PhD Studentship in Non-thermal Plasma Rapid Dry Decontamination on Sensitive Space Instrument
University of Southampton School of Engineering
United Kingdom

PhD Studentship - Non-thermal Plasma Rapid Dry Decontamination on Sensitive Space Instrument

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Location: Boldrewood Campus

Closing Date: Sunday 31 January 2021

Reference: 1311920DA

Supervisory Team: Min Kwan Kim and C. William Keevil

Project description

Many space exploration missions such as Mars 2020 plan to land and search for biological remnants on planets and moons in our nearby Solar system. Planetary Protection, which is based on the UN’s “Outer Space Treaty”, is the important practice of protecting solar system bodies from contamination by Earth life and protecting Earth from possible life forms that may be returned from other solar system bodies. The current procedures and methods are developed by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), which is part of the UN's International Council of Science (ICSU). Conventional decontamination method is baking all components of spacecraft at 115 degrees Celsius for over 50 hours before being packed for launch. However, many sophisticated modern spacecraft components can't handle that extreme temperature. The development of a low temperature rapid decontamination method, therefore, is one of the high priority issues for upcoming space missions in the extraterrestrial field.

In this PhD project, the candidate aims to develop a rapid low-temperature decontamination system using novel plasma technologies, known as cold plasma. Although it is well known the bactericidal and virucidal capabilities of cold plasmas, they have not seen widespread application because, until recently,

(1) they could not be generated uniformly over large surface areas; and

(2) they required non-ambient carrier gases such as helium.

This PhD project will alleviate these issues using new plasma creation schemes with the aid of printed electronics. The project will closely collaborate with the School of Biological Science at the Faculty of Environmental and Life Science. This PhD project provides the candidate a unique interdisciplinary research opportunity to work on advanced plasma technologies which can introduce a paradigm shift in planetary protection.

The ideal candidate should have a first-class degree in a general Engineering area (Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical etc) or Applied Mathematics. You should have the interest and some experience in carrying out experimental work. Computational fluid dynamics experience is preferred but not a requirement. A strong mathematical and computing foundation is necessary for data analysis and developing physical models.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Minkwan Kim (

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 January 2021 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,285 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2021/22 “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Min Kwan Kim under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include:

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact:


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