Potential research projects
Professor Peter Hall
Upcoming projects are usually released by project supervisors during the second half of the year.
Note: these are a few suggested projects. Students are welcome to discuss their own interests.
Low-Power Radio Astronomy Receivers for Aperture Arrays (Honours/Masters project)
Power consumption is emerging as a major issue for new radio telescopes located in remote areas, such as the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory - a prospective site of the Square Kilometre Array. Low-power systems are a particular challenge in radio astronomy, where highly-sensitive, wideband, low-noise receiving chains are required. This project will examine options, based on existing and emerging technology, for low-power astronomy receivers operating below 1 GHz. Both digital and analogue aspects of the receiving chain will be examined, and design and prototyping of at least one receiver will be undertaken. The project would suit an engineering student interested in radio astronomy, or allied wireless systems, technology.
General-Purpose Spectrometer Development Using FPGAs (Masters project, with Dr Aidan Hotan)
Channelized spectrum analysers, composed of banks of band-pass filters, are the work-horse of radio astronomy in areas where high time resolution signal analysis is needed. This project will use contemporary digital systems design techniques, based on field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), to realise all-digital spectrometers suitable for use in a variety of astronomical applications, including Curtin’s research program studying transient cosmic radio signals. The project would suit an engineering or physics student with an interest in advanced digital systems, willingness to master contemporary design tools, and a wish to extend their hands-on abilities in the course of laboratory and telescope-based testing.
Power Solutions for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) (Masters/PhD project)
It is now clear that the scientific capability of the SKA, which may be built in WA, will be limited by available - or affordable - energy supplies. This project will be associated closely with the international SKA system design process (in which Curtin is a major player) in order to track and optimize energy usage in all parts of the telescope. In particular, the project will provide insight into the feasible physical locations of various major telescope sub-systems (such as the High Performance Computing) and, at least at the top-level, information concerning the scientific trade-offs inherent in implementing various feasible designs. The SKA will likely use both grid-based and stand-alone power solutions (including renewable energy systems) and the project will also examine supply configurations, and technical and economic optimisations, for energy inputs to the telescope. The project would suit an engineering or physics student wishing to become involved with the SKA design process. The emphasis of the project can be adjusted to suit the background and interest of the student. Close collaboration with the international SKA design effort will be needed and opportunities to spend blocks of time in the UK will likely be available.
Active Antennas for Sparse Arrays (PhD project)
This, and associated sparse array R&D topics (involving antenna and integrated RF system design), may be available depending on the outcome of offers currently open.
Real-time Capture and Processing of Cosmic Radio Transients (PhD project)
Science relating to cosmic radio transients is a rapidly expanding area of radio astronomy and promises to shed new light on exotic astrophysical phenomena. Most contemporary detection and processing schemes for transients rely on "off-line" detection and analysis of events. This project aims to develop a suite of real-time signal intercept and processing hardware, and associated analysis software, for use in conjunction with a variety of radio telescopes. Depending on the student’s interest the project can be slanted towards engineering or astrophysics, with the option to include advanced work in both areas. The project would suit an engineering or physics student with an interest in advanced digital systems (capable of processing signal bandwidths of several hundred megahertz) and/or the astrophysics of transient events.