Engineering Science - Masters by Research Theses

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    Development of a wearable system for monitoring people with Parkinson’s at home
    (University College Cork, 2023) Sica, Marco; O'Flynn, Brendan; Tedesco, Salvatore; AbbVie; Enterprise Ireland
    Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system. Besides impairing motor functions, PD is also characterized by a broad variety of non-motor symptoms, such as mood and cognitive disorders, hallucinations, and sleep disturbances. People with Parkinson’s (PwP) are evaluated using clinical assessments and self-administered diaries and, as a consequence, they receive the necessary pharmacological therapy to alleviate symptoms and enhance sleep quality. Tri-axial accelerometers and gyroscopes might be employed to objectively evaluate Parkinsonians’ condition and help clinicians in making decisions. PwP often have significant abnormalities in blood pressure (BP) due to comorbid age-related cardiovascular disease and orthostatic hypotension, which result in blurred vision, dizziness, syncope, and falls. Frequent BP monitoring may aid in the evaluation of such events and differentiate PD symptoms from those originated by hypotension. A number of commercially available devices designed specifically for PwP include accelerometers and gyroscopes for the estimation of main motor symptoms, gait parameters, and sleep quality; nevertheless, according to the authors' knowledge, neither commercially available systems nor published works include also photoplethysmograph (PPG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors that can be used for Parkinsonians’ cardiovascular monitoring. In this work, the WESAA (Wearable Enabled Symptom Assessment Algorithm) system is introduced as a revolutionary tool for the remote monitoring of PD patients. It is comprised of two devices worn on the wrist and ankle, and its key purpose is to capture accelerations and angular velocities from these body parts, as well as PPG and ECG data. This information may be used off-line to predict common PD motor symptoms (such as tremor, bradykinesia, and dyskinesia), walking speed, sleep-wake cycles, and cuff-less BP measures. The system requirements, market overview, industrial design, hardware and firmware development, user experience, early results of the gathered inertial raw data, and validation of the PPG and ECG signals were looked at in detail in the present work. The created system fulfils all the defined user requirements, and the sensors used yielded results equivalent to gold standard technologies. This thesis also studied the PwP's viewpoints on the WESAA system which is crucial for usability and adherence, examining practical concerns such as size, design, and comfort, as well as emotional consequences, societal impact, and the significance of discretion. In addition, users discussed their data-sharing preferences and how wearable technology could enhance their lives (i.e., the necessity to give feedback, particularly on motor symptoms). The WESAA system thus presents a promising alternative for remote monitoring of PwP since it has the ability to assist physicians in decision-making in terms of medication and treatment, giving them potentially useful information about the motor symptoms and the overall health status of their patients. Future work involves the implementation of off-line solutions for the detection of PD motor symptoms, walking speed, sleep-wake cycles, and cuff-less BP; machine learning algorithms should be adopted and a broader data collection carried out.
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    Feasibility study of reusing concrete gravity-based foundations designed for tidal energy converters
    (University College Cork, 2022) Dineen, Kate; Li, Zili; Ryan, Paraic; European Regional Development Fund
    Tidal energy converter devices have been developed to capture the enormous energy potential of the tides. These devices rely on robust mooring and foundation systems to ensure efficient energy extraction in operational conditions, and stability in extreme environmental conditions. Gravity-based foundations (GBF) are currently the most commonly used foundation type within the tidal energy industry. While tidal turbines are typically supported using bespoke carbon-steel tripod structures, concrete gravity-based foundations have been put forward by a number of studies as an alternative support solution. Several novel concrete GBF concepts exist and the developers of such concrete structures state that these foundations may be reused or relocated following decommissioning. Reuse of these massive concrete structures would greatly reduce construction and demolition (C&D) waste, and the need for new concrete GBFs for future devices, thus contributing significantly to the sustainability of the tidal energy industry. However, the concept of reusing concrete gravity-based foundations following long periods of deployment underwater has not been tested in real-world scenarios due to the nascent nature of the industry and long commissioning time periods. As highlighted from a related concept in the oil and gas industry, several safety issues may arise from reusing and relocating concrete GBFs, including geotechnical hazards and concrete degradation due to corrosion. Therefore, this study assessed the practicalities of reusing concrete foundations following decommissioning by designing a concrete GBF from first principles to be used for further analysis. This representative GBF was then extensively tested using Plaxis geotechnical software to investigate soil subsidence and differential settlement, assessing their impact on GBF relocation feasibility. Subsequently, the risk of corrosion to the steel reinforcement in the GBF was examined by, firstly, modelling the chloride concentration profile of the concrete, and secondly, investigating the interrelationship between oxygen availability and water saturation level. Thorough investigation into these study considerations can significantly contribute to the determination of whether it is practicable to reuse or relocate concrete gravity-based foundations in the tidal industry. The findings from the geotechnical analysis supports the possibility of reusing and relocating concrete GBFs for tidal turbines as both the total settlement and the tilt were significantly less than the allowable total settlement and tilt tolerance in a deployment site for which the GBF was designed and a contrasting site for which it was not. However, the findings from the concrete degradation analysis does not support the feasibility of reusing concrete GBFs. A chloride ingress analysis encapsulating three datasets indicated that the critical chloride threshold would be surpassed during a GBFs deployment period, meaning that the protective passive layer on the steel would be compromised leaving it vulnerable to corrosion should sufficient oxygen and water be present.
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    Performance and hull pressure analysis of scaled physical testing of a wave energy converter
    (University College Cork, 2022-06) Bevin, Anne; Murphy, Jimmy; O'Shea, Michael; European Regional Development Fund
    Wave energy conversion is an emerging field with the potential to capture a significant amount of a globally abundant energy resource to lower reliance on fossil fuels. At present, many designs for wave energy converters are being developed which show great promise for efficiently capturing wave energy. One of the most common barriers to the commercial development and deployment of these devices, however, is the high cost of manufacturing and design validation. The ocean is a harsh environment in which to place infrastructure, and there is a high risk of a wave energy converter being critically damaged at sea after going through a long and costly development process. For this reason, small-scale tank tests and computer modelling of concepts are vital to develop wave energy converter technologies to the highest possible degree before being put into an open-water operational environment. This study describes a physical tank testing campaign of one such model, the Ocean Energy (OE) Buoy, a floating oscillating water column wave energy converter. The walls of the OE Buoy are open to allow water to freely flow through it, and this study seeks to determine whether this might allow for the device to be made with a thinner hull than “closed-container” marine devices. If the water pressure that the hull walls will experience during operation is overestimated in the OE Buoy’s current design, this could have the potential to significantly lower costs of materials and production. This testing was conducted at University College Cork’s Lir NOTF tank facility in November and December of 2021, and the OE Buoy model used is designed at 1:15 scale.