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PhD Synthetic and Natural Ester liquids: The Roadmap Towards Practical Use of Environmentally Friendly Liquid Dielectrics in the Pulsed Power Industry

A 36-month full-time, fully-funded PhD, supported by the University of Strathclyde and our major Pulsed Power industrial partner, focusing on the use of environmentally friendly non-toxic dielectric liquids (natural and synthetic ester fluids) in advanced power and pulsed power systems for high voltage insulation.

Number of places



Home fee, Travel costs, International fee, Stipend, Equipment costs


17 January 2018


31 October 2018


3 years


To be considered for the project, candidates must:

  • Possess a 2.1 UK BEng Hons, MEng or MSc degree in electronic and electrical engineering or physics
  • Have general understanding of breakdown processes in dielectric fluids, electric measurement and diagnostic methods
  • Be willing to learn new experimental and analytical research techniques and methods including software packages (Quickfiled, COMSOL, Origin)
  • Be enthusiastic, highly motivated, capable of working independently and as a member of a research team
  • Be results-orientated: the successful candidate will be responsible for preparation of regular reports to the industrial partner, writing and publishing research papers
  • Be a UK or eligible EU national           

Experience in experimental research including high voltage / power/pulsed power would also be an advantage.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Project Details

In recent years natural and synthetic ester liquids have attracted attention of the pulsed power community as potential substitutes for traditional mineral oils in high voltage impulsive systems. These liquids provide a number of advantages over traditional naphthenic oils:  synthetic and natural ester liquids are environmentally friendly, they are classified as non-toxic substances, these liquids have significantly higher flash point as compared with mineral oils and they have higher dielectric constant. These parameters and characteristics make ester liquids an attractive alternative to naphthenic oils. However, their dielectric properties are still not well known. Thus, for successful practical application of ester liquids as liquid dielectrics in different power and pulsed power systems, it is important to understand their dielectric/breakdown properties in a wide range of electric parameters: HV impulses with different rise and fall time including the lightning waveform and non-standard HV impulses; HV AC stress; and HV DC stress of both polarities. 

Another critical characteristic which is important for successful application of the ester liquids in the pulsed power systems is the dielectric strength of solid/ester liquid interfaces in the HV DC, HV AC and HV impulsive regimes. Different solid materials are used in the design and construction of the HV pulsed systems, therefore information and knowledge on the dielectric behaviour of such interfaces between different solid dielectrics and ester liquids is required for dielectric coordination and optimisation.  

Potential effects of conditioning of the ester liquids in laboratory environment will be investigated: the dielectric/breakdown behaviour of the ester liquids with different relative humidity and their interfaces with solid materials will be investigated. Breakdown properties of the pure ester liquids and liquid/solid interfaces will be obtained depending on relative humidity of the ester liquids. Potential effect of moisture content on the dielectric permittivity of the ester liquids will be investigated.

This project will be conducted in collaboration and close cooperation with the major industrial partner which will provide an important link in terms of knowledge transfer and industrial feedback.

Funding Details

For UK and eligible EU nationals: Funding is provided for full tuition fees, along with a stipend and support for equipment, consumables and cost of attending a conference.

For International ( Non-EU) candidates: Funding is provided for tuition fees, but additional sources of funding will need to be identified to cover the stipend and other associated costs of the PhD programme.

Contact us

How to apply

Candidates interested in applying should first email Ms Maureen Cooper to advise of their interest in the studentship. After this, candidates should submit their CV, academic transcript, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the position to Ms Cooper.

Following review of the application submissions, selected candidates will be invited for interview.