Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (January 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


Fluid mechanics

Processing and characterisation of materials

Chemical engineering

Solid mechanics

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List of projects related to: Dynamical and electromechanical systems

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.

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.

Researcher: François Henrotte
Supervisor(s): Jean-François Remacle

completed his Engineering Degree in 1991 and his PhD in 2000, both at the University of Liège in Belgium. He then spent 4 years at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and 6 years at the Institut für Elektrische Maschinen in Aachen, Germany, and is now with the UCL and the ULiège. Developer in the open-source packages Gmsh, GetDP and Onelab, he has also developed skills in the multiphysics simulation of electrical machines and drives. His main interests are finite element analysis, numerical modeling, electromechanical coupling, material properties (hysteresis, iron losses, superconductors), applied mathematics (differential geometry, algebraic topology, convex analysis, dual analysis, energy methods), multiscale methods, sensitivity and optimization.

Researcher: Geoffrey Roy
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

Geoffrey holds a Master in Mechatronic Engineering (2010) and a PhD in Engineering (2015) from the Université catholique de Louvain where he works as a senior researcher at the Institute of Mechanics, Materials and Civil Engineering (iMMC).
Within the Division of Materials and Process Engineering (IMAP), his research is focused on the development of new thermoelectric materials and systems for a range of applications going from industrial waste heat recovery to autonomous powering of smart sensors. In his research, he pays particular attention to the development of new solutions that present improved both technical and economical profiles in order to facilitate the emergence of these solutions out of the lab.
This research is followed by several companies such as: Drever International, AGC Glass Europe, Carmeuse or Engie.

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.

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.

On a chip fracture mechanics test method
Researcher: Sahar Jaddi
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

The aim of this research is to develop a new testing method based on an-on-chip concept to measure the fracture toughness of freestanding submicron films. This device consists of two major components, a notched specimen and two actuators. When the test structure is released by etching the sacrificial layer, the two actuators contract, this in turn loads the specimen in traction. In order to define the stress intensity factor expression, which is given by this new model, analytical analysis and finite element simulations must be performed in addition to the experimental part, which is based on the microfabrication techniques. Silicon nitride, silicon oxide and metallic glass thin films will be studied during this work. The major goal of this model is to extract fracture toughness of 2D materials like graphene.

Electromechanical properties of thin films
Researcher: Farzaneh Bahrami
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

The production of Graphene/h-BN heterostructures and the investiong of their microelectromechanical properties, the production of origami and kirigami stacks of Graphene and h-BN, the raman spectroscopy, SEM, TEM AFM and nanoindentation will be used

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.

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.

Development of thermo-tensile nano devices operating ex situ or in situ in transmission electron microscopes (TEM)
Researcher: Alex Pip
Supervisor(s): Hosni Idrissi

The main goal of my research project is to develop modern miniaturized devices dedicated to quantitative small-scale thermo-tensile testing in-situ inside a transmission electron microscope. These unique devices will be used to investigate the effect of T on the plasticity/failure mechanisms in selected materials, nanocrystalline palladium films and olivine. My project builds up on already existing MEMS devices, namely the commercial Push-to- Pull from Bruker.Inc and UCLouvain’s ‘lab-on-chip’ nano tensile testing devices. Currently, those devices are limited to room temperature experiments. My work will be dedicated to the integration of heating systems inside these two devices, in order to heat samples up to hundreds of °C. This will allow performing in-situ TEM thermo-tensile tests on Pd films and olivine samples where the coupling between tensile loading and heating could lead to unprecedented results regarding the effect of T on the mechanical response and the plasticity/failure mechanisms.

This project has a direct application in the field of geology, as one of the selected material is olivine, the material that makes up most of the upper part of the Earth’s mantle. Thermo-tensile testing of olivine at the micro/nano scale will bring crucial data about its rheology under conditions similar to the Earth’s mantle. This part of the project involving olivine will be performed in close contact with prof. Patrick Cordier and his team at UMET (Université de Lille). The other selected material is Pd, a material that is well known by the UCLouvain’s IMMC researchers used here as a benchmark. I will mostly work within the WINFAB platform, where I will develop and build the new thermo-tensile devices using the nanofabrication equipment. As theses devices are expected to be used in-situ inside a TEM, I will also partly work at the EMAT research center (UAntwerpen).