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Advanced Powertrain and Fuels PhD

Subject area: Mechanical Engineering Apply full time
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Advanced Powertrain and Fuels PhD


About the course

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Both full-time (3 years) and part-time (6 years) study routes are available.

MPhil option

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. An MPhil involves the exploration of a research topic and is typically studied over a shorter period of 1 year for a full-time student and 2 years for a part-time student. MPhil students are required to demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights informed by the forefront of their discipline, field of study or professional practice.

Research profile

In the Advanced Powertrain and Fuels theme, we have particular strengths in improving the efficiency and reducing emissions of existing engines through developing advanced combustion processes and their controls and boosting technologies. We are equipped with the most advanced camless and direct injection research engines,  as well as state-of-art laser and optical equipment for the study of fuels and engines: in particular marrying experimental and modelling methods and through the utilisation of advanced laser measurement techniques in transparent optical engines . The research on regenerative engine braking is feeding strongly into our commercialisation activities. We have particular interests in developing efficient bio-fuel supply chains, as well as a number of novel technologies for manufacturing bio-fuel from industrial waste and new combustion technologies optimised for bio-fuels.

As one of the largest and most active engine research groups in U.K., our research on internal combustion engines goes back to the late 1960s and involves 7 full-time members of academic staff, 25 PhD and RAs. 

The faculty working on Advanced Powertrain and Fuels at Brunel have been recognised for their outstanding skills. In 2015, Prof Zhao was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, joining other distinguished academics from renowned research institutions and technologists from world-leading engineering companies. Hua was honoured for his fundamental and applied research into novel engine combustion concepts, air hybrid engine and vehicle technologies, and advanced laser diagnostics for the development of high efficiency and ultra-low emission powertrains for the automotive industry.

While we welcome all multidisciplinary topics in the area of Advanced Powertrain and Fuels, here is a list of potential research areas we would like to supervise. For details of these and other potential topics please visit our Doctoral Opportunities webpage:

  • Prof. Hua Zhao: gasoline engine, diesel engines, laser diagnostics, spray and combustion studies, bio-fuels, air hybrid/energy recovery, variable valve actuation
  • Prof. Thanos Megaritis: fuel reforming, particulate filter, NOx aftertreatment
  • Prof. Alasdair Cairns: gasoline engine, knocking combustion, engine downsizing, dual fuel engines
  • Dr Lionel Ganippa: diesel engines, bio-diesel, fuel spray and injection, diesel emissions
  • Dr Jun Xia: CFD and LES of sprays and combustion flows
  • Dr Apostolos Pesiridis: boosting technologies, turbocharger design, exhaust heat recovery.

Find out more:


All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Research Programmes Office in Colleges. Once you have identified your area of research and a potential supervisor, please use the contact details provided here for enquiries:

College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences
Tel: +44 (0)1895 266876

Theme leader: Hua Zhao

Special Features

We offer access to facilities and equipment at an appropriate scale for applied, industry-led research, bridging the gap between the lab and the marketplace to accelerate manufacturing implementation. We have expertise in using the following techniques: LDA, PIV, LIF (fuel, OH, CH2O ), LIEF, SRS, LII. We have also been conducting phenomelogical, gas dynamics, and CFD engine simulations.

The group has 11 test engines housed in two laboratories:

  • Multi-cylinder engines: 2.0litre HSDI CR diesel engines, I3 GDI engine, 7.0Litre diesel engine
  • Single cylinder engines: Camless DI gasoline engine, boosted 120kW/Litre DI gasoline engine, 2.0litre HD CR diesel/gas engine, 2 Hydra Diesel /GDI optical engines, AVL fully transparent optical engine,      overhead transparent engine
  • Analysers: Horiba Full Gas analysers, fast FID, fast sampling valve, Smoke/PM analysers, transient and steady state particle size analysers
  • Optical Systems: 2 single-shot Nd:YAG Lasers, a Dye laser, 2 Excimer lasers, a Copper Vapour laser, a high speed  DPSS UV laser for LIF, and a high speed PIV laser
  • Detectors: 3 Gated ICCDs, 3 high-speed colour video camera (60K fps) with intensifiers

We collaborate closely with industry partners as part of the Brunel Automotive Hub.

We also conduct:

  • Heath and safety training
  • Laser safety training
  • Regular research seminars

Excellent research support and training
Extensive training and support is offered to all research students by the Graduate School, with regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. Read more about the available Research Support and Training.

Library services
Brunel's library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 e-books, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject Information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK’s full text repository
  • an integrated data management system
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Facts and Figures

In the recent REF 2014 Assessment Engineering and Design ranked amongst London's biggest and best.

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission
Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering
General Engineering

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the REF2014 have been made public in December 2014, replacing the previous REF conducted in 2008.  The next REF will be undertaken in 2020. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students

Centre of Excellence for Engine Flow and Combustion Optical Measurements
The university was awarded an £848,198 EPSRC Experimental Equipment grant to establish a Centre of Excellence for Engine Flow and Combustion Optical Measurements (CEEFCOM) for Advanced Powertrain Technologies. The centre, led by Prof Hua ZHAO, will use the new facilities to gain new understandings of, and develop step improvements in, internal combustion engine efficiency, using both conventional and new fuel formulations.

Teaching and Assessment


Supervisors with insight
Our researchers create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip versatile graduates with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Browse the list of the members of our Theme to select your potential supervisor here. You are welcome to approach your potential supervisor directly to discuss your research interests.



Many of our PhD graduates are employed in the automotive and oil companies, such as Ford, BP, JLR, Mahle Powertrain, AVL, Ricardo in UK, as well as overseas companies and Institutes in Europe, US, China, Korea and other Asian counctries. Some PhD graduates continued working as postdoctoral research assistants and then employed as University lecturers in UK, Asia and Africa.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2016/17 entry

Fees per year for 2016/17

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,121 Part time: £2,060

International students

Full time: £17,200 Part time: £8,600

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Criteria 2017/18

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree and additionally, for a PhD, a Master’s degree or equivalent.  All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study: IELTS 6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in any section). This applies even if English is the native language of your home country. An appropriate level of English language competence is also expected as listed below. Find out which alternative English language qualifications we accept. Applicants may also be required to attend compulsory in-sessional English language support.  The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.


Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.