Efficiency Enhancement of Class-A Foams by Means of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles for Self-Organising Swarms of Autonomous UAVs to Fight Wildfires

Eligibility: UK/EU graduates only with the required entry requirements

Award Details:Bursary (£16,000 per annum with 3% annual increments) plus tuition fees (UK/EU).

Duration: Full-Time – between 3 and 3.5 years.

Application deadline: 31 October 2019

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: January 2020

Informal enquiries are essential before application; contact Dr Mauro S. Innocente to discuss this opportunity.


Coventry University has been voted ‘Modern University of the Year’ for three straight years (The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014−2016) and is ranked in the UK’s top 15 overall for the fifth year in a row (Guardian University Guide). We have a global reputation for high quality teaching and research with impact. Almost two-thirds (61%) of our research was judged ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

Covering the full spectrum of land, rail, air and water-based transport, the Institute for Future Transport and Cities (IFTC) at Coventry University addresses the whole innovation chain from design, materials, advanced manufacturing, systems and supply chain as well as the business environment. Within the IFTC, the Autonomous Vehicles & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AVAILab) has been recently established. While open to a wide spectrum of applications, its main motivation is in conducting research that involves mathematical modelling, optimisation, soft computing, self-organisation, swarm robotics and autonomous navigation.

Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship, which is part-funded by the IFTC and part-funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Consortium of Nanotechnologies (LRF ICON). The project will be carried out within the AVAILab under the main supervision of Dr Mauro S. Innocente, with the collaboration of Dr Evangelos Gkanas, Prof Guillermo Rein and his Imperial HazeLab, and Jordi Vendrell from the Pau Costa Foundation.

The Project

Fire seasons are growing in length and severity around the world. The Forestry Commission predicts that destructive wildfires will increase in frequency and severity due to increased land-use pressure and climate change. Therefore, the development of more effective and safer means to fight their propagation is of utmost importance.

During the first few minutes of the start of a wildfire, there is a containment window. A swarm of self-organising Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) may be quickly deployed in any terrain to suppress the fire autonomously before the window closes –or at least minimise the damage afterwards– without risking human lives. A key challenge is the design of efficient and environmentally friendly materials that can be carried by UAVs. Class-A foams are used for cooling the fire while also coating the fuel to prevent its contact with oxygen and stop combustion, reducing the amount of water required for suppression.

The aim of this project is to design an efficient suppressant to be carried by autonomous firefighting UAVs. Nanoparticles will be incorporated into Class-A foams to further enhance their cooling and coating actions whilst potentially also having a catalytic effect. Nanoparticles will be synthesised, characterised and incorporated to the foam. The enhanced suppressant will then be tested, modelled and coupled with an existing model of self-organising swarms of UAVs for initial simulation-based tests. Field tests will be carried out later as a combined effort between the AVAILab (Coventry University), the Imperial HazeLab (Imperial College) and the Pau Costa Foundation (Spain).


Part-funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Consortium of Nanotechnologies (ICON-2018-45) and part-funded by the Institute for Future Transport and Cities, the award includes UK-EU home fees plus an annual stipend of £16,000 (~3% annual increments)


  • Our research strategy is underpinned by a £250m investment in research and facilities
  • Dedicated Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability Development deliver high quality professional support for researchers, from PhD to Professor.
  • Free training: research career planning, managing your doctorate, research communication skills, research ethics, research impact, research integrity, research methods and research supervision.
  • Coventry is a member of the Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA), the largest multi-partner and only nationwide doctoral training initiative of its kind.

Entry Requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average. 


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).


  • A BEng/BSc/MEng/MSc in Chemical Engineering, Materials Science/Engineering, Physics, or another relevant discipline.
  • Expertise in material synthesis and characterisation.
  • Knowledge of nanomaterials.
  • Expertise in multi-physics modelling and simulation.
  • Experience of working using commercial multiphysics modelling package (e.g. COMSOL, ANSYS, Hyperworks, etc.).
  • Expertise in materials modelling would be an advantage.
  • Programming skills in Matlab or Python would be an advantage.

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact: Dr Mauro S. Innocente

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Please ensure eligibility prior to applying

How to apply