Voronoi grid improvement

Project code: ENG065

AMESH, a popular mesh generator for the geothermal simulator TOUGH2 creates Voronoi grids which are nice because the lines joining block centres are all perpendicular to block boundaries. But the AMESH grids are nasty because some of the block boundaries are very small. The aim of this project is to implement a recently published algorithm for regularising Voronoi grids, compromising between the two aims of all boundaries being equal in size and all connections being orthogonal to block boundaries. Some knowledge of numerical methods for solving partial differential equations and skill in programming are required.


Investigating the effect of complex hull shapes on water impact loads

Project code: ENG066

Water impact, often known as slamming, is an important load-case for high-performance power and sail marine vessels, affecting both the occupants and the structure of the vessel. It is also an important load-case for crash analysis of aircraft and helicopters.

The focus of this project is to study how complex shape hull forms affect impact loads and pressures during hull slamming, and whether enhanced performance can be achieved through local tailoring of the shape. The project will include both numerical modelling of the fluid-structure interaction utilising techniques such as Multi Material Arbitrary Lagrangian / Eulerian explicit finite element analysis, and experimental validation studies. The experiments will include implementing Particle Image Velocimetry measurement of fluid flow in the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials’ unique custom Servo-hydraulic Slam Testing System, and undertaking instrumented water impact experiments.

Students should have a background and interest in continuum mechanics.


Dr Mark Battley


Geothermal water and steam separators design comparison

Project code: ENG067

Mechanical Engineering Student with GPA of +6 with strong interest in: Thermodynamics, steam engineering and equipment design.

Time line: 1 December till 28th February.

The project will focus on reviewing existing geothermal steam-water designs and investigate similar designs in the oil and gas industry. Then carry a performance comparison study and propose best design for future testing/implementation. 


Dr Sadiq J. Zarrouk


Designing an induced seismicity field experiment

Project code: ENG068

Induced seismicity is the triggering of earthquakes by human engineering activities, e.g., underground injection of fluids during hydraulic fracturing, CO­2 sequestration, wastewater disposal or geothermal operations. Induced seismicity represents both an economic and public safety risk for commercial operations; however, at low magnitude, induced earthquakes carry valuable information about the subsurface, such as the distribution of fluid pressure or permeability.



David Dempsey

In the past 30 years, several field experiments have been conducted to investigate the underlying causes and controls on induced seismicity. Planning of a new experiment is in its early stages and the aim of this project is to outline an experimental design that maximizes knowledge gain while minimizing risks inherent when intentionally triggering earthquakes.

The first step is to undertake a review of recent experiments in a range of contexts, beginning with the Rangely oil field experiment (Colorado) in the 1980’s, the KTB deep borehole (Germany) in the 1990s, and several geothermal well stimulations since 2000, e.g., Habanero and Paralana (Australia), Basel (Switzerland), Soultz (France) and Raft River (Idaho). The aim is to determine features of injection programs (injection rate and wellhead pressure) that have historically lead to knowledge gain in such experiments.

The second step is to design the injection program for a new field experiment to be proposed in the next several years. To do this, a recently developed model for induced seismicity will be used. The model accepts a sequence of pressure or flow rate changes as an input and outputs a spatiotemporally evolving distribution of seismicity. The key questions to address are: How long should such an experiment last? How much water must be injected? How many different pressure or flow rate steps should be attempted? 


Understanding Energy Use in Transport

Project code: ENG069

Operations Research (OR) models are commonly used to inform decision making on transport investment and policy. Over the summer we will gain a better understanding of energy use in the transport sector and the potential to model and reduce it.


We will seek out publicly available data related to transport and energy use and analyse it. We will also conduct a review of transport models used in NZ, with particular focus on energy aspects. There are different measures of the performance of a transport network, each with the potential of capturing different aspects such as time, pollution, energy use, etc. A typical measure is the overall travel time in a transport system which is estimated and a measure of congestion derived. We will build an understanding of alternative measures related to energy use in transport models in NZ and world-wide. We aim to identify alternative measures of transport performance and investigate their consistency with existing traffic equilibrium theory (ie with existing OR models). Another aim is to map features of urban neighbourhoods to gain an understanding of which features encourage energy-efficient transport choices.

Skills required:

Programming skills, data analysis (R or similar).


Interactive optimisation for deliverable radiotherapy treatment planning

Project code: ENG070

Radiotherapy treatment (RT) is a prominent and successful treatment method for cancer used in about 50% of all cases in NZ. RT irradiates a patient’s tumour volume while avoiding damage to healthy tissue and surrounding critical organs. 


RT plans are generated by solving large-scale multi-objective optimisation  problems in standard planning software. Such an approach generates a set of plans capturing different treatment trade-offs. The planner then navigates the set and selects the most preferable plan. At times, the most preferable plan may need some further adjustments to better satisfy the planning requirements.

In this project, we consider optimisation techniques for fine-tuning a plan interactively. The optimisation technique should be efficient (ideally solve the problem in real time) and able to consider the multi-objective decision trade-offs. The project involves developing and implementing multi-objective heuristic techniques for RT plan tuning. In particular, we will consider plan delivery constraints, which previous research in interactive plan optimisation has not considered. The developed method will be integrated with our prior research on multi-objective plan generation and plan navigation method.

Skills required:

Programming primarily in MATLAB, motivation to learn about RT planning.


Heat Generation Associated with Periodic Rupture of the Alpine Fault

Project code: ENG071

The Alpine Fault is a large plate-bounding fault in the South Island that accommodates up to 75% of the relative motion between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. Large earthquakes (up to M 8) on the Alpine Fault occur approximately every 27070 years with the last recorded event 1717 AD (300 years ago). Therefore, the Alpine Fault poses a serious seismic hazard to the South Island.

During an earthquake, tectonically accumulated (elastic) shear strain is released as an episode of discontinuous displacement across the fault plane. Associated with this displacement is a drop in shear stress and we can use this to compute energy released due to the work done against friction, i.e., frictional heating. Pseudotachylyte – essentially rock that has melted during past earthquakes – has been identified in the Alpine Fault zone and indicates that temperatures due to frictional heat generation can be quite high. 



David Dempsey

The purpose of this project is to address the question “How long after an earthquake has occurred is a temperature anomaly likely to be identifiable?” This will involve two components: (1) determining the frictional heat generation during rupture and developing an analytical model of heat conduction from the fault plane; and (2) building a numerical model for the same scenario in AUTOUGH, considering also the advection of fluids in the fractured region around the fault at supercritical temperatures.

Project Aims:

  • Develop a conceptual model of heat generation and transport for the Alpine Fault.
  • Develop a 1D analytical model of periodic heat generation and conductive heat transport.
  • Develop a 2D numerical model of heat generation, conductive and advective heat transport.
  • Estimate for how long after a great earthquake that a temperature anomaly persists on the fault.



Airway flow measurements

Project code: ENG072

This project will involve taking measurements of 3D-printed human airway and surgical models using a variety of pressure and flow sensors. High speed imaging and digital photography will be used to visualise the path of streamlines and particles to inform more effective patient treatments.

The project will commence in Janurary 2017.


John Cater


That Sinking Feeling

Project code: ENG073

Note: Geothermal exploitation of the Wairakei geothermal field over the last half century has clearly been the cause of major ground subsidence. In fact, there has been more fluid-withdrawal related subsidence in parts of the Wairakei field than any other development (geothermal or otherwise) in the world. Subsidence is predominately controlled by a small section of soft rock within the Huka Falls geologic formation. The material within the Huka Falls formation contains high amounts of smectite clay. An appropriate nonlinear elastic-plastic constititive model to represent the stress-strain behaviour of soft clay is the Cam clay model. However, the nonlinearity of the Cam clay model makes the numerical modelling of subsidence  (particularly timing) a difficult task. This project seeks to understand the effect that the Cam clay constitutive model has on numerical subsidence modelling of the Wairakei geothermal field. Finite element modelling with be performed using the software Abaqus. The student should have an interest in solid mechanics and numerical simulation techniques.


Hot and Gold

Project code: ENG074

The Hauraki goldfield within New Zealand’s Coromandel Volcanic Zone (CVZ) contains significant gold-silver deposits, with ore mostly contained in veins that fill faults and fractures that were active at shallow depth (<1500 m) at the time of mineralization. From a structural and fluid flow perspective, such vein-style deposits are simply the upper parts of more extensive fault systems that guided or channeled high temperature metal-bearing fluids from mid-crustal depths to the epithermal environment.  In these sorts of tectonic contexts, reactivation of inherited basement structures may exert an important influence on the localisation and geometry of the epithermal environment. Previous works have analysed surface fault/vein interaction and evolution within the CVZ in attempts to predict the location of unknown mineral deposits, but have neglected the effect that the deeper basement fault structure may have on the deposits.


In this project, we are seeking to analyse different potential basement (>1500 m) fault structures and orientations and the effect that those may have on surface fault/vein creation and ultimately mineral deposition. We are interested in utilizing a continuum damage mechanics approach using the finite element software Abaqus in large-scale (100 km2) area simulations.

The student should have an interest in solid/geo-mechanics and numerical simulation techniques. The main tasks in this project will be setting up, running, and analysing Abaqus simulations.


Next generation drug injectors

Project code: ENG075

Our Bioinstrumentation laboratory has developed needle-free liquid drug injectors that are actuated by controllable, quiet, and reversible linear motors. We tightly control the motion of the motor throughout the entire process of injection; this approach allows us excellent control over the speed and volume of jet drug delivery.


In this project we plan to explore some novel, exciting and potentially very valuable ideas for reducing the size/mass of our devices, and controlling the way that our fluid jets interact with the tissues that they penetrate. This work will involve designing and prototyping devices in our well-equipped bioinstrumentation laboratory, and testing their performance using high-speed imaging. You will work as part of a dynamic team of postgraduate students, with support from technical staff. This work would particularly suit a student of Engineering Science, Biomedical Engineering, or Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineering. 


Adding Multi-criteria Optimisation to OpenSolver

Project code: ENG076

This project will extend the popular opensource optimiser, OpenSolver, so that users can model and solve optimisation problems with more than one objective using Excel. Solving these problems requires showing users a set of possible solutions, and letting them easily understand the tradeoffs in these solutions. We will need to develop good solution algorithms and new visualisation tools to let the user explore the solution set.

The student needs good skills in programming (preferably with some VBA experience), experience using OpenSolver, and an understanding of linear and integer programming.


A new Simulation and Scenario Manager tool for Excel

Project code: ENG077

Through our work on the popular open-source optimiser, OpenSolver, we  have developed a good understanding of the needs of Excel users and the technologies available to meet these needs. An important area that OpenSolver does not yet address is simulation in Excel. This project will develop an open-source simulation environment for Excel that is easy to use, tightly integrated with OpenSolver, and includes new visualisation tools to help users visualise and understand their simulation results. This project will also continue work on a scenario manager tool that is currently in beta development

The student needs good skills in programming (preferably with some VBA experience), experience using Excel (and ideally OpenSolver), and a willingness to experiment with and learn new software tools. This work involves collaboration with other open-source developers in this space.


Andrew Mason


SolverStudio for Google Sheets: A New Online Optimisation Tool

Project code: ENG078

SolverStudio is an Excel add-in that allows optimisation models to be built using Excel and modern modelling languages such as the AMPL clone GMPL. This project will build on our experience moving OpenSolver to the online Google Sheets framework to create a new add-in for that allows GMPL models to be built and solved using Google Sheets.

The student will need experience programming in JavaScript and developing web sites with client-side code. Experience with the Google API’s would be a bonus.


Andrew Mason


Enhancement of SolverStudio for Excel

Project code: ENG079

SolverStudio is an Excel add-in that allows optimisation models to be built using Excel and modern modelling languages such as PuLP and JuMP. This project will extend SolverStudio by adding support for more modelling languages (including SCIP), adding new visualisation capabilities, and creating a new interface for creating and editing OpenSolver models within SolverStudio.

The student will need good programming skills, and will ideally have experience with Python and perhaps Visual Basic. Experience in C# would give more scope for the range of improvements that could be implemented, but is not essential.


Andrew Mason


Advanced tools for Analytics Visualisations in Excel

Project code: ENG080

Microsoft have recently released a new coding framework for extending Excel with browser-based tools. We have some limited experience in using these new capabilities to create new visualisations and interactive tools within Excel. This project will build on this preliminary work to create new opens-source Excel add-ins based on this new technology. Possible applications include adding new plotting capabilities to SolverStudio, displaying interactive visualisations of OpenSolver’s Branch and Bound process, building interactive Gantt charts and staff scheduling displays, building 3D visualisations for the Simplex algorithm, etc, etc.

The student will need experience programming in JavaScript and developing web sites with client-side code. Experience with the Microsoft Office Javascript API’s would be a bonus.


OpenSolver for Libre Office

Project code: ENG081

OpenSolver is currently only available for Excel, which makes it inaccessible to those who choose to use open source spreadsheets such as that in Libre Office. This project will develop a first release of OpenSolver for Libre Office.

The student will need good programming skills, and a willingness to learn much more about the inner workings of Libre Office than is known by their supervisor!


Andrew Mason


Analytics for Better Land use for Māori

Project code: ENG082

We are commencing a National Science Challenge project that involves developing analytics and optimisation tools for improving the productive use of Māori land. This project involves collaboration with Scion and Victoria University of Wellington. We are seeking one or two summer students to be part of this project. The scope of the summer projects will become clearer during 2016 as we better define the problems we will be tackling.


Synthesizing Virtual Machine Traces from Cloud Computing Infrastructure

Project code: ENG083

CloudSim is a simulation package that allows systems to be modelled by running historical traces through a virtual cloud computing environment. There is a small number of traces available for download, but to understand and improve system performance under variable loads there is a need for testing under multiple random replications. To meet this need, this project will develop a method for generating synthetic virtual machine traces from historical data.

Skills required include good programming ability, reasonable understanding of statistics, and preferably some experience with simulation.


Modelling Active Suspensions

Project code: ENG084

Active Suspensions can be naturally occurring, e.g. suspensions of microorganisms, or man-made, e.g. suspensions of micromachines. In either case, the way in which they interact with their fluid environment, and respond to stimuli, is very important. This project will model the hydrodynamics of such suspensions, concentrating on how the fluid couples together the motion of individual members.

The project would be suitable for students with an interest in mathematical modelling and fluid dynamics, and will require some familiarity and comfort with programming and numerical methods.


Richard Clarke


Many eyes make light work

Project code: ENG085

Stereo imaging systems typically consist of a pair of closely-spaced cameras designed to image objects from slightly different directions. This leads to significant inaccuracies in depth estimation because the two views are similar and the algorithms used to correlate the images perform relatively poorly. We have recently developed an image registration algorithm that is considerably more accurate, robust, and efficient than any other published method. This project will explore the use of this new algorithm on a multicamera (≥4) imaging system to obtain very accurate geometric measurements.


Torques Softly

Project code: ENG086

Measurement of dynamic forces and torques generated by the foot striking the ground are of great interest to both sport science and clinicians assessing the gait of patients with problems of movement. Current force platforms are expensive, putting them beyond the reach of most trainers and clinics. We have developed a new method for measuring force, based on highly anisotropic elastomers constraining a volume of incompressible fluid. These devices are cheap to construct and may be readily arranged into a configuration that can simultaneously measure all 6 components of force and torque. The outcome of this project will be a relatively inexpensive, low-profile platform capable of measuring dynamic forces and torques generated by the foot.


CubeSat Mission Planning

Project code: ENG111

This is a joint project between engineering and the department of Physics who are planning to launch a CubeSat – a small satellite payload into low earth orbit.

The first step is mission planning and specification of the space hardware, and this can be done during summer 2016.

This project will require skills in electronics hardware and programming. Linux or Arduino experience preferred.