Ongoing research projects

IMMC

Ongoing research projects in iMMC (December 2021)


This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
Hereunder, you may select one research direction or choose to apply another filter:

Biomedical engineering

Computational science

Civil and environmental engineering

Dynamical and electromechanical systems

Energy

Fluid mechanics

Processing and characterisation of materials

Chemical engineering

Solid mechanics


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List of ongoing projects in the division: MEED




WholeTrack
Researcher: Nicolas Docquier
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette

The project aims at improving railway track lifecycle by improving its components such as the ballast, the sleeper, elastic pads, ... It consists in developing computer models coupling multi-body system dynamics (MBS) and granular modelling method (the discrete element method, DEM). Full scale experiments are conducted in parallel to validate the numerical models and assess the developed solutions.



Conducted disturbances in the frequency range 2-150 kHz
Researcher: Caroline Leroi
Supervisor(s): Emmanuel De Jaeger

During last decades, the power grid has changed significantly. The main among various causes of this change is the increasing number of devices using power electronics. These devices include switches with frequency commutation located between 2kHz and 150kHz. Besides the Power Line Carrier (PLC) which is a means of communication using the existing power network works also in this frequency range. Therefore, there is a coexistence of intentional and unintentional emissions in this frequency band while the standardization which is supposed to regulate the emission of the disturbances and the immunity of sensitive devices is currently almost non-existent for this frequency band.
In this context, the aim of this PhD thesis is to contribute to a better understanding of the origin, the propagation and the impact of the disturbances in the frequency range 2-150 kHz. It is important to gather knowledge in order to set appropriate limits in the standards.
Several observations have already been made through measurements in the litterature. However, there is a lack of theoretical explanation. In this thesis, models of disturbances sources are developed as well as models of grid components. These models will allow us to study the propagation and to understand which parameters influence the level of disturbances.
Models are developed in Matlab Simulink environment and more specifically with the SimPowerSystems toolbox. Results will also be validated through experiments.



Crane dynamis (CRAMIC)
Researcher: Olivier Lantsoght
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette

Historically, the cranes of the ports were assumed to be static or cyclical but, because of the increases in speed and loads, they are becoming more and more dynamic. As a result, load on the rail tracks is increasing and negative effects occurs (such as uncontrolled motion, track deformation…). As one of the partners of CRAMIC global project, through multibody and granular analysis of the system crane-railway.
On one side, we focus on identifying and studying the present dynamic effects, participating in developing new track technologies and helping monitoring cranes to organize a future maintenance. On the other side, we focus on the interaction between sleepers and ballast, participating in creating new sleeper geometries.



Traction2020, Ecoptine
Researcher: Virginie Kluyskens
Supervisor(s): Bruno Dehez

The aim of the project "TRACTION 2020 - Development of a high efficiency and high reliability railway traction" is the reduction of the consumption of electrical energy in railway traction. The hope is to improve by about 5% the efficiency of the traction chain, while also keeping in mind criteria like reliability, price and life cycle cost. In this context, our research concerns more specifically two components of the traction chain: (i) the electric motor converting the electrical energy into mechanical energy: a synchronous reluctance motor and (ii) the magnetic gear inserted between the motor and the axle of the boogie. Our objective is to propose the optimal electromagnetic design for these two components.

The aim of the project "ECOPTINE - Energy aCcumulation for Optimization of electrical Traction INfrastructure Efficiency" is to ensure an optimal (and renewable) source of energy for rail traction, thus allowing a gain in terms of cost and performance. It aims to design an energy accumulation and storage solution (via a flywheel) as well as a system for connection to the energy distribution network. In this context our research concerns the passive magnetic bearing system of the flywheel.



ELSA, an ankle-foot prosthesis to restore amputees locomotion
Researcher: François Heremans
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

Over the last decade, active lower-limb prostheses demonstrated their ability to restore a physiological gait for lower-limb amputees by supplying the required positive energy balance during daily life locomotion activities.
However, the added-value of such devices is significantly impacted by their limited energetic autonomy, excessive weight and cost preventing their full appropriation by the users. There is thus a strong incentive to produce active yet affordable, lightweight and energy efficient devices.
To address these issues, we are developing the ELSA (Efficient Lockable Spring Ankle) prosthesis embedding both a lockable parallel spring and a series elastic actuator, tailored to the walking dynamics of a sound ankle. The first contribution concerns the developement of a bio-inspired, lightweight and stiffness adjustable parallel spring, comprising an energy efficient ratchet and pawl mechanism with servo actuation. The second contribution is the addition of a complementary rope-driven series elastic actuator to generate the active push-off.
Our new system produces a sound ankle torque pattern during flat ground walking. Up to 50% of the peak torque is generated passively at a negligible energetic cost (0.1 J/stride). By design, the total system is lightweight (1.2 kg) and low cost.



FSO AVR-3D
Researcher: Xavier Bollen
Supervisor(s): Benoît Raucent

obtained his master's degree in electromechanical engineering, with specialization in mechatronics in 2011 from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium. In 2016, he obtained his PhD degree from the UCL.
During his thesis, under the supervision of Pr. Benoît Raucent and Pr. Parla Astarci (Cliniques universitaires Saint Luc, Brussels), he developed a new device for minimally aortic valve resection. The device was used on patients undergoing open heart surgery in order to validate its design and its functional principle.
Now he still works on the design of the device and he also works on additive manufacturing inside the IMAP department. Since September 2015, he is invited lecturer at the Polytechnic School of Louvain where he teaches technical drawing to the first year bachelor's students in engineering.



Techno-economic viability of variable-speed pumped-storage hydropower based on centrifugal pumps used as turbines
Researcher: Thomas Mercier
Supervisor(s): Emmanuel De Jaeger

This research takes place in the frame of SmartWater, a 3.5-year research project funded by the Walloon region, Belgium, and whose goal is to investigate the conversion of former mines and quarries into pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) sites, taking advantage of existing cavities. The project involves several academic and industrial partners, among which Laborelec, Electrabel and Cofely, as well as sponsors, including Ores, Elia, Charmeuse and Ensival-Moret. The SmartWater project is divided in several work packages, ranging from the geological study of potential mines and quarries, to the economical and electromechanical aspects of pumped-storage hydropower.



Development of a haptic feedback device for digital keyboards based on real-time multibody models of piano actions
Researcher: Sébastien Timmermans
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette

The touch of a piano keyboard is an essential sensory information for pianists and results from the dynamics of the actions equipping traditional acoustic pianos. Present-day digital instruments offer the possibility of nuancing sound thanks to certain dynamics which imitates that of a traditional piano, but which is far from reproducing the finessed required by pianists.
His project aims at developing a haptic feedback device for digital keyboards, based on (i) multibody models of piano actions using Robotran software, (ii) the use of movement sensors and high dynamic actuators (iii) the study of the phenomenon of touch, with our partners in musicology (the Museum of Musical Instruments of Brussels and the Museum of Philharmonic Music of Paris).



Development of self-bearing machines with hybrid magnetic suspension and PCB windings for cutting-edge applications
Researcher: Joachim Van Verdeghem
Supervisor(s): Bruno Dehez

The aim of this project is to propose and validate the first self-bearing electric machine that requires no sensors, power electronics and control specifically dedicated to the rotor magnetic levitation while operating both at low and high speeds.



Modelisation and optimization of bird flight
Researcher: Victor Colognesi
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain, Renaud Ronsse

This research project aims at modeling and optimizing bird flight. The goal of this modelization is to get a deep understanding of the mechanisms that govern avian flight and the best way to understand it is to re-create it. That is, the flight will be modeled starting from the given anatomy of a bird and the kinematics will be the result of an optimization process aiming at the most optimal flight.
Compared to other existing studies on the subject of bird flight, this project will follow a "bottom-up" approach, all the way from muscle activation, up to the wing aerodynamics and gait optimization. This approach is necessary to be able to evaluate key values such as metabolic rates, ...
This will allow us to answer a few questions such as :
- What are the mechanisms enabling high efficiency in bird flight ?
- How do we achieve a stable flapping flight ?
This work is purely numerical. The bio-mechanical model of the bird is developed using the multi-body solver Robotran developed at UCL. This bio-mechanical model will be coupled to an aerodynamical model based on a vortex particle-mesh code (VPM) developed at UCL as well.



Flight Control and Wake Characterization of Migratory Birds
Researcher: Gianmarco Ducci
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse, Philippe Chatelain

The RevealFlight project aims at shedding light on the efficiency optimization mechanisms deployed by biological flyers, with a specific focus on migratory birds. The efficiency-seeking mechanisms will be sought through the numerical reproduction of flight that includes the morphology, the neuro-muscular configuration and the gait generation. This resulting gait then exploits aerodynamics at the scale of an individual (unsteady lift generation) and at the level of the flock (formation flight). This project thus proposes to synthesize the flight mechanics of birds into a unified framework, combining bio-mechanical, sensory, aerodynamic and social interaction models, in order to reproduce the flying gaits and the interactions within a flock.
A neuro-mechanical model of the birds is currently under development, capturing bio-inspired principles both in the wing bio-mechanics (e.g. structure and compliance) and in its coordinated control (through e.g. a network of coordinated oscillators). The dynamics of this model will be solved by means a multi-body solver and in turn, coupled to a massively parallel flow solver (an implementation of the Vortex Particle-Mesh method) in order to capture the bird’s wake up to the scales of the flock. The study of self-organization phenomena and inter-bird interactions are currently beginning on simple conceptual models, and will be gradually extended to more advanced models developed during the project. It will aim at comparing the efficiency of flocks of selfish flyers with that of flocks in which collaboration takes place, whether implicitly or explicitly.
In my global project picture, the following bottom-up strategy will be adopted:
- Wake characterization: This task studies the wake in terms of the vortex dynamics at play over long distances. The candidate will perform simulations of flying agents in long computational domains in order to capture the wake behavior (topology, instabilities and decay) over longer times and larger scales. This will provide another basis of validation of the project results, given the volume of work on bird wakes;
- Flight stabilization in turbulent or wake-impacted flow: This task aims at the realization of a stabilized flight within a perturbed flow. Two perturbations are envisioned: ambient turbulence and an analytical wake composed of two counter-rotating vortices. Il will Combine previously synthesized gaits and control schemes in order to study the stability of the flyer in a turbulent flow or inside a wake;
- Maneuvers: This task realizes the first maneuvers of the virtual flyer: avoidance and trajectory tracking that will be leveraged in the simulation of multiple flyers that need to interact and swap places. In the present task, this trajectory is still prescribed, in a step towards an autonomous decision-making agent. In order to realize maneuvers, this task implements a control layer above the controllers developed in earlier tasks. Complex maneuvers will be achieved by closing the loop between trajectory errors and the inputs of the lower level controller.



A microCT-based approach for high-resolution characterization of biodegradable metallic intravascular stent materials
Researcher: Lisa Leyssens
Supervisor(s): Greet Kerckhofs, Pascal Jacques

The goal of my research project is to assess different potential biodegradable metallic intravascular stent materials using high-resolution 3D microfocus X-ray computed tomography (microCT). In a first step, the optimization of microCT and contrast-enhanced microCT (CECT) for the characterization of the 3D microstructure of different blood vessels is performed (aorta, femoral artery, vena cava). Then, this technique is applied to study the degradation behaviour of potential materials for biodegradable metallic intravascular stents. Structural properties are investigated. They are critical because they will influence the mechanical and in vivo behaviour of the stents. The materials (in the shape of wires) are screened to analyze the corrosion and surface changes, before and after immersion tests (in vitro part) and before and after implantation in rat arteries to additionally study interactions between the tissue (artery) and the metal (in vivo part).



Locomotion assistance through active motor primitives
Researcher: Henri Laloyaux
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

This project is about the development and validation of a new method for assisting human locomotion with robotic devices. It will be based on so-called “motor primitives”, i.e. fundamental units of action which have been identified in the human locomotor apparatus. These primitives will be constrained to be mathematical functions with a limited number of open parameters, therefore optimizing the computational efficiency. Next, the assistance will be designed to be adaptive to the user’s particular gait and status. Finally, some primitives will be specifically developed to support the user’s balance, on top of delivering energy for assisting locomotion. These three objectives will require first theoretical developments, and then experimental validation.



Captive Trajectory System for the handling of wake-impacted flow devices
Researcher: Emile Moreau
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse, Philippe Chatelain

The main objective of the thesis is to develop a Captive Trajectory System (CTS) for the handling of wake-impacted flow devices that are free flying or swimming, such as aircrafts or bio-inspired robots. Which means that there is no other external force applied on those models, barring gravity, than the one applied by the fluid.
The envisioned facility will be unique at an international level. At the same time, its scope of applications will be quite wide, covering, but not limited to, applied and fundamental fluid mechanics (fluid-structure interaction problems), biomechanics (biolocomotion), and civil engineering (wind or flow-structure interactions). Additionally, we see this project as a first foray into the emerging field of experimental studies augmented by Artificial Intelligence or co-simulation.
Nowadays, this is not experimentally achievable by the use of Lab facilities, because they only allow, at most, horizontal and vertical displacements and do not feature any force or motion control. Hence, the goal of this thesis, of a rather experimental nature, is to design a robotic system – possibly partially immersed – whose precision, sensing and control capabilities will be able to handle free-moving devices, and to validate fluid-structure interaction models developed by various IMMC research teams, also involved in the project.



Detecting and using locomotion affordances for lower-limb prostheses by active vision
Researcher: Ali Hussein Al-Dabbagh
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

Healthy lower-limb biomechanics reveals that active prostheses are necessary to provide amputees with human-like dynamics in various locomotion tasks like walking or stair ascending/descending. Ali’s project is about the specific challenges associated to the transition between two of these tasks, where the control parameters of the device has to be smoothly and timely adapted. Active vision is proposed to be used to augment the prosthesis with vision-based detection of possible locomotion affordances, therefore anticipating these transitions as a function of the user’s behavior.



PaDAWAn: Parkinson's Disease - Adaptive Walking Assistance
Researcher: Virginie Otlet
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse



Ex vivo microfocus computed tomography and contrast-enhanced computed tomography applied to the heart and the heart valves
Researcher: Camille Pestiaux
Supervisor(s): Greet Kerckhofs

The goal of my research project is to characterize in depth the morphological properties of heart and especially heart valves. Their characterization is currently limited to a qualitative description and quantitative information is still highly lacking. The full 3D microstructure of healthy and diseased heart valves is investigated using high-resolution computed tomography (microCT) and contrast-enhanced computer tomography (CECT).



Synthesis and development of novel contrast agents for 3D multitissue imaging using contrast-enhanced computed tomography.
Researcher: Sarah Vangrunderbeeck
Supervisor(s): Greet Kerckhofs

The project aims to set the stage for a new era of virtual 3D histology using contrast-enhanced microfocus computed tomography (CE-CT) by developing and validating novel contrast-enhancing staining agents (CESAs). A multidisciplinary approach is applied, crossing the boundaries between biology, engineering, imaging and chemical synthesis. We will develop and synthesize novel CESAs that specifically stain different components of the extracellular matrix in whole tissues. One example within this project is the development of antigen-specific CESAs, which are comparable to immunohistochemistry. Hence, we propose ex-vivo high-resolution CE-CT imaging to become a non-invasive quantitative 3D anatomical tool that will allow unprecedented 3D characterization of the biological tissues.



Advanced Characterization of the 3D Morphology of the Bone-Tendon Interface and the Relationship to the Functional Properties
Researcher: Arne Maes
Supervisor(s): Greet Kerckhofs

Within my research project I aim to develop insights in the morphology and the structure-function relationships of the bone-tendon interface. To this end, contrast-enhanced microCT (CE-CT) will be applied for advanced structural characterization. A better understanding of this complex biological tissue is believed to greatly improve the probability of success of regenerative strategies aiming to treat injuries of the bone-tendon interface.