Postgraduate research opportunities

Expanding Measurement Limits of Fibre-Optic Voltage and Current Sensors for Smart Grid Applications

A 36-month full-time, fully funded Strathclyde/NPL/Synaptec PhD Studentship with the aim to investigate a range of electrical, mechanical, photonic and materials science aspects of hybrid fibre-optic voltage and current sensors in order to drive the limits of their measurement performance in smart grid applications.

Number of places



Home fee, Travel costs, Stipend


11 September 2019


36 months


The studentships are available for UK, EU and International* students, who possess or are about to obtain a first class or 2.1 BEng (Honours), MEng or MSc degree, or equivalent EU/International qualification, in a relevant physical sciences or engineering discipline.

Eligibility summary:

Subject: Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Mechanical Engineering**, Chemical Engineering**

Mode of Study: Full Time

*International students must be able to provide evidence of funding and pay the difference between the UK Home Fee and International Fee.

**Students would have to be comfortable and open minded about learning aspects of electronic and electrical engineering required to carry out the project.

Project Details

As part of a multidisciplinary research programme, jointly carried out with industrial partners, this PhD project will investigate the metrological limitations of the novel hybrid photonic voltage and current sensors. The sensors have been developed to facilitate the concept of a smart grid, whereby multiple sensors can be distributed across electrical substations or along power lines with the help of a standard telecommunication fibre to offer unprecedented grid visibility for the deployment of cost-effective control, protection and diagnostic functions.


The research will involve design, simulation and experimental investigations of the sensors based on the combination of fibre Bragg gratings and piezoelectric transducers that can be configured to measure voltage ranges from volts to kilovolts, enabling direct measurement of high voltage or, when combined with current transformers, Rogowski coils or shunts, also electrical current. The research will address such issues as material degradation, accelerated life testing, compensation against environmental and intrinsic effects influencing sensor accuracy, and proposing design modifications that will allow the transducers to meet the stringent IEC accuracy standards.


Optionally, in the area of photonic sensor interrogation, the project may focus on the development of reliable techniques for high-performance interrogation of a large number of FBG based sensors over extended distances, including, among other things, aspects of redundancy within the photonic networks and photonic signal amplification for long-reach applications.


The general goal will be to push the boundaries of the photonic sensor and sensor interrogation technologies by addressing a range of engineering problems associated with performance and reliability in order to ensure wide industry acceptance of these novel systems. The project will involve both theoretical and experimental elements of research which will touch on the mixture of metrology, photonics, photonic system integration, materials science, sensor design and manufacture, electronics, and electrical power engineering. The project will be carried out in a small dynamic research team, in collaboration with National Physical Laboratory and Synaptec – a spin-out company commercialising the underlying technologies – and will offer an outstanding opportunity for the PhD student to engage with the major power system operators and equipment manufacturers.

Funding Details

Funding is provided for full tuition fees (Home and EU applicants), along with a standard stipend and support with travel costs for the duration of the project.


*International students must be able to provide evidence of funding and pay the difference between the UK Home Fee and International Fee.


The primary supervisor will be Dr Pawel Niewczas, a Reader in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering within the Institute for Energy and Environment. Dr Niewczas’ research interests centre on the advancement of photonic sensing methods and systems integration in applications that lie predominantly in power and energy sectors. The secondary supervisor will be Professor Graeme Burt Co-Director of the Institute for Energy and Environment. The student will be collaborating with Dr Niewczas’ research team members and Synaptec’s engineering team.

Contact us

Dr Pawel Niewczas (, or tel: +44 (0)141 548 2869)

How to apply

Candidates interested in applying should first contact Dr Pawel Niewczas (, or tel: +44 (0)141 548 2869) for an informal discussion. Thereafter, they should submit to him their CV, academic transcript, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the position. Following review of the application submissions, selected candidates will be invited for interview.