Dr Patrick Harkness
- Reader (Systems Power & Energy)
Patrick Harkness is from Ballyclog, in Co. Tyrone. Patrick obtained a MEng degree in Aeronautical Engineering from The Queen’s University of Belfast in 2003 and a PhD in space debris mitigation from Cranfield University in 2007. He then worked with Lockheed Martin on the subject of magnetohydrodynamic flow control before taking up a postdoctoral role at the University of Glasgow, focusing on ultrasonics, in 2008. He is now an academic in Engineering.
Patrick is a Fellow of the IMechE and the RAS.
Patrick's main research interests are in access and exploration technology for hazardous or difficult environments. These environments tend to be found on planetary surfaces and in outer space.
On planetary surfaces, Patrick has an interest in sample acquisition. He has worked to create robotic devices with self-assembling drillstrings that can take and containerise rock samples, and demonstrated their autonomous drilling performance at Mars analogue sites. Now, in 2018, Patrick has a collaboration with researchers at the British Antarctic Survey which seeks to deploy a subglacial bedrock sampling tool - currently being cold-tested - to the Skytrain Ice Rise in Antarctica. The rock samples we hope to obtain from under the ice sheet will help to validate global climate models.
These technological developments are underpinned by research, and a particular fundamental interest is the behaviour of granular materials. Patrick's work in this field considers how such materials respond to ultrasonic vibration, and his team has shown that fluidisation can occur even when extremely low vibration amplitudes are applied. This has been used to reduce the force required by simple penetrators by an order of magnitude, and tests in centrifuges (at ESTEC) have indicated that the phenomenon exists over a wide range of apparent gravities. This could help us to explore the soil of asteroids and planets in the future.
In space itself, Patrick is particularly interested in deployable structures: ones that become much larger once they have been safely placed in space. The Aeoldos deployable system is a baseline capability for drag augmentation in low earth orbit, for the purposes of space debris mitigation, but also provides a technology start-point for solar sails and antennae.
Again, the underpinning research is important. Patrick has published a number of papers that discuss the descent of satellites through the Earth's atmosphere, and an area of particular interest is the dependency of lifetime against multiple solar cycles. Another novel concept is free altitude control: by synchronising orbital period with the frequency of a heliostable solar sail, it is possible to change orbital altitude with a very limited control budget.
Finally, Patrick is interested in access to space. With collaborators at Dnipro National University in Ukraine, he has just published a paper that describes - the authors think for the first time - the test-firing of a solid rocket that can be throttled up and down, on demand. This motor, the autophage motor, has a unique property: it consumes a solid rod of propellant longitudinally, rather than by simply burning it from one end, or from the inside out. Because a rocket using such an engine would not require a structural body to contain the propellant, there exists the possibility that it could be much more mass-efficient. This could enable a new class of smaller and more effective launch vehicles in the future - an exciting possibility that has seen our autophage concept discussed in high-impact settings such as Science, the Economist, and the Register.
Research funding obtained over the past several years includes the following:
Mars Sample Return to Terrestrial Polar Science (PI)
UK Space Agency, July 2017, £99k (University of Glasgow component £56k)
EU H2020 Advanced Capabilities
Robot for Autonomous Underground Trenchless Operations, Mapping and Navigation (PI)
European Commission, July 2016, £3.18m (University of Glasgow component £481k)
Technology Proof of Concept
Subglacial Bedrock Sampler (PI)
Natural Environment Research Council, May 2016, £138k (University of Glasgow component £119k)
Spin Your Thesis
Team Dynamics (PI)
European Space Agency, June 2015, £2k
Sensing and understanding the resilience of sandstones (CoI)
Historic Scotland, June 2014, £36k
NSTP Design Study follow-on
Wideband Ionospheric Sounder CubeSat Experiment III (PI)
DSTL/University of Birmingham, April 2014, £1k
Large Scale Project for Petroleum (PETROMAKS II) (CoI)
Badger Explorer ASA, April 2014, £25k
EU FP7 Space
Ultrasonic Planetary Core Drill (PI)
European Commission, January 2014, £1.96m (University of Glasgow component £723k)
Atmosphere-crust coupling and carbon sequestration on the young Mars (CoI)
UK Space Agency, July 2013, £85k
I currently (2018) work with two postdoctoral researchers and two PhD students. Hopefully, a third PhD is just about to start.
Patrick's courses include the following:
Patrick's material on this course examines the behaviour of free and forced vibrating systems, considering the effects of friction, damping and resonance.
Patrick's work on this course focusses on the practicalities of vibration analysis, especially hardware and signal processing.
Space Systems 2
This course provides an introduction to key spacecraft subsystems, as well as the space environment and space law.