PhD on Bio-inspired soft sensor design for agricultural applications

PhD on Bio-inspired soft sensor design for agricultural applications

Published Deadline Location
13 Sep 16 Oct Eindhoven

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Are you fascinated by the intersection of soft robotics, sensors, bio-inspired design, and perception? Then this project is for you! Within the HTSF Green Sensor program, this project aims to provide a farmer with real-time information about their crops using sensorized soft autonomous robots.

Job description

Population growth, climate change, resource depletion and soil degradation are placing huge challenges on agriculture. One way to alleviate these problems could be to increase the degree to which robots are used in agricultural settings. Rigid robotic sensing and actuation for repeatable tasks in industrial settings is well-developed, but applying robotics in agriculture remains challenging, because fruits and vegetables damage easily, and agricultural environments are unstructured. Soft robots could be a solution, since they are naturally suited to replicate the soft touch that humans normally use to for instance harvest a raspberry. Moreover, their soft structure creates an inherent adaptability to for instance fruits with different sizes. However, soft force sensors still perform much worse than rigid force sensors do.

In this PhD project, you will explore two related approaches to enhance soft sensor performance: co-design of sensors&actuators and active sensing. For robotic design, the measurement principle of the sensor is taken as the starting point, and then the actuator is co-designed to optimize the functionality of the sensor. For control, active sensing strategies, in which the sensor is intentionally moved around to gather data, will be used to continuously update the robot's movements to collect the most useful data. The final goal is to run field experiments with real autonomous robots.

You will become a member of the Robotics research line of the Control Systems Technology section within the Mechanical Engineering department of the TU/e. This project will also be part of the HTSF Green Sensor Program, which is a collaboration of the 4 technical universities of the Netherlands. Furthermore, you will be a part of the Reshape lab, which has state-of-the art facilities for manufacturing and testing of soft robots.

Within the project, there is a lot of room for your personal input. Some of the techniques that will probably be part of the project are:
  • Rapid prototyping using CAD design and 3D printing
  • Silicone casting of soft robots
  • (Simple) electronics development
  • Controller design for real-time control, for instance with Python
  • Running validation experiments with commercially-available force sensors
  • Data analysis with for instance Matlab/Python/R
  • Field experiments with real robots


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)


  • A master's degree (or an equivalent university degree) in Engineering (Mechanical/Electrical/Biomedical), Material Science, Computer Science, Biology, or a related discipline.
  • A research-oriented attitude.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary team and interested in collaborating with industrial partners.
  • Motivated to develop your teaching skills and coach students.
  • Fluent in spoken and written English (C1 level).
  • This project will be embedded in the HTSF Green Sensors program, which means that it will provide an excellent starting point for collaborations. Thus, we highly encourage candidates who are interested in multi-disciplinary hands-on projects to apply.
  • Experience with real-time robotic control, soft robots and bio-inspired design are an advantage.

Conditions of employment

A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university, in an interdisciplinary setting and within an international network. You will work on a beautiful, green campus within walking distance of the central train station. In addition, we offer you:
  • Full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months. You will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • Salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, paid pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, scale P (min. €2,770 max. €3,539).
  • A year-end bonus of 8.3% and annual vacation pay of 8%.
  • High-quality training programs and other support to grow into a self-aware, autonomous scientific researcher. At TU/e we challenge you to take charge of your own learning process.
  • An excellent technical infrastructure, on-campus children's day care and sports facilities.
  • An allowance for commuting, working from home and internet costs.
  • A Staff Immigration Team and a tax compensation scheme (the 30% facility) for international candidates.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • V35.6897


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

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De Rondom 70, 5612 AP, Eindhoven

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