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An interview with Louis Amigues a PhD student at ISAE-SUPAERO working on control of aircraft air systems

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Can you tell us about where you are coming from and what is your academic background before the PhD ?
I was born in Saint-Julien en Genevois, a small city in the french Alps, before growing up travelling around the world on a sailing boat. Then, I spent my adolescence in Tahiti and moved back to France for my studies.
I obtained my master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in System Engineering from INSA Toulouse. I had a first professional experience as a Research Engineer for the Clement Ader Institute, a mechanical engineering research institute. Then, I came to ISAE-SUPAERO for my PhD.

Why did you decide to enter a PhD program and why ISAE-SUPAERO ?
At first, I was reluctant in doing a PhD, but my first professional experience as a Research Engineer during a year and a half was decisive in my choice. It gave me an insight of the research community and many of my colleagues were PhD students, talking daily with them about their experience reassured me.
For me, a PhD is an amazing opportunity to focus all your experience and knowledge in a challenging project and to develop new skills. I have always been interested in the aerospace and spatial sector and ISAE-SUPAERO and its academic excellence in these fields felt like the perfect place for my PhD.

Can you briefly explain the topic of your thesis ?
I work on the airplanes air system that provide air at suitable pressure, temperature and humidity for the passengers, these systems can also be used for de-icing or starting Auxiliary Power Units.These systems exhibits a physical phenomenon, undesired, called hysteresis that make the state of the system depend on its past, it makes these systems difficult to control.

To popularize this phenomenon, lets take the chocolate example. Imagine a chocolate bar on your table and the ambiant temperature is 25°C. The chocolate is a bar, its state is solid. If you want the chocolate to change its state and become liquid, you heat it and it melts, its state is now liquid. If you let this melted chocolate on your table, its temperature will cool down to 25°C but it will stay liquid. If you want a chocolate bar again, you will have to cool it down even more, it will solidify and when its back to ambiant temperature it will be solid again. Thus, the state of the chocolate (solid/liquid) at 25°C depends on its past (heated/cooled).

The objective of my thesis is to understand all the variables that contribute to hysteresis in the air systems and to provide a technological solution in the form of a control law to compensate this phenomenon. Also, my PhD is in the framework of a CIFRE funding, which is a partnership between a company, Liebherr Aerospace Toulouse in my case, and a laboratory, ISAE-SUPAERO. It often results in applied research topics and a three experience in a company which is appreciable.

How about life in Toulouse ?
Toulouse is student dynamic human scale city. It also has the advantage of being quite close from the mountains and the sea for outdoor activites. Even after 7 years here, I still take a lot of pleasure wandering the city and its red bricks narrow streets.

What do you plan to do after your PhD thesis ?
I still hesitate a lot between many fields of activity such as aerospace and spatial, by which I have always been interested in. But now, my ecological consciousness questions me on other domains like renewable energies and transportation. Anyway, I believe that my PhD will give me the keys to work in any wanted field of activity.

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