Ongoing research projects

IMMC

Ongoing research projects in iMMC (January 2020)


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.




COMPACTSWIM : compliant actuation and embodied intelligence in biomimetic propulsion for swimming : principles, simulation, and design.
Researcher: Caroline Bernier
Supervisor(s): Philippe Chatelain, Renaud Ronsse

This project is in between Robotics and Fluid Mechanics and aims at the design of robust and efficient biomimetic swimming agents. The approach used to tackle the problem distinguishes itself from a broad body of work by a unique combination of multi-disciplinary tools: (i) high-fidelity Computational Fluid Dynamics to simulate self-propelled swimmers; (ii) compliant actuators to generate energy-efficient force-controlled patterns; (iii) oscillator-based coordination to distribute the computational load within a biologically inspired controller; and (iv) advanced optimization algorithm to calibrate the control schemes for a large variety of gaits. Different and complementary swimming gaits will be investigated, like energy-efficient or fast. Using compliant actuators will allow the swimmer to sense the fluid reactions being useful for its propulsion and exploit energy storage in the elastic deformations of the actuator.



Surgical planning for spinal fusion.
Researcher: Gabriel Abedrabbo Ode
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette

A biomechanical model may be useful in providing the surgeon the information needed for planning the best treatment. In this context, intervertebral efforts represent an essential input in guiding the surgical planning of scoliosis.

This project seeks to develop a clinical protocol based on experimental data and a multibody model of the upper body, to quantify the intervertebral efforts for idiopathic scoliotic adolescents during moderate gait. The estimation of intervertebral efforts is based upon four interwoven topics: patient physiology, spine geometry, spine and pelvis kinematics, as well as muscular forces.




Traction2020
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.



A dynamic-based approach for road vehicle design optimization
Researcher: Aubain Verle
Supervisor(s): Paul Fisette, Bruno Dehez

Due to urban zone densification and energy rarefaction, some facets of life habits have to be revised. The mobility doesn’t derogate from this trend and is one of the major future challenges. Automotive industry is developing new solutions to cope with the increasing problem of mobility, the need for energy efficiency and customer requirements. Facing this multiplication of objectives, often conflicting, it is quite unlikely that one particular solution would satisfy all customers in all daily needs as it was with the car until now. Several new kinds of vehicles appear, each of them being able to answer a particular use. In the special case of urban and personal mobility, tilting three-wheelers seem to be a promising solution. Small and agile, they improve the traffic flow while the associated reduction of weight allows better energy efficiency.
Because of the increase – in number and quality – of the criteria imposed to tomorrow’s vehicles, the industry must propose new types of morphologies, incorporate new technologies and detect a maximum of synergies between the latter. Thus we observe a constant increasing design tasks complexity while the development times are shorter than ever. There is a real need for global design methodologies that include, from the earliest stage of the process, a multitude of components among which the dynamics takes place.
This work aims at developing a design methodology especially dedicated to road vehicles. The method has the particularity to enable to manage the trade-off between dynamic performances and mechanical feasibility. The method is being applied to a new three-wheeler under development in our laboratory. The main characteristics of this vehicle are a unipersonal seated position, a narrow track and a electric motorization.
We achieved the design of a first prototype on the basis of the optimization processes. In particular, we develop some very specific mechanical arrangements especially designed to maximize the dynamic performances of the tilting vehicle suspensions. Moreover, it is expected that a first implementation of the prototype will be built in the future to carry out some comparison between experiment and simulation.



Designing the next generation of ankle prostheses: towards efficient and lightweight designs
Researcher: François Heremans
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse, Bruno Dehez

Over the last decade, active lower-limb prostheses demonstrated their ability to restore a physiological gait for transfemoral 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.



AVATAR² - Aortic VAlve TransApically Resected and Replaced
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).



Design and modelling of electrodynamic thrust bearings for driven passive magnetic suspensions
Researcher: Joachim Van Verdeghem
Supervisor(s): Bruno Dehez

This research focuses on magnetic electrodynamic bearings as well as self-bearing machines and, more precisely, the development of a new type of passively levitated self-bearing motors within which both the driving and axial guidance functions are integrated in a single winding. Its main purposes are to design new topologies of such a machine, to derive models allowing us to study the six degrees of freedom of the rotor and to optimize the performance on the basis of key criteria that have to be defined. In addition, several prototypes will be constructed to demonstrate the feasibility of this new machine as well as to validate the dynamic models.



Stability performance analysis and control of islanded microgrids
Researcher: Guy Wanlongo Ndiwulu
Supervisor(s): Emmanuel De Jaeger

Nowadays the discussions about electric energy systems are generally focused on the system reliability and valorisation of renewable energies. Thereby, several means are investigated in order to achieve its goals, among which we have microgrids. These latter are considered as electrical subsystems with distributed energy generators, energy storage devices and loads, able to operate with connection to the main grid or in islanded mode. This electrical system technology is very different compared to the conventional power systems. Because the interfaced power converters based distributed sources characterize them. This is making the microgrid controllability and stability depending of power converters.


The main contribution of this project is to propose a control strategy able to maintain the voltage amplitude and frequency in the allowable range in the cases of islanded microgrids fed by miscellaneous micro-sources (photovoltaic, small hydropower and diesel generator) and energy storage devices such as batteries. The developed control strategy is tested with Matlab/Simulink.





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.



Bio-inspired neural control for a new generation of transfemoral prostheses
Researcher: Sophie Heins
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

Designing mechanical devices to restore natural locomotion for transfemoral amputees still raises many challenges. One of them is the development of an efficient control strategy for the prosthesis active joints, with the objective of making it flexible and intuitive to use. The aim of the PhD thesis is to develop a bio-inspired controller for a new generation of transfemoral prostheses, the CYBERLEGs prosthesis, for level-ground walking and for other locomotion tasks. The controller is based on three fundamental neuro-mechanical principles that were observed in healthy humans: motor primitives, local reflexes and postural support. This work also involves the investigation of the optimal combination of these bio-inspired strategies.



Permanent magnet thrust bearing in flywheel energy storage system
Researcher: Maxence Van Beneden
Supervisor(s): Bruno Dehez

A flywheel energy storage system is an appropriate storage system for railway applications, to store the braking energy of a train untill needed for the acceleration of another train.
Our research concerns the permanent magnet bearing of this system. By stacking permanent magnet rings, we allow to develop the needed thrust force while using a minimum amount of permanent magnet volume. Simple and general scaling laws allowing a fast sizing have been proposed for different bearing geometries; with and without iron.
The behavior of the permanent magnet bearing with the operating temperature has also been studied.



Use of flexibility given by electrical consumers on a pilot distribution grid
Researcher: Didier Forclaz
Supervisor(s): Emmanuel De Jaeger

This research concerns the use of flexibility that can be given by the individual consumers in their electrical consumption. The focus is on integrating renewable energies into the distribution grid.



RevealFlight
Researcher: Gennaro Vitucci
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

Currently under investigation is a reductionist model of flight of birds. Main focuses are a neuromuscular control system and fluid-solid interaction at wing level both for a single agent and large flocks.



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.



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



Design of a mechanism to provide the inversion-eversion degree of freedom to the ELSA robotic transtibial prosthesis
Researcher: Carlos Salazar Briceño
Supervisor(s): Renaud Ronsse

Design of a mechanism that will provide the inversion and eversion degree of freedom (DoF) to the biologically inspired Efficient Lockable Spring Ankle (ELSA) robotic transtibial prosthesis which already has an active energized dorsiflexion and plantarflexion DoF. It is desired that the mechanism is active energized and biologically inspired. What are the newest mechanisms utilized in robotic transtibial prosthesis for inversion and eversion DoF and which kind of mechanisms are these ones?. Which are the most important criteria to consider when designing this kind of prosthesis and why are these the most important?. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a biologically inspired design?. The methodology to be used is the mechatronic systems design method of the VDI 2206 german guideline, it comprises the definition of the issue to be solved, the conceptual design which will help to choose the best preliminary design that is the base of the definitive project. Thereupon, leaving the VDI 2206 guideline, the next steps are to do the prototyping, programming, experimentation, validation, analysis, evaluation and relevant improvements on the prototype. There is a proposition of a compliant mechanism's design for the prosthesis which adequacy will be evaluated.