.

It is thought that the lubricant, or its degraded products, residing in the upper reaches of the piston in a gasoline engine under certain conditions react with the fuel and air in the combustion chamber to cause unwanted and uncontrollable pre-ignition before the spark. This has become a growing problem with the development of high efficiency turbocharged gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines operating at low speed, so-called LSPI. Combustion events occurring before they are desired lead to large and rapid transients of pressure known as knock which can damage the mechanical components of gasoline engines, this is especially crucial for pistons and connecting rods which are rising when this downward combustion transient event occurs. In the most severe cases, LSPI can lead to broken piston rings, damaged pistons and bent connecting rods.

This project aims to adapt existing in-line lubricant sampling techniques developed in engine tribology research to an engine operating at/or close to LSPI conditions and then use a comprehensive suite of analytical techniques to identify chemical precursors to LSPI. The combined use of a closely controlled laboratory gasoline engine plus tribology and combustion laboratory simulators will provide novel insight into the actual mechanisms leading to this phenomenon. This could then be validated using production engines in engine test cells of the industrial sponsor.

Value: The studentship is funded for 3.5 years. The studentship covers the fees at UK/EU rate, an annual maintenance of £13,863 with a further £3,000 industrial top up.

Entry requirements: Candidates must have a good first degree (2:1 and above or non-UK equivalent), or a good Masters degree (2:1 and above or non-UK equivalent) in Mechanical Engineering with a solid background and keen interest in chemistry. Candidates with a chemistry degree and relevant qualification/background in mechanical engineering will also be considered.

Supervisors: The student will be supervised by Professor Martin Priest ( and Dr Malcolm Lawes of the School of Mechanical Engineering and an industrial supervisor based in the UK.

Application deadline: 21 October 2014

How to Apply: Formal applications for research degree study should be made on-line through the university's website. Please state clearly on the funding section of the application form that you wish to be considered for scholarship ‘Lubricant influence on LSPI’. In the research information section please state the name Professor Martin Priest.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.