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Funded PhD position; in Developing an Asphalt Compaction Simulation Tool; at Faculty of Engineering Technology; University of Twente; in Netherlands

Job description

The asphalt construction industry is one perceived to be based on tradition and custom where work methods are largely based on implicit knowledge and experience. The ASPARi research has shown that traditional working methods lead to extensive variability in the asphalt construction process. More importantly, the research shows that the compaction process is a complex activity. Operators have to take into account several factors during compaction including:

Weather conditions (ambient temperature, wind speed)

Asphalt mix properties (mix type, binder type and grade)

Layer thickness being compacted

Temperature of the existing surface

The delivery temperature of the asphalt mix

The location and speed of the asphalt paver and their partner operators’ compaction strategies, patterns and locations

Also, compacting at too high or too low mix temperatures has a negative effect on the mechanical properties of the asphalt mixture leading to problems of early fatigue and permanent deformation. This in turn, leads to costly earlier maintenance than expected of the constructed asphalt layers. In short, roller operators do not know when to start and finishing compacting. The so-called ideal “window of opportunity” for the compaction of various mixes has, as yet, not been developed.

To support roller operators in achieving a more consistent, method-based asphalt compaction process that ensures that they compact within an appropriate “window of opportunity”, there is a need to develop a new tool that simulates the cooling of the asphalt mat behind the asphalt paver under a variety of weather and other conditions. The ASPARi unit has for the past 8 years collected cooling rate data for various mixtures, under various weather conditions and for different asphalt mixtures using its own Cooling Curve Calibration Unit (CCCU). The CCCU uses a combination of thermal imagery, temperature sensors and nuclear density measurements to make explicit the cooling behaviour of the asphalt mix and the related density progression during compaction. This data provides a starting point for developing a simulation tool that predicts asphalt cooling rates  based on actual data. This is a departure from previous simulation tool developments that mainly uses theoretical heat transfer models as a means of predicting the “window of opportunity” for compaction.

The aim of this design project is to:

“Develop a compaction simulation tool that will support roller operators achieve a more consistent compaction product”

The main outcomes are:

An integrated software simulation tool capturing the complex asphalt compaction process i.e. it should include factors such as the environmental conditions, existing surface conditions, mix properties and actual cooling rates of the various asphalt mixes.

An improved system/approach for simulating and validating the on-site compaction process in the laboratory.

Machine learning algorithms that can be used to predict and visualise asphalt cooling curves based on large data sets.

Method-based operational strategies that can be simulated, tested and validated before construction commences.

Your profile

We are searching for the best MSc graduated candidates with a demonstrable affinity with design and multidisciplinary assignments. Besides, you must have the ambition and talent to accelerate in finding innovative educational solutions for a rather traditional, largely work experience based road construction industry. Important professional skills are Dutch and English language skills, communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, initiative and self-reflection. Prior knowledge in structural equation modelling, applied mathematics, ICT and software development will be helpful to successfully complete the project, but can also be part of the educational program. An interview will be part of the selection procedure.

Information and application
If you have any further questions about this vacancy of the PDEng programme in Civil Engineering, please contact Dr. Miller at or telephone: +31 53 489 5886. General information about PDEng programmes you can find at or

You can upload your application, a curriculum vitae, a list with grades of courses attended, references and, if applicable, a list of publications through the link below before October 15th. You can upload a maximum of 3 documents.

Our offer

We offer a full-time contract for 24 months with a salary of € 1828,- per month. During these two years you follow a tailor made post-master design programme with a combination of education (50%) and working on a design project (50%). Also, the University of Twente provides excellent facilities for professional and personal development, a holiday allowance and an end-of-year bonus. On successfully completing the programme, you will receive a certified and recognized degree. You will be entitled to use the academic degree Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng) and will be registered as a Technological Designer in the Dutch register kept by the Royal Institution of Engineers in the Netherlands (KIVINIRIA).

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: MIRA, CTIT, SBE and IGS.

Deadline: October 15, 2017.

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