Engineering Dissertation Topics

Engineering Dissertation Topics

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Example engineering dissertation topic 1:

The advantages and disadvantages of Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage (PHES) and Underground Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage (UPHES): A comparative study

The efficiency of Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage, a tried and tested energy storage technique, has now reached between 70 and 85 per cent. Globally, PHES installations maintain approximately 3 per cent of generating capacity. However, PHES has traditionally been restricted by geographic parameters; this dissertation considers the value of Underground Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage as an alternative to PHES. The study reviews the practical limitations of UPHES, including the progress made to date with this prototype concept. Finally, it offers recommendations for further advancement within the field, including issues of location and funding. 

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Connolly, D. (2010) A review of energy storage technologies: For the integration of fluctuating renewable energy. Technical report, Limerick University.
  • Martin, G.C. (2010) ‘Underground pumped hydroelectric energy storage', in, Barnes, F.S. and Levine, J.G. (eds) Large energy storage systems handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp. 77-109.

Example engineering dissertation topic 2:

The effects of subsidies on concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in Spain: A case study

Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a technology gaining greater ground in the sustainable market. A significant advantage of CSP plants is the ability to store excess thermal energy for utilisation later. The system has received government attention in a number of countries, most particularly Spain and the US and consequently has been the subject of subsidised power programmes of price support and power purchase. However, the effects of the global financial crisis have led to drastic reductions in the subsidies Spain provides; what effect did the subsidies previously have, and what is the future of CSP in Spain? This study examines the present situation in Spain and offers a viewpoint on the practicality of this energy source in light of diminished public funding.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Usaola, J. (2012) ‘Operation of concentrating solar power plants with storage in spot electricity markets'. IET Renewable Power Generation, Vol. 6(1), pp. 59-66.
  • Willeges, K., Lilliestam, J. and Patt, A. (2010) ‘Making concentrated solar power competitive with coal: The costs of a European feed-in tariff', Energy Policy, Vol. 38(6), pp. 3089-3097.

Example engineering dissertation topic 3:

Fault protection for a DC marine power system

DC powered vessels remain an important sector of the marine industry, particularly within defence programmes. In defence situations particularly, continuous uninterrupted power is vital for the safe operation of the vessel. In systems such as that described by Rozine and Adams (2008) such fault protection is increasingly important. This study examines the current options for fault management within the industry, and explores proposed new technologies to determine the most efficient fault protection for DC marine power, in applications from the defence industry to oil and offshore.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Rozine, V. and Adams, M.H. (2008) ‘New conceptual approach to large marine electrical distribution systems', Marine Technology, Vol. 45(2), pp. 89-93.
  • Hamilton, H. and Schultz, N.N. (2007) ‘DC Protection on the electric ship'. Electric Ship Technologies Symposium, 21-23 May, Arlington, VA. IEEE.
  • Kraemer, H.P., Schmidt, W., Utz, B., Wacker, B., Neumueller, H.W., Ahlf, G. and Hartig, R. (2005) ‘Test of a 1 kA superconducting fault current limiter for DC applications', IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity. Vol. 15(2), pp. 1986-1989.

Example engineering dissertation topic 4:

The use of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis for electrical systems in shipping: Ticking boxes or an essential tool?

Control system software is an essential aspect of vessels today; that such systems work effectively can be a matter of life and death for those serving at sea. To this end, institutions such as the US Coast Guard require that risk analysis tools such as Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) studies are undertaken to evaluate not only individual components within a vessel but with the system as a whole. However, some shipyards view this process as an unnecessary burden and cost. This dissertation records one-on-one interviews with chartered engineers who report pressure from shipyards to write highly compliant studies, and reviews the current literature, including statutory regulations.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Smogeli, Ø. and Skogdalen, J.E. (2011) Third party HIL testing of safety critical control system software on ships and rigs. Paper, Offshore Technology Conference, 2-5 May 2011, Houston, TX.
    Soman, R.R., Davidson, E.M. and McArthur, S.D.J. (2009) Using functional failure mode and effects analysis to design the monitoring and diagnostics architecture for the zonal MVDC shipboard power system. Electric Ship Technologies Symposium, 20-22 April 2009, Baltimore MD.
  • Zhong, W., Lin, S. and Chen, J. (2011) ‘Application of FMEA on marine main engine lubrication system', Ship Science and Technology, Vol. 9. Available at: http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-JCKX201109017.htm [accessed 26 May 2011].

Example engineering dissertation topic 5:

A study of a power management system for a wind power system in County Durham

This dissertation utilises a MATLAB/Simulink simulation model for the power management system for a wind power system. It offers a variety of scenarios that include changes in weather and load demand, and uses data from the Meteorological Service to add verisimilitude. The projected wind farm would be sited in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham and the turbines would range in height from 100 to 125 metres. The power management plan would include data on power flows as well as storage. Finally, the study will include a literature review of recent wind farm installations in the UK and compare the projected results of the Newton Aycliffe wind farm with those of the wind farms in Tow Law, and East Hedleyhope, Co. Durham.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Caisheng, W. and Nehrir, M.H. (2008) ‘Power management of a stand-alone wind/photovoltaic/fuel cell energy system', IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Vol. 23(3), pp. 957-967.
  • Rodriguez-Amenado, R.L., Arnalte, S. and Burgos, J.C. (2002) ‘Automatic generation control of a wind farm with variable speed wind turbines', IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Vol. 17(2), pp. 279-284.

Example engineering dissertation topic 6:

The development of guiding principles in sustainable engineering: A review

The engineers of tomorrow need to be cognisant that the ‘easy' engineering options of the past - when resources were viewed almost as infinite - no longer represent the engineering landscape of the future. This thesis reviews the principles by which engineers should guide their practice, and how those principles have come to pass. It undertakes a relatively broad review of such principles across several engineering disciplines, and makes recommendations for guidelines by which chartered engineers should in future abide.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Azapagic, A., Perdan, S. and Shallcross, D. (2005) ‘How much do engineering students know about sustainable development? The findings of an international survey and possible implications for the engineering curriculum', European Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 30(1), pp. 1-19.
  • Pettersen, I.N. and Boks, C. (2008) ‘The ethics in balancing control and freedom when engineering solutions for sustainable behaviour', International Journal of Sustainable Engineering, Vol. 1(4), pp. 287-297.

Example engineering dissertation topic 7:

The uptake rate of the International Professional Engineer (IntPE) qualification, 2002-2012

Unlike professions such as medicine and law, regulation and licensure in engineering varies globally, and, in the UK, the title of ‘engineer' is not protected legally. Institutions such as the Engineering Council and the Institution of Engineering and Technology seek partial redress with qualifications such as ‘Chartered Engineer'. This dissertation charts the uptake rate and motivation of the new denomination of International Professional Engineer (IntPE) since its introduction in 2002, and speculates whether there is a likelihood that such nomenclature will indeed result in greater respect for the engineering profession.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Allan, M. and Chisholm, C. (2009) The formation of the engineer for the 21st century - A global perspective. 20th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference University of Adelaide, 6-9 December 2009.
  • Wall, K. (2010) ‘Developing and implementing norms and standards', Guidebook for Capacity Building in the Engineering Environment, pp 50-57.

Example engineering dissertation topic 8:

An evaluation of the biometric iris recognition system NEXUS applied at the British Columbia/Washington State border

NEXUS is an expedited border entry system operating between Canada and the United States, and utilises a biometric iris recognition system. The system is used at a number of crossings, for air, land and sea travel. This dissertation examines the effectiveness of the system at one crossing specifically: Vancouver International Airport. The study evaluates the reliability of the programme, as well as the parameters of the system, and determines whether it is the optimal system for this application; for example, more modern systems use 384 identifiers rather than the 266 identifiers in the NEXUS system.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • De Luis-Garcia, R., Alberola-Lopez, C., Agzhout, O. and Ruiz-Alzola, J. (2003) ‘Biometric identification systems', Signal Processing, Vol. 83(12), pp. 2539-2557.
  • Shaikh, S. and Rabaiotti, J.R. (2010) ‘Characteristic trade-offs in designing large-scale biometric-based identity management systems', Journal of Network and Computer Applications, Vol. 33(3), pp. 342-351.

Example engineering dissertation topic 9:

Developing effective mechanisms for removing pollutants from water: The use of polymer-based and polymeric hybrid adsorbents

Within the field of chemical engineering the need to provide effective solutions to the problems of river pollutants has become increasingly important. Building upon the tried and tested use of activated carbons as a mechanism by which to remove pollutants, polymeric and polymer-based hybrid adsorbents have, since the turn of the millennium, become increasingly favoured within the industry. This dissertation analyses the physiochemical properties of a range of polymeric-based adsorbents through a thorough review of existing academic literature upon the subject as well as laboratory work that charts their effectiveness on a range of polluted waters.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Trakulsujaritchok, T., Noiphom, N., Tangtreamjitmun, N.and Saeeng, R. (2011) ‘Adsorptive features of poly(glycidyl methacrylate-co-hydroxyethyl methacrylate): Effect of porogen formulation on heavy metal ion adsorption', Journal of Materials Science, Vol. 46(16), pp. 5350-5362.
  • Al-Muhtaseb, A.H., Ibrahim, K.A., Albadarin, A.B., Ali-khashman, O., Walker, G.M. and Ahmad, M.N.M. (2011) ‘Remediation of phenol-contaminated water by adsorption using poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)', Chemical Engineering Journal, Vol. 168(2), pp. 691-699.

Example engineering dissertation topic 10:

Tunnel construction within civil engineering: The Hindhead tunnel - A case study

Situated within south-west Surrey, the Hindhead tunnel was designed to alleviate the bottleneck of traffic on the A3 from London to Portsmouth. In addition, the tunnel is the longest non-estuarial road tunnel in the United Kingdom and runs through a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  A project that was beset with problems both prior to and during construction, the tunnel has taken over 25 years to come to fruition. This dissertation firstly reviews the engineering processes that were involved in the project for, despite its popularity within the industry, a tunnel boring machine was not used in its construction and as a consequence, the tunnels are horseshoe-shaped rather than the usual circular. In addition to reviewing the engineering and geo-physical problems encountered in the construction project this dissertation also evaluates the benefits that the long-awaited tunnel has brought to the wider area.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ireland, T. (2007) ‘Design of the UK's Hindhead tunnel', Converting Today. Available at: http://www.convertingtoday.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=50845 [accessed 26 May 2012].
  • Ireland, T. and MacDonald, M. (2007) ‘Planning and design of the Hindhead tunnel', Tunnels and Tunnelling International, Vol. 6, pp. 23-27.
  • Kitching, R. (2008) ‘Cutting beneath the bowl', New Civil Engineer, Vol. 9(4), pp.  20-22.

Example engineering dissertation topic 11:

An evaluation of overpass structural integrity in Warwickshire

The 2006 collapse of the Concorde overpass in Laval, Quebec resulted in the death of five people; in the aftermath of the disaster approximately 150 such structures were inspected and 28 were demolished, with substantial repairs to a number of the others. In view of the age of similar structures in the UK, this dissertation undertakes a superficial survey of five concrete overpasses in Warwickshire and ascertains whether further structural testing is necessary to avoid catastrophic failure.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • O'Reilly, D. (2007) ‘Quebec overpasses under scrutiny after 2006 collapse near Montreal', Engineering News Record, Vol. 259(9), pp. 13-15.
  • Wood, J.G. (2008) ‘Implications of the collapse of the de la Concorde overpass', Structural Engineer, Vol. 86(1), pp. 16-18.

Example engineering dissertation topic 12:

Evaluation of a plasticity model for the analysis of earthquake soil liquefaction

This dissertation undertakes a comprehensive evaluation of the Andrianapoulos, Papadimitriou and Bouckovalas (2010) plasticity model for the analysis of earthquake soil liquefaction, using recent earthquake data from the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The study further makes recommendations for refinement of the model in the light of these events.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Andrianopoulos, K.I., Papadimitriou, A.G. and Bouckovalas, G.D. (2010) ‘Explicit integration of bounding surface model for the analysis of earthquake soil liquefaction', International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, Vol. 34, pp. 1586-1614.
  • Idriss, I.M. and Boulanger, R.W. (2006) ‘Semi-empirical procedures for evaluating liquefaction potential during earthquakes', Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 26(2-4), pp. 115-130.

Example engineering dissertation topic 13:

The importance of quality assurance procedures: A case study of roof bolts in coal mines

Oft heralded by engineers as a dead weight of bureaucracy, quality assurance programmes fulfil a vital role in ensuring integrity in engineering applications. This dissertation explores a case study whereby steel roof bolts that were supplied to Dywidag-Systems International of Newcastle were labelled as AX grade steel (as ordered), but were in fact 300Plus Grade. The application of the roof bolts was in a numbers of underground coal mines, where the integrity of the steel could have an impact on the safety of dozens or even hundreds of lives. In addition to the case study mentioned, the dissertation examines the willingness of engineers to participate fully in quality assurance programmes as well as contribute in a meaningful way to their development. Finally, it includes recommendations for engineers to find ways of engaging further with the quality assurance process.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Birolini, A. (2010) Reliability engineering: Theory and practice. London: Springer.
  • Charles, J.A., Crane, F.A.A. and Furness, J.A.G. (1997) Selection and use of engineering materials (3rd edn). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Noll, R., Bette, H., Brysch, A., Kraushaar, M., Monch, I., Peter, L. and Sturm, V. (2001) ‘Laser-induced breakdown spectrometry — Applications for production control and quality assurance in the steel industry', Spectrochimica Acta Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy, Vol. 56(6), pp. 637-649.

Example engineering dissertation topic 14:

An evaluation of the validity of testing for the Rolls Royce ‘environmentally friendly engine'

The ‘environmentally friendly engine' (EFE) currently on test at Rolls Royce Bristol is creating industry buzz as the ‘next generation of civil aerospace gas turbines' (Hibbert, 2012). This dissertation examines the validity of the testing procedures for the engine to determine whether such procedures are an accurate representation of the challenges the engine will face in the real world. This is particularly pertinent given how much a company's share price may move in consideration of claims of new technologies' viability. The study features a general review of test procedures before focussing on the specific procedures on the test bench for the considerably modified Trent 1000 engine. Finally, it comments on improvements to the testing process that may not yet be economically feasible, but offer a more in-depth examination of the item on test.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Carazas, F.J.G. and de Souza, G.F.M. (2012) ‘Reliability analysis of gas turbine', Thermal Power Plant Performance Analysis, Springer Series in Reliability Engineering, pp. 189-220.
  • Hibbert, L. (2012) ‘Green sky research', PE, May, 2012.
  • Nagpal, M., Moshref, A., Morison, G.K. and Kundur, P. (2001) ‘Experience with testing and modelling of gas turbines', IEEE Power Engineering, Vol. 2, pp. 652-656.

Example engineering dissertation topic 15:

Refinements in the production of moulded optical glass lenses

Presently, globally, approximately 150 million people wear corrective lenses. As affluence in countries such as China and India increases, and Chinese investment in Africa creates new manufacturing zones, this figure is set to rise. Accordingly, there is a burgeoning need for low cost, quality moulded optical lenses. This dissertation considers refinements in the manufacturing process of such lenses, as well as the growing number of patents for such processes. Further, it explores methods by which manufacture may be optimised, within an acceptable limit of diminished quality, in order to provide larger volumes of affordable lenses within a shorter time period. Finally, it makes recommendations for viable engineering plants to produce moulded lenses suitable for the markets mentioned.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Nelson, J. and Patton, E. (2010) ‘Advanced molded glass lenses', Optical Fabrication and Testing (OFT) Conference, Jackson Hole, WY, June 13, 2010.
  • Tsai, Y-C., Hung, C., Hung, J-C. and Tseng, S.F. (2011) ‘Finite element prediction of the lens shape of moulded optical glass lenses', Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part B: Journal of Engineering Manufacture, Vol. 225(2), pp. 224-234.
  • Zhao, W., Chen, Y., Shen, L. and Yi, A.Y. (2009) ‘Refractive index and dispersion variation in precision optical glass molding by computed tomography', Applied Optics, Vol. 48(19), pp. 3588-3595.

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