PhD Position Maintenance-Aware Multi-Level Control for Ammonia-Powered Ships


Job description

This PhD project focuses on integrated control strategy and maintenance policy design to assure reliable operation and high availability of ships powered by ammonia (NH3). Ammonia is one of the most promising hydrogen carriers and clean, alternative fuels for long-distance shipping and other maritime, or heavy-duty, applications. When produced from renewable power, ammonia could decarbonize shipping and thus help to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement to combat climate change.

In this PhD project, you will start from an innovative ammonia-fuelled power and propulsion system concept for ships utilising a combination of state-of-the-art Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) technology, i.e., the AmmoniaDrive concept. This system contains many non-proven subsystems in new configurations introducing the scientific challenges related to system diagnosis.

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate how automatic control strategies could ensure a high ship system performance under various operating conditions. This requires input from a large number of sensors installed on the system. At the same time, this sensor data will be used to diagnose the system and predict upcoming failures. These insights will, on the one hand, be used to plan maintenance activities (e.g. repair, replace parts) just-in-time, and on the other hand to feed the control system, allowing to adapt the system operational settings (e.g. to reduce the loads on specific parts) to the actual system condition. You will investigate the operational control challenges of the ship concept, for the ship system itself, as well as in relation to the direct surrounding waterway users. The link between operational decision making (during navigation) and decision making for maintenance (typically on a somewhat longer timescale) are hereby considered from an integrated perspective. Of particular importance hereby is how to control the system in unexpected situations involving, e.g., sensor or actuator malfunctioning or unexpected movements of other waterway users.

The key challenges that we will address are:

  • How can the real-time dynamics of the ammonia-powered ship system best be (mathematically) captured, keeping in mind the trade-off between accuracy and computational complexity?
  • How does quality and availability of (sensor) data affect the capability to improve the dynamic models representing the ship system, or to identify emerging faults and risks?
  • What architecture for large-scale interconnected systems is most suitable for control of the ammonia-powered ship system, and for shaping of its interaction with the other surrounding waterway users?
  • In which way can maintenance-awareness, fault-tolerance and potential near-future events information be encapsulated in the operational decision-making processes and the interaction with human operators?

This PhD project is hosted by the Dept. of Maritime & Transport Technology, TU Delft, and is part of the NWO AmmoniaDrive program. In this program universities and industry work together to achieve breakthroughs towards the transition towards a zero-emission maritime sector. During the project you will moreover directly interact with the researchers of the Researchlab Autonomous Shipping (RAS) at TU Delft.


Candidates for this challenging project have an MSc degree and background in systems and control engineering, maintenance & operations, mathematical modelling, maritime technology, or related areas. Good communication and writing skills in English and the ability to collaborate are important.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details, please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These videos will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Prof.dr. Rudy R. Negenborn,, +31(0)15 278 6718.

For more information about the application procedure, please contact Anita van Vianen, HR-advisor, at

Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply now!

Assessment procedure:Received applications will be reviewed and assessed on the first day of the upcoming month (December 1, January 1, February 1, etc.), followed by a potential invitation for a first interview in the subsequent weeks.

This vacancy will be closed as soon as a suitable candidate has been selected.As such: Make sure to apply before the end of the current month.

Please apply via the application button and upload:

  • a cover letter stating your motivation;
  • detailed curriculum vitae (including a list of publications, if any);
  • names of up to three professional referees;
  • a summary of your MSc thesis;
  • list of courses and grades at Master and Bachelor level (in English).

Please note:

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Contact by recruiting agencies is not appreciated.