Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Manufacturing research for UK growth Why measurement matters Efficiency drive â€“ smarter car making Shedding a new light on lasers The artful computer PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
Briefings: EPSRC investment news Briefings: Sponsored research in action
10-13 The art of science: Artificial
Troubled export markets; a beleaguered eurozone; traditional industries in decline... no one would deny UK manufacturers are facing tough challenges. But there are huge opportunities, too, especially in high value manufacturing, where the UK arguably has the edge over global rivals.
intelligence takes a step closer through the medium of art
14-17 Manufacturing the Future: Head of Manufacturing, Mark ClaydonSmith, on EPSRC’s credentials as the research council for manufacturing
18-19 Movers and shakers: A potpourri of research stories from EPSRC’s manufacturing portfolio
20-21 Made to measure: Professor Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang, Director of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology at the University of Huddersfield, on her life’s work
22-23 Moving on up: Spotlight on Zoe McMahon, former EPSRC-sponsored doctoral student, now Director of Social and Environmental Sustainability & Compliance at Hewlett Packard in California
24-27 Laser vision: EPSRC’s
28-29 Efficiency drive: New software that can create and test automation systems before they’re even built – potentially saving manufacturers millions of pounds
The scientists and engineers we sponsor are pioneering new techniques and technologies across the UK manufacturing spectrum – from aerospace to pharmaceuticals, healthcare to sustainable energies. Much of their work, however, is unseen. When we think of manufacturing, we think of the things we consume: cars; DVDs; clothes. But for every shoe that’s made, or medicine we take, or TV we watch, someone has developed the techniques and technologies that built it; cleaned it; transported it; scanned the barcode in the shop; designed the mains socket we plug it into. That’s our job: providing the core science and engineering behind everyday things. Yes, some of it is rocket science. But at the core of the manufacturing research and training we sponsor are disciplines that have been around since the dawn of
modern civilisation: mathematics, chemistry, physics. Our ancestors used the abacus, the crucible, the plumb line. Today’s tools are the computer, the test tube, the laser beam. The basics remain the same. There’s one more link in the chain. Working partnerships. EPSRC has nearly 2,000 unique collaborations with business and other stakeholders – from dynamic SMEs to multinationals like Rolls-Royce and Procter & Gamble. We foster links between academia and industry, government and the charitable sector, making sure all the angles between manufacturing research and product, process and technology development are covered – driving underpinning science and engineering further along the innovation chain; making things happen. EPSRC is, in every sense, the research council for manufacturing. It’s what we do. Professor David Delpy
Cover picture of Rolls-Royce Trent 900 aero-engine courtesy of Rolls-Royce plc
Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University is an exemplar for long-term academic/industry partnerships
So what is the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council doing about it? Quite a lot, and much of it is helping drive UK economic growth.
EPSRC Chief Executive
30-31Film stars: Industrial membrane technology pioneered at Imperial College London that’s not just good for the environment – it makes powerful business sense, too
32-33 Cutting edge: Research engineer Nikki Hilton on her not-so boring job
34 How I work: Professor Sanju Velani, Head of Pure of Mathematics at the University of York, on his modus operandi
35 Stirling Moss: At last, a use for moss PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
NEWS Robot research boost EPSRC is co-investing £16 million with UK businesses in UK research to develop smart machines that think for themselves. Robotics research and the development of intelligent autonomous systems, such as unmanned aircraft, are vital to UK industry – from advanced manufacturing to oil and gas exploration, nuclear energy, healthcare and defence. The research includes self-navigating submarines to monitor dangerous deep sea installations such as nuclear power plants; ‘nursebots’ that assist patients in hospitals, and aerial vehicles that can monitor national borders or detect pollution.
£30 MILLION HEALTHCARE INVESTMENT
SEPSIS FIGHTING FUND
INDIA-UK ICT AGREEMENT
UK BANGLADESH AGREEMENT
NEW NUCLEAR PROJECT
CARBON CAPTURE INITIATIVE
NEW X-RAY FACILITY
India-UK ICT investment
The UK and India are co-investing £10 million in information and communication technology (ICT) research collaboration between the two countries. The investment will fund next-generation telecommunications networks, including platforms for voice, video and data in the future internet. The funding will focus on developing low-cost solutions for rural access to broadband, as well as applications for rural health monitoring, emergency and disaster communications, social TV, virtual classrooms and other services.
A state-of-the-art x-ray facility that will help engineers discover new sources of green power has been launched at Newcastle University. Funded by EPSRC, the facility houses the powerful XPS probe used to provide information about the physical, chemical and electrical properties of any surface at an atomic level. Operating at 10 trillionth of atmospheric pressure – similar to that experienced in space – the XPS can detect surface contamination at a nanoscale level and is used for the development of new technology such as thin-film solar cells, fuel cells, mobile phones, interactive computer games and cell-specific drug delivery.
Nuclear waste disposal £8m to fight sepsis
Scientists from UK universities have started work on five major research projects focusing on the scientific challenges associated with geological disposal of higher activity radioactive wastes. Their findings will ultimately help demonstrate the safety of an underground disposal facility.
EPSRC, the Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council are funding 12 new projects to improve the diagnosis, detection and management of sepsis. The total investment is £8 million, with a similar amount to be raised from the private companies involved in the projects.
EPSRC, DECC and the government of Bangladesh have signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby UK universities and institutes will partner with colleagues in Bangladesh on renewable energy and related technologies, policies and systems.
The four-year research programme is jointly funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate and EPSRC, which leads the RCUK Energy Programme.
Sepsis attacks the body’s immune system, causing life-threatening inflammation and illness. Technologies to be developed include a point-of-care device to detect pathogens, a rapid test to detect bacteria in blood, and biomarker-based devices to predict stages of infection and sepsis.
Marine test facility EPSRC is co-investing £9.5 million with the University of Edinburgh in a marine energy test facility. The facility will be able to simulate combinations of waves of up to 28 metres high and currents up to twelve knots at up to one-tenth scale – conditions currently unavailable to device developers and engineers. The facility has a working area of 15-17 metres and a depth of two metres, and will be able to mimic the normal and extreme conditions of coastlines around Europe. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
£13 million for CCS EPSRC and the Department of Energy and Climate Change are co-investing £13 million in a UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre. This forms part of the RCUK Energy Programme, led by EPSRC.
£30 million for healthcare research
New EPSRC chairman
EPSRC and The Wellcome Trust are coinvesting £30 million to find biomedical engineering solutions to challenging healthcare problems.
Dr Paul Golby is the new chair of EPSRC. A former chairman and chief executive of E.ON UK, Dr Golby is chairman of Engineering UK, and also chair of council and pro-chancellor of Aston University. His broad range of academic and business experience will be invaluable to EPSRC. He replaces Sir John Armitt, who completed his five-year spell as chairman in April 2012.
The initiative builds on the success of a £45 million capacity building initiative from the two funders to support four multidisciplinary centres of excellence in medical engineering around the UK.
ECO-WEBSITE LASER’S COUSIN WINS REVIVED AWARD ULTRASONIC TINY DIAMONDS DRILL FOR FOR CLEANER MARS MISSION CLOTHES TAXIING PLANES GENERATE THEIR OWN ENERGY
Meet the maser
Tough diamonds Ninety per cent of the electricity required to wash one load of washing goes to heating the water. If it were possible to find a way to wash clothes at low temperatures, the effect on global energy consumption would be significant. It could also make a huge difference to families in the developing world with limited access to hot water systems. Step forward EPSRC-funded chemists at the University of Warwick and Aston University, working with EPSRC Strategic Partner Procter & Gamble, who have developed the potential use of nanodiamonds in low temperature washing.
Pioneering research by EPSRC-sponsored scientists has revived the fortunes of the MASER, a cousin of the ubiquitous laser, first developed nearly 60 years ago. Despite predating the laser by five years, the maser has had little technological impact – primarily because it was inconvenient to use. Masers, which use concentrated beams of microwaves rather than intense beams of light, require high magnetic fields and sub-zero conditions to work. And so they were left out in the cold, only able to operate at temperatures close to absolute zero, that’s -273°C – the same temperature as interstellar space. The researchers, from Imperial College London, led by Professor Neil Alford, and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), have demonstrated new technology that makes it possible for the maser to function at room temperature, and without the need for an external magnet. The breakthrough means PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
the cost to manufacture and operate masers could be dramatically reduced. This paves the way for their widespread adoption. Potential applications for the maser (Microwave Amplification Stimulated Emission of Radiation) include more sensitive medical scanners; chemical sensors for remotely detecting explosives; advanced quantum computer components; and better radio astronomy devices for potentially detecting life on other planets. Professor Alford says: “When lasers were invented no one knew exactly how they would be used; yet they are now ubiquitous. There’s a long way to go before the maser reaches that level, but our breakthrough does mean this technology can start becoming more useful.”
Adding pieces of carbon less than ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair to the wash helped loosen crystallized fat from surfaces. This in turn meant that stubborn stains could be removed without having to wash laundry at between 60 and 90 degrees. The research is led by Dr Andrew Marsh. He says: “We found that the five nanometre diamonds changed the way detergents behaved at 25 degrees centigrade, doubling the amount of fat removed when using one particular commercial detergent molecule. “Even at temperatures as low as 15 degrees centigrade, otherwise hard-to-remove fat could be solubilised from a test surface.”
The research was funded by EPSRC and, at NPL, through the UK’s National Measurement Office. Image courtesy NPL.
briefings Hot in the city EPSRC-funded scientists at the University of Sheffield are working on a project that uses heat generated by the many steel plants located just outside the city centre to help provide a green alternative to heating the city’s homes and businesses, alongside other renewable energy sources. The experts believe the steel plants could be connected to Sheffield’s district heating network, to provide an extra 20 megawatt of thermal energy, enough to heat around 2,000 homes. The researchers used digital mapping software to identify areas of high energy demand against potential new energy sources, such as the steel works and a new biomass plant currently under construction on the site of a former coal-fired power station. This enabled them to assess where expansion of the network would be most advantageous. Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research, says the team’s analysis “could be mirrored across other UK cities.” The project was funded by EPSRC as part of the RCUK Energy Programme.
LIVING MICROBOT FOR FUTURE HEALTHCARE STEEL CITY TURNS UP THE HEAT FANTASY FOOTBALL SOFTWARE
The ‘living’ micro-robot The aim is for Cyberplasm to have an electronic nervous system, ‘eye’ and ‘nose’ sensors derived from mammalian cells, as well as artificial muscles that use glucose as an energy source to propel it.
Scientists are developing a tiny prototype robot that functions like a living creature that one day could be safely used to pinpoint diseases within the human body. Called Cyberplasm, the robot will combine advanced microelectronics with the latest research in biomimicry (technology inspired by nature), and will mimic key functions of the sea lamprey (pictured), a creature found mainly in the Atlantic Ocean.
The robot will respond to light and chemicals in the same way as biological systems. Future uses could include the ability to swim unobtrusively through the human body to detect diseases. Supported by EPSRC and the US National Science Foundation, the UKbased work is taking place at Newcastle University. The project originated from a sandpit (idea-gathering workshop) on synthetic biology jointly funded by the two organisations.
On the ball A team of EPSRC-supported academics from the University of Southampton are taking on the rest of the English Fantasy Football League in this season’s Barclays Premier League. The team have developed a computergenerated soccer manager that in tests has ranked in the top one per cent of the 2.5 million players in the Barclays Premier League Fantasy Football League rankings. In many real-world situations, people of varying abilities or characteristics need to be teamed up in order to achieve a common objective – such as maximising rewards or reducing inefficiencies. Forming the best possible team is often a lengthy process. The software will help make this process more swift and more accurate.
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) software developed by the researchers uses an extensive series of algorithms to analyse real-life footballers’ performances and statistics before picking its football team each week. The software was a runaway success in preseason training, ranking in the top 500 out of 2.5 million players. The team are currently working on a web application that will allow players to get advice from the artificial manager and to play against it.
Fantasy football competitions involve imaginary teams which the participants own, manage or coach. The games are based on statistics generated by actual players or teams – in this case from the Barclays Premier League. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
ECO-WEBSITE LASER’S COUSIN WINS REVIVED AWARD ULTRASONIC TINY DIAMONDS DRILL FOR FOR CLEANER MARS MISSION CLOTHES TAXIING PLANES GENERATE THEIR OWN ENERGY
Mars rocks Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed state-of-the-art ultrasonic drilling technology which could be used to help look for signs of life on Mars. Working in collaboration with space technology company, Magna Parva, the EPSRC-supported team developed a space compatible system that uses high frequency vibrations to pulverise the rock it comes into contact with. The technology has a host of potential applications.
A web site that explodes myths about climate change has won a major global award for an EPSRC-funded team from the University of Southampton. Globe-Town.org won third prize in the first international Apps for Climate competition, held by the World Bank, presented at a ceremony in Washington DC. Globe-Town.org is an easy-to-use interactive web application packed with facts, figures and tools through which users can learn about a country’s environment, society and economy, and helps them understand the challenges and opportunities the country faces in a changing world. By connecting the global with the local, the web site helps users explore the connections between countries through relationships such as trade, migration or air travel. Stories can then emerge of how climate risks can be transmitted between distant countries. The application was conceived by Jack Townsend and colleagues at the EPSRC Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Southampton. It was funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme which is led by EPSRC.
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Co-lead researcher Dr Patrick Harkness, a lecturer in the School of Engineering, says: “Unlike normal rotary drills, our ultrasonic drill tool doesn’t produce much heat – meaning that biological material and life markers will not be damaged. “Because the drill does not require much downwards force, it is ideal for use in low gravity environments such as Mars or on asteroids. One of the main features of the technique is that it cuts very well through hard surfaces but is much less effective on soft surfaces. This could make it an ideal
method for surgeons to cut through bone without affecting the soft tissue around it.” Dr Harkness and his colleague, Chris Murray, secured funding for the project from the University’s EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account. The team successfully participated in field trials in Tenerife (pictured) where their technology was integrated with Astrium’s exploratory space rover in the running for a joint NASA/European Space Agency mission to Mars, scheduled for 2018.
Wheel deal An EPSRC-sponsored team from the University of Lincoln have shown how tomorrow’s aircraft could self-contribute to their power needs by harnessing energy from the wheel rotation of their landing gear. The feasibility project showed how electricity generated by the rotating wheels could power the aircraft’s taxiing to and from airport buildings, reducing the need to use their jet engines. This would save on aviation fuel, cut emissions and reduce noise pollution at airports. “Taxiing is a highly fuel-inefficient part of any trip by plane,” says Professor Paul Stewart, who led the research. The energy produced by a plane’s braking system during landing – currently wasted as
heat produced by friction in the aircraft’s disc brakes – would be captured and converted into electricity by motor-generators built into the landing gear.
UK-CHINA ENERGY INSTITUTE CREATING WEALTH OUT OF WASTE
Energy international Energy storage research co-developed by EPSRC-supported researchers at the University of Leeds, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Science, and commercial partners has led to the creation of a joint international research institute with over 45 researchers working on over 20 projects. The formation of the institute, which will focus on next generation energy storage systems, follows the project’s runaway success at The Engineer magazine’s Technology and Innovation Awards, winning both its category and the grand prize for ‘best in show’. In the initial project, the Leeds team, funded under the EPSRC-led RCUK Energy Programme, working with commercial partner, Highview Power Storage and Chinese colleagues, co-designed and labtested a novel cryogenic energy storage
system that stores off-peak energy, using liquefied air as the storage medium. The system uses established technology, can be built anywhere, and can easily be scaledup. A pilot facility near Slough (pictured) has been providing electricity to the National Grid since April 2010. The 300-kilowatt plant can meet the power needs of several hundred houses for up to eight hours. The joint research institute is funded by EPSRC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Using pioneering combined heat and power Natural Science Foundation of China, the systems such as this, one day homes could Chinese government, Highview Power have their own domestic electrical energy Storage Ltd (UK), BaoSteel (China) and storage system, providing heating, power, AnSteel (China). refrigeration and air conditioning.
Wealth out of waste Stuart says: “More and more, science is moving towards multidisciplinary working, and because we can’t be experts in everything, we absolutely need to be able and willing to work with other people who do have the expertise. The new EPSRC Early Career Manufacturing Forum is bringing together people from different disciplines to do just that.
on the EPSRC-funded Wealth Out Of Waste programme, developing products from plant waste using bacteria and fungi.
Dr Stuart Coles (pictured above), Assistant Professor in Materials and Manufacturing at the University of Warwick, is one of 20 promising academics chosen to join EPSRC’s new Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research.
“I’m really looking forward to problemsolving with the group and think the forum will be a good opportunity for early career researchers to get new science going and to raise their profile in the research community.”
The refinery part of the programme is particularly targeted at yielding higher value aromatic chemicals for products to be used for pharmaceuticals, polymers and lubricants. Dr Coles says: “We know the science is good. Now it’s time to scale up the work and make it economically viable. We’ve had interest from quite a few companies and we are now going to create a more coherent research programme to take the work forward.”
He hopes that joining the forum will help him build on his work to make useful products out of waste.
Dr Coles’ work is focused on sustainable manufacturing and environmental waste processing. Since 2008 he’s been working
You can read more about the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research on pages 18-19.
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EARLY STAGE CAREER RESEARCH
Jack be nimble Fusion energy scientist, Jack Snape, an EPSRC-supported PhD student at the University of York, has had a busy year. Jack says: “It has been really hectic – but lots of fun.” There’s no doubting the man’s workload, but what really sets him out is the diversity of projects and initiatives he’s been part of. Take his three-month secondment at the House of Commons Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). Jack says: “As part of the secondment, which was sponsored by the Institute of Physics, I wrote a briefing document for Parliamentarians about the business benefits and opportunities of advanced manufacturing, which includes things like additive manufacturing – a really interesting area. In time it could reduce dependency on mass manufacturing. “Applications for POST secondments are open to all EPSRC-sponsored PhD students. I would recommend the experience to anyone.” Then there’s Jack’s work at the Mega-Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxford. Jack says: “Fusion energy powers the stars and hopefully it will power our lives in the future. One kilogram of fusion fuel can provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel, without running the risk of nuclear meltdown. “It’s great to work at MAST. The team there
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have so much expertise, and were a big help to me in my work on ‘magnetic islands’ – structures that can form when a plasma is heated to amazingly high temperatures of about 10 million degrees, which is something MAST is very good at. It’s a great facility.” If that weren’t enough, this year Jack also won I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!, an online X Factor-style competition where school students get to meet and interact with scientists – and where the students are the judges. Jack says: “I was bombarded with really great questions from secondary school pupils every day for two weeks, and somehow managed to avoid the daily eviction. I hope I managed to inspire some future fusion scientists. “With the £500 winnings I’m hoping to build a portable plasma device for the Plasma Institute at the University of York, to help bring our work to life when we go out to talk to schools.” It doesn’t stop there. Currently back at York, writing up his PhD, Jack will be ending his year with a change of career direction. Jack says: “I’ve decided to take a break in my research and take a job at Westminster as part of the Civil Service fast track scheme for graduates. I’d really like to work on energy policy. Maybe one day my knowledge of fusion energy will come in handy.”
EARLY STAGE CAREER RESEARCH
Field report Jon Sumanik-Leary, a PhD student at the Centre for Doctoral Training in E-Futures at the University of Sheffield, provides a snapshot from research in Peru. Jon says: “Wind turbines can be used to provide electricity to remote communities in the developing world, but are they always the most sustainable solution?
This photo illustrates the problem perfectly – a wind turbine manufactured locally and installed at a school in an Andean community at around 3,500 metres above sea level. I am holding a broken blade that flew off of the turbine, in part due to a design flaw, but also due to a lack of maintenance.
My research, sponsored by EPSRC, focuses on seeing a wind turbine installed in a community as a sociotechnical system where issues such as who performs maintenance and how a service network is set up are seen as important as the technology itself. The electricity produced by wind turbines can be used to refrigerate vaccines at a health post, provide light for evening classes at a school or allow somebody to start a business charging mobile phones. However, if the wind turbine is out of service for a significant period of time, the vaccines will go off, the evening classes will be cancelled and the business will go bust. In Peru I worked with two nongovernmental organisations, WindAid and Soluciones Prácticas, to track what had happened to the wind turbines they had built after they had been installed; find out what had broken, why, and how long the machine had been down for. One of the key issues emerging from the study was the need to transfer knowledge to the recipient community, not just technology. By definition, remote places are difficult to access, and therefore the importance of training community members on the operation and maintenance of their new wind power system becomes even more important.”
Jon is co-inventor of a mobile bicyclepowered water pump that is widely in use in South America. The machine is now in regular production in Guatemala and at least six more models have been made since his departure from the country. The project was part of his dissertation, which required him to ‘make something useful out of rubbish’.
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THE ART OF SCIE
When it comes to art, many of us know what we like, even if we canâ€™t explain why. So what about the painting you see before you? Turn the page to find out what makes it so special. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
THE ART OF SCIENCE
EPSRC Leadership Fellow Dr Simon Colton (pictured left) takes his teaching responsibilities very seriously, and is encouraging one particularly gifted student to develop a mind of his own. Literally. The student is a computer, named The Painting Fool, which Dr Colton has programmed to recognise human emotions and create original paintings, in a variety of styles, inspired by what it sees. The hope is that one day The Painting Fool will be taken seriously as an artist in its own right. Some might say this is no more than painting by numbers – after all, everything a computer does is based on binary code: ones and zeroes. But one look at the art produced by The Painting Fool suggests it is considerably more than the sum of its parts. But is it art? Dr Colton’s work combines cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) methods and multimedia graphics with, crucially, the cognitive PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
aspects of the painting process. It goes to the heart of the age-old philosophical question of whether machines can think independently and be truly creative. The beauty of The Painting Fool is its unpredictability. Simon says: “We’re addressing the false assumption that software simply does what it is told. With our project, quite the opposite has been true. I have always programmed The Painting Fool to do things I would never have expected. I would expect nothing less of any creative soul.” Practical philosophy Dr Colton, a reader in computational creativity at Imperial College London, has highlighted the philosophical issues thrown up by The Painting Fool in a series of practical ways. For example, he addressed the issue of autonomy and intentionality by enabling The Painting Fool to paint collages based on newspaper articles. So, after reading a Guardian article on the war in Afghanistan, The Painting Fool produced a collage of an aeroplane, an explosion next to a baby and
its mother, a girl in regional headgear and a field of war graves. The Painting Fool’s work has been exhibited in real and online galleries, and has also been published in technical papers about artificial intelligence, machine vision and computer graphics techniques. The human touch Simon says: “The biggest challenge right now is addressing the software’s ‘lack’ of humanity, when so much of art is a celebration of humanity.” He takes the view that we should simply accept this inevitability and instead celebrate its difference. To this end, he argues: “We will be encouraging creativity in new ways, making more of human creativity, not less.” World Technology Arts Awards Simon Colton’s work in artificial intelligence has been nominated for a prestigious World Technology Arts Award. As Pioneer went to press, we had yet to learn if he had won the award. If he does win, no doubt The Painting Fool will be painting the town Pantone 485. www.thepaintingfool.com
Dr Simon Colton, EPSRC Leadership Fellow Dr Simon Colton is Reader in Computational Creativity at Imperial College London where he is developing new artificial intelligence techniques to explore the possibilities of developing a computer’s capacity for creativity.
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In October 2011, Simon was awarded an EPSRC Leadership Fellowship. The five-year fellowship recognises Simon’s talent and potential to develop into an international research leader. Simon was one of 13 outstanding UK researchers to receive a Leadership Fellowship.
Dr Mark Claydon-Smith (pictured), EPSRC’s Head of Manufacturing, explains EPSRC’s investment strategy for advanced manufacturing; describes how underpinning research is hard-wired to product development and defines EPSRC’s position as the research council for manufacturing – pioneering new industries, creating new jobs, investing in UK growth.
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Location photography courtesy of STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway
EPSRC is the research council for manufacturing
MARK SAYS: “Manufacturing is at the heart of EPSRC’s research and training portfolio. We are, implicitly and explicitly, the research council for manufacturing. From chemists to mathematicians, physicists to engineers, the men and women we sponsor provide the underpinning science needed to help drive competitive innovation in highvalue manufacturing in sectors such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, sustainable energy and healthcare. If you take mathematics, for example, you’ll find it permeates all aspects of manufacturing – from measuring the size of a microscopic surface feature, to the computer analysis that will show how an aircraft will perform in flight. The challenges faced by UK manufacturing are considerable; the declining balance of trade and the crisis in the eurozone are just two examples. But there are upsides, too. We should not forget that UK manufacturing comprises 13 per cent of GDP – around £150 billion – and
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employs 3 million people. It also accounts for 56 per cent of UK exports and 75 per cent of business research and development. It’s our job to build on this platform, and to provide the manufacturing research that helps shift the UK towards a resourceefficient, low-carbon economy, while building the high-value skills required in global markets. EPSRC’s portfolio of manufacturing investments meets these challenges and opportunities head-on, and is reflected in our current four-year plan, through which we are investing £80 million annually in over 2,500 manufacturing research projects, supporting more than 2,700 PhD students and involving collaboration with more than 2,000 companies. This strategic investment, through our Manufacturing the Future challenge theme, is not a hurried reaction to the economic downturn; rather it is a measured programme developed to harness and complement the UK’s considerable manufacturing strengths – while focusing
on the creation of new technology, new industry, and new jobs. This balanced approach enables us to support research in key manufacturing sectors such as low carbon industry, nuclear energy and aerospace, while staying at the forefront of a new wave of exciting research into frontier manufacturing, in areas such as regenerative medicine, graphene engineering and green catalysis. EPSRC is uniquely placed to accelerate research and foster the development of emerging scientific breakthroughs, and has provided underpinning support for some of the most exciting advances in 21st century science and engineering, with enormous potential for global manufacturing. Take green chemistry, for example, which is destined to play a pivotal role in the generation of clean fuels, like hydrogen, and in the development of more efficient and renewable raw materials for manufacturing processes and products. The driving force behind this work comes from visionary chemists, working in the
lab and in the field, in collaboration with international academic research groups and through partnerships with business and other investors.
EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing are the beating heart of a UK-wide network, acting as focal points for their respective research communities and encouraging more collaborations and knowledge transfer between universities and business.
EPSRC is playing its part in this success story. In addition to our research and training investments in this field, we are in the process of setting up a major catalysis hub, bringing together world-leading experts from universities, industry and other sectors to jointly tackle challenges and share opportunities.
Furthermore, these EPSRC Centres are a key component of our commitment to ‘cohort-based’ centres of excellence, bringing together the best minds of their generation to concentrate on specific realworld issues.
Another example of world-leading EPSRCsupported research is graphene, a ‘wonder material’ 200 times stronger than steel and an astonishingly efficient conductor of electricity. EPSRC provided the pivotal funding for the 2004 ‘discovery’ of graphene, which has numerous potentially revolutionary applications. We continue to support the Nobel Prizewinning research of the two materials scientists, Professor Sir André Geim and Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov, responsible for the breakthrough.
This concept reaches across our research and training portfolio, and is anchored in our approach to the training of doctoral students, which is all about nurturing the research leaders of tomorrow, individuals vital for future UK growth. markets across the globe, incurring fuelmiles, pollution and other costs. They will be made locally. 3D printing will soon be possible in the home. Need a spare part for something? Simply scan the original and print it yourself.
Earlier this year, we committed a further £20 million investment in graphene-linked manufacturing processes and technologies that will accelerate the development of new devices, applications, technologies and systems.
I should add that one of the basic technologies behind additive manufacturing is the ability to control light and energy in sophisticated ways – techniques made possible by underpinning research in the physical sciences.
But we aren’t just looking at future manufacturing materials and processes, we are investing in research that turns the traditional concept of manufacturing on its head. A prime example of this revolution in advanced technologies is additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing.
To accelerate development of new technologies and processes such as additive manufacturing, we have invested in 12 EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing.
As the name implies, additive manufacturing makes things by building them layer-by-layer – like a 3D inkjet printer – using computergenerated images as its blueprint. In the future, thanks to additive manufacturing, many products won’t have to be made in a centralised factory, and then shipped to PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
The Centres are our flagship investments, co-developed with industry. Rooted in high technology, strong fundamental science and engineering, they focus on emergent market opportunities in promising research areas such as liquid metal engineering; intelligent automation; regenerative medicine; industrial sustainability – and, of course, additive manufacturing.
There are now 80 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs). These centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues and the challenges of the future economy. Of particular relevance to the manufacturing sector are Industrial Doctorate Centres (IDCs), a variant of the CDT, which provide an industry-focused alternative to the traditional PhD for research engineers. Students at Industrial Doctorate Centres spend around 75 per cent of their time working directly with the collaborating company. In addition to training in future technologies, students receive guidance on entrepreneurship and training in business skills. (see page 22). We co-funded with industry five new Industrial Doctorate Centres, covering key sectors vital to UK growth, such as aerospace and the automotive industry. Four of these centres are directly aligned to the new High Value Manufacturing Catapult, recently established by the Technology Strategy Board.
The overriding strand that runs through our work in skills and leadership is to recruit and retain people who have equal credibility within a research environment as they do in an industrial one. As part of this commitment we have introduced EPSRC Manufacturing Fellowships, specifically focused on supporting exceptional engineers and technology specialists from business who are able to lead major university research programmes with real commercial potential. We have already appointed four Manufacturing Fellows, and more will follow. One of the observations of a review we conducted with international figures in manufacturing was that the UK system is such that British academics tend to be on a linear career path, moving from PhD to post-doctoral researcher to an academic job… This is partly the reasoning behind the Fellowships – we need people who can look both ways. We apply the same criteria when recruiting people to run EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing. People comfortable in academia but who have connections and relationships with companies. Increasingly we are looking to these people to represent the research community, and advise government on its developing industrial and innovation strategy. EPSRC is unique in supporting basic manufacturing research through to the stage where applications can be developed by companies or agencies such as the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). An important part of our collaboration with the TSB is a new High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which will play a key role in furthering to bridge the gap between universities and businesses, taking research to the next stage of the innovation chain, and helping to commercialise the outputs of Britain’s world-class research base. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
The Catapult will allow businesses to access equipment and expertise that would otherwise be out of reach, and conduct their own in-house R&D. Many of our leading researchers and centres are actively working with the new Catapult. In particular, we see opportunities for frontier manufacturing – progressing emerging scientific fields in chemistry, physics, mathematics and the life sciences, which have the potential for a transformative impact on manufacturing over the next 10-20 years. All grounded in basic research disciplines.”
We are recruiting and retaining people who have equal academic and industrial credibility.
Manufacturing the future EPSRC is investing around £80 million annually over a four-year period in over 2,500 manufacturing research projects, supporting more than 2,700 PhD students and involving collaboration with more than 2,000 companies. EPSRC’s Manufacturing the Future challenge theme promotes a more productive dialogue between the UK’s world-leading manufacturing research base and industry partners, to ensure innovative manufacturing businesses play a significant role in shaping research and taking forward its outputs and outcomes. Manufacturing the Future seeks to create, capture and accelerate the impacts of ground-breaking research for the benefit of the UK economy.
We do this through a focus on four key priorities, around which we base our research and training investments: • Innovative Production Processes: Transformative processes and technologies for advanced and emergent manufacturing industries • Manufacturing Informatics: Novel ICT and computer science applied to manufacturing processes and systems • Sustainable Industrial Systems: Technologies and operations to reduce usage of material, water and energy resource by manufacturing industries • Frontier Manufacturing: Translating new scientific insights into manufacturing processes and systems
Movers & shakers From 3D concrete printing to racing car components made out of flax, EPSRC-sponsored scientists and engineers are at the heart of a new wave of manufacturing research. Here’s a snapshot of current projects.
Turbo power A consortium of EPSRC-sponsored universities and commercial partners is engaged in a four-year project focusing on lowering CO2 emissions from aircraft. The project builds upon the expertise of the UK’s world-leading groups in fibrelasers, gas-detection opto-electronics, chemical species tomography, and x-ray microtomography. It also harnesses the UK’s industrial strengths in aero-engine manufacture and aviation fuel technology. The University of Manchester is leading the project, which involves the universities of Southampton and Strathclyde and commercial partners including Rolls-Royce, Shell, Covesion, Fianium and OptoSci. It is the first time researchers have used turbine emissions data to determine the condition and behaviour of internal engine components. The researchers are using advanced 3D imaging to produce the firstever images of the distribution of chemical ‘species’ in aero-engine exhaust plumes. The exhaust plume mapping is helping the Southampton researchers to optimise the combustion process and usher in the possibility for substitution of fossil fuels with biofuels. New spectroscopic technology, developed at the University of Strathclyde, is helping the researchers to measure gas concentration and temperatures.
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The project, led by Manchester’s Professor Hugh McCann, is expected to bring about advances in turbine engineering, turbine combustion, and fuel formulation; and accelerate development of low-carbon, bio-derived fuels.
Forum for the future EPSRC’s Manufacturing the Future (MtF) theme has launched an Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research, with an initial membership comprising 20 promising early career academics, all of whom have ambitions to shape the future UK manufacturing research agenda. Dr Derek Gillespie, MtF portfolio manager, says: “We hope the forum will help members grow their professional network to include academics from a diverse range of research fields, representatives of UK manufacturing industries, and a range of relevant policy and decision-makers.” Forum membership was determined after an open application and peer review process, which saw almost 70 applicants whittled down to the final list of 20. In response to the high levels of interest, EPSRC will look to refresh and renew the membership in around two years’ time.
Car’s the star An EPSRC-sponsored team at the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick are working with Lola and Drayson Racing Technologies to produce recycled composites for the LolaDrayson all-electric prototype racing car. Dr James Meredith, Research Fellow at WMG, worked closely with Umeco and Lola engineers to develop flax-reinforced composites for the project. Flax fibres have similar mechanical properties to glass fibres, but have much lower weight and environmental impact. They also have
extremely good vibration damping and insulating characteristics. Lola Cars’ Sam Smith says: “The consortium involved in this project has shown that cutting-edge technology and responsible material design can go hand in hand and create a sound basis for future generations of engineers.”
York team wins THE award An EPSRC-sponsored team of computer scientists at the University of York has won Outstanding Engineering Research Team of the Year in the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards. The work of York’s Advanced Computer Architectures (ACA) group, part of the University’s Department of Computer Science, is based on ideas of how the brain works. The team has successfully developed a breakthrough technology – AURA – which mimics the brain’s ability to make sense of massive amounts of data. In addition to working with Rolls-Royce on aero engines, the York team shared its expertise with the Department for Transport, which is using AURA to improve management of the UK road system. The team has also set up a spin-out company, Cybula Ltd, to further develop the application of its work in areas including power generation, wind energy systems and medicine. The group is led by Professor Jim Austin. He says: “We have benefitted from a consistent and talented team over the last 10 years, supported through EPSRC and Technology Strategy Board grants. This has allowed us to build the deep expertise needed to solve the hard problems industry faces.”
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Super-light lift-off EPSRC-sponsored scientists at the University of Manchester are developing super-light materials vital to the future of the UK’s automobile and aviation industries. The five-and-a-half-year project, which has received £3 million in promised support from industry, is investigating techniques to safely use combinations of lightweight materials in aircraft and cars. Around six new research posts are being created as part of the project, which is also expected to include input from as many as 20 PhD students. Industry partners include Airbus UK, Jaguar Land Rover, Magnesium Elektron and Rolls-Royce plc.
Top dogs The EPSRC-sponsored Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield has deepened its relationship with the Bloodhound SSC project to help break the land speed record, and encourage a new generation of engineers. Bloodhound SSC, which has received long-term sponsorship from EPSRC, is an ambitious UK effort to regain the world land speed record in a purpose-built car capable of reaching over 1,000 miles per hour. Bloodhound is powered by two propulsion sources – a hybrid rocket and a Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft jet engine. A Cosworth Formula 1 engine pumps fuel to the rocket and provides power to the car’s electrical and hydraulic systems. The AMRC Advanced Structural Testing Centre, led by Phil Spiers, has already helped with spin testing of the car’s carbon brake discs and measuring friction in the front suspension joints. It is now producing
a number of key parts, including gearbox components for the Cosworth auxiliary power unit. The AMRC group of centres will produce other components, potentially including the car’s rear sub-frame – a complex task which will require the large-scale machining capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC and the specialist services of member companies. It is also supporting the manufacture, test and calibration of vital components for the UK rocket test. Project leader, Sir Richard Noble, has described the facilities and resources at the AMRC as “truly world class and need to be seen to be believed”.
Concrete proof A revolutionary technique being developed by EPSRC-sponsored scientists at Loughborough University could free architects from the restraints of current construction methods. Conventionally, concrete is poured into temporary formwork – an efficient method of moulding if the shapes are straight, simple and the variations minimised. Introduce curves and complexity, however, and the expense rapidly increases. In the Freeform Construction project, a special type of concrete is deposited very precisely under computer control, layer by layer, from a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) model. Using this technology, very complex sections of buildings can be created without the high cost penalties associated with traditional methods. Because each piece is tailor-made, there is virtually no waste, with endless possibilities. The research team, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin, has obtained technology-transfer funding from EPSRC to commercialise the process, in a collaboration with industry.
Made to measure Professor Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang, director of EPSRC’s Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology at the University of Huddersfield, describes her work, her motivations and her hopes for smarter manufacturing in the future. What has influenced your career path? My primary influence is scientific curiosity about the surrounding environment. I love mathematics and physics and consider them the basic languages for science. The second influence is my family. Their wisdom, virtues, philosophies, deeds and history are a constant source of inspiration. Last, but not least, my apprenticeship in engineering, followed by 20 years of industrial experience, gave me a sound understanding of the practical world of engineering. How important is advanced metrology to solving future manufacturing challenges? Very. No measurement, no manufacturing! Loosely defined, metrology is the science of measurement and application. Humans measure practically everything we encounter – the distance between two points, the amount of fuel in a tank, the speed of a vehicle, the height of a wall. It is only through metrology that future manufacturing challenges can be quantified and controlled – for example, by making something as efficiently as possible, with the least amount of waste, and to exacting tolerances. What work are you and your team engaged in at present? Our overall mission is the creation of nextgeneration advanced metrology techniques and instruments, and new mathematicsbased metrology technology essential for present and future high value manufacturing. We are developing optical interferometry with super-fast measuring speeds of up to 10 kilohertz, to be used in production lines with the same level of accuracy as state-ofthe-art lab-based systems. A major challenge is creating and PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
developing a ‘factory on the machine’, linking measurement and production to minimise costs and allow ever-increasing complexity and quality in manufacturing. Have you had any ‘eureka’ moments? Yes, it was at the breakfast table, as sunlight was shining through an empty glass. When the glass was rotated, the direction of the beam never changed. I realised that the direction of a reflected beam from a rotated sphere or cylinder would never change. Consequently, I invented the cylindrical grating interferometer. This method, developed as part of my PhD, has become the standard measurement technology, dominating the aerospace, aircraft, automotive and other hi-tech sectors for more than 20 years. What do you consider your greatest professional achievements? Creating the cylindrical grating interferometer is something I’m proud of, especially as it has proved so beneficial to so many industrial sectors. In the early 2000s, I founded an optical research laboratory in order to explore new optical measurement technologies. To make the most of the £6,000 funding, many of the instruments were bought on eBay. This research has now blossomed; it coincides with the requirements for future UK manufacturing and has become a core part of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology. Your career record in academia and industry speaks for itself. How important is it to have experience of both? I think my academic work benefits from my industrial experience. Many of the team
have a similar industrial background – this is a real strength of the EPSRC Centre at Huddersfield. What advances in science and technology would you like to see – or would you like to have been part of? Low carbon, cheap and efficient energy generation, possibly based on nuclear fusion, is something that I am very interested in. I was also fascinated by the Apollo Moon landings in the 1960s and 70s and would have loved to have been part of the NASA team. What has been your best professional decision? To move from industry to academia. It was a very hard decision, since the work philosophy in academia is different from that in industry. However, the benefits from this transition stem from a first-hand knowledge of the real challenges in manufacturing and the necessary understanding to address and solve them. What would be your advice to those considering a career in metrology? Metrology is interdisciplinary in nature and an exciting and underpinning subject; from atoms to aerospace, principle to practice and science to standardisation. It is a fundamental basis for physics, engineering and mathematics and therefore an excellent starting point. A piece of advice would be to focus on a particular solution initially and then try to relate it to a universal requirement. If you hadn’t become an academic, what would you be doing now? I would be a choreographer; while different in many ways from my chosen career, the
Professor Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang Jane began her manufacturing career at 15, working as an assembly worker in a car factory in her native China. For 20 years she took night school classes to become proficient in engineering, mathematics and science. In 1990 she enrolled at university as an MSc student. Jane finished her PhD in measurement science at the age of 40, and moved to Britain in 1995 to work as a research scientist at the University of Birmingham and later the University of Huddersfield. She was awarded a Chair in 2003. In 2011 Jane became director of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology at the University of Huddersfield. Jane holds Fellowships with the Institute of Engineering Technology, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Production Engineering. In 2006 she received the Outstanding Asian Woman of Achievement Award.
process of visualisation and creation to describe the nature of our surroundings is quite similar. I was an amateur choreographer in my twenties. Who would be your ideal dinner guests? Carl Friedrich Gauss and Beethoven. The impact and longevity of their 19th century creations (number theory and the symphony) will live forever. However, as I can’t speak 19th century German having them as dinner guests might be a bit of a challenge for me. What are your main interests outside science? I very much enjoy listening to music: in particular, classical music, opera, and ballet. I also enjoy poetry and, if I had the time, I would like to write poetry and perhaps even novels. One regret: That my academic career did not start 10 years earlier. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology
EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing
This EPSRC Centre is focused on the creation and development of the ‘factory on the machine’, linking measurement and production in a unique way to minimise cost and allow ever-increasing complexity and quality in manufacturing.
EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing are the flagship investments of the Manufacturing the Future theme, covering fields as diverse as regenerative medicine, photonic fibres, composite materials and intelligent automated systems. Co-created between academic and industrial partners, they are national research centres that act as a focal point for their respective research communities.
Based at the University of Huddersfield, the EPSRC Centre has some of the best facilities of their kind in the world, including a modern surface nanometrology facility with high specification environmentally-controlled clean room and a modern and well-equipped machine tool research laboratory. The Centre also has access to the National Physical Laboratory’s Huddersfieldbased dimensional laboratory and an advanced optical laboratory.
Working alongside the Technology Strategy Board’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Centres are an integral part of the UK Government’s strategy to support high value manufacturing in the UK.
Moving on up Zoe McMahon, Hewlett Packard’s Director of Social & Environmental Sustainability and Compliance, based in California, reflects on her Engineering Doctorate at the University of Surrey-hosted EPSRC Industrial Doctorate Centre in Sustainability for Engineering & Energy Systems. Zoe says: “An Engineering Doctorate is like a four-year job interview. You are not guaranteed a job at the end, but by that time you could get a great job anywhere. Back in the 1990s, I had initially applied for a PhD at the University of Surrey, having graduated from Nottingham with a degree in Environmental Engineering and Resource Management. Then I found out about the new Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme being offered by the team that would become the EPSRC Industrial Doctorate Centre for Engineering and Sustainable Energy Systems at Surrey. I was very excited to hear about the EngD programme, because it was extremely relevant to my degree and would enable me to get a foot in the door of industry while at the same time advancing my academic qualifications. I applied and, following interview, was offered a project with Hewlett Packard (HP). It was absolutely the right time to be studying environmental topics. The subject was just emerging as a mainstream discipline. The EngD is very much a win-win for the sponsor company and the doctoral student (known as a Research Engineer) – combining real-time work and deliverables with a longer-term academic project. The applied learning that comes from an industry-based programme like this is invaluable. HP was forward thinking in its support for the programme, and could see the mutual benefits. Back in 1994, environmental issues and product stewardship were emerging themes, and my project focused on PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
the institutionalisation of environmental management at HP in the UK, and was essentially about creating culture change within the organisation. Even as long ago as this, HP wanted to put the focus on integrating environmental management into its mainstream business processes, rather than it being an add-on concept. Initially, as a member of the environment health and safety department at HP’s UK headquarters, I implemented environmental projects with various groups, creating green teams to look at everything from waste management to resource consumption and the responsible sourcing of goods. I wrote up each project as a case study, basing my methodology on ethnography or action research. This was desirable both for HP and from an academic perspective, because I was reflecting on how the project was going as I was doing it, getting an insider perspective. My project led to the offer of a job in HP’s regulatory department. I’ve been with the company ever since, and have held a variety of roles. My activities have ranged from the regulatory side to marketing, communications and sales enablement, all from an environmental perspective. As an external spokesperson for HP’s environmental activities in Europe, I communicated complex topics to customers, industry groups and the media. My Engineering Doctorate included modules in media handling, leadership skills, communication and risk management; and these proved invaluable for me at HP when dealing with the media and external parties.
During my time in Europe, I supervised five Research Engineers from the Surrey Industrial Doctorate Centre, and remain a firm advocate of the EngD programme. I think the current EngD on Sustainability for Engineering and Energy Systems is good because it builds on the foundation laid by earlier programmes. The key strength is that the programme has adapted really well and continues to be appropriate for today’s times. More than 10 years on, it is still very relevant. I decided to remain with HP, building on the skills that the Engineering Doctorate taught me and extending my scope as an expert on environmental management within this blue chip organisation. Today, as Director of Social & Environmental Sustainability and Compliance, based in California at HP’s global headquarters, my role has a global scope.
For the last 15 years I have been training to do what I do now. I continue to find the process of creating a culture of sensitivity to sustainability absolutely absorbing – and could easily write another version of my EngD project on the same subject. My Engineering Doctorate secured me a long and successful career in environmental sustainability with Hewlett Packard. Had I come in with a PhD, rather than an EngD, I might not have been given the same opportunities, because I wouldn’t have had the work experience.” Zoe McMahon is Hewlett Packard’s Director of Social & Environmental Sustainability and Compliance. She is responsible for driving the overall vision and strategy for HP’s environmental compliance, their work on conflict minerals and their Supply Chain responsibility program. She is responsible for end-to-end supplier
assessment, auditing and continuous improvement processes, capability-building programmes, and representing HP in forums with suppliers, NGOs, governments and other firms. Hewlett Packard is the world’s largest IT company, providing infrastructure and business offerings – from handheld devices to some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. HP offers consumers a wide range of services, from digital photography to digital entertainment, and from computing to home printing. In July 2012, EMERALD, the UK’s most powerful GPU-based supercomputer, entered into service at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Didcot. EMERALD is an HP-based system, funded by EPSRC, and will help researchers tackle a host of areas ranging from healthcare to astrophysics.
The applied learning that comes from an industry-based programme like the Engineering Doctorate is invaluable – it’s a win-win for the sponsor company and the doctoral student. Industrial Doctorate Centres (IDCs)
The Engineering Doctorate (EngD)
Sustainability for Engineering & Engineering Systems IDC
The Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme, originally created by the UK Research Councils in 1992, is four years in length and consists of a research element undertaken at the sponsor organisation and a taught element undertaken at the university.
The Sustainability for Engineering & Energy Systems (SEES) Industrial Doctorate Centre, is sponsored by EPSRC and hosted by the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environmental Strategy.
Industrial Doctorate Centres (IDCs) provide the same training environment as EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) but have a strong industrial focus, and offer an alternative to the traditional PhD for students who want a career in industry, where they spend 75 per cent of their time, working directly with industrial project sponsors.
Each doctoral student undertakes one or more significant and challenging engineering research projects within an industrial context.
IDCs focus on developing students to become future engineering leaders with the potential to shape and lead research teams with different disciplinary, professional and cultural backgrounds.
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The research element is unique to each project; the taught element consists of short courses, conferences, seminars and team events.
Established in 1993, SEES is an internationally-acclaimed centre of excellence in sustainable development, and has worked with over 60 sponsoring organisations, including Unilever, Sony, GlaxoSmithKline and the Health Protection Agency. It has also worked with over 200 Research Engineers since the launch of its EngD programme. SEES manages up to 48 Research Engineers at any one time, all of whom are based out in industry.
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EPSRC’s Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (IMRC) initiative has helped to tackle today’s economic challenges head-on. A 10-year collaboration between Heriot-Watt IMRC and industrial laser technology specialists Rofin-Sinar UK Ltd is a prime example –
ig projects generate big numbers. Take EPSRC’s IMRC initiative, set up in 2001 to provide a focus for EPSRC investment in manufacturing research. The 15-centre multi-partner project, based at universities throughout the UK, has forged a position at the heart of UK manufacturing innovation over the last decade.
laser products right across the world.
The IMRC initiative has 1,100 projects under its belt, co-created over 700 collaborations with industry and generated nearly 70 patents. After 10 highly productive years, it provides the bedrock for the new wave of EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing, and is destined to leave a long-lasting legacy.
Words: Barry Hague
But what about those at the coal face? Professor Denis Hall is living proof of the success of the IMRC project – combining academic nous with manufacturing muscle.
securing multi-million-pound exports of leading-edge
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Major collaborations Professor Hall has been a partner in the Heriot-Watt IMRC in Edinburgh, a multidisciplinary centre developing laser, laser processing and optical sensor technology, since its 2003 launch, and Centre Director since 2007. Over the past decade, Professor Hall has overseen numerous collaborations with industry and presided over cutting-edge research in the Centre’s main theme areas of digital tools; microsystems for manufacture and photonics-based manufacturing. Industrial collaborators include Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, and Renishaw plc, a world leader in specialist measuring equipment. Professor Hall is also a co-founding director of Rofin-Sinar UK Ltd, a pioneering developer and manufacturer of industrial lasers and laser-based machines. Rofin-Sinar UK can trace its lineage back through various incarnations, takeovers and alliances to a university/industry collaboration that grew out of underpinning work by Professor Hall’s group at Hull University, supported by SERC, EPSRC’s predecessor, in the late 1970s. The academic/industry partnership led to the formation of a successful spin-out company, and the rest is a fascinating 30-year history of mutual inspiration and cooperation, described by Professor Hall as: “a strong relationship, underpinning groundbreaking advances in laser technology that have evolved into whole families of successful industrial laser products”. Rofin-Sinar UK’s products, and those of its forbears, are now in daily use all over the world, including laser-based cutting, welding and drilling technologies and a wide range of product marking and heat treatment applications. Landmark products, co-developed with Professor Hall’s research groups at Hull and Heriot-Watt, include revolutionary planar waveguide CO2 lasers, now manufactured by major international companies for
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Right: Professor Denis Hall, with Research Associate Dr Krystian Wlodarczyk (far right), a former PhD student at Heriot-Watt IMRC, discussing experiments on pulsed laser micro-structuring of glass substrates.
applications in industry and medicine, and an industry-leading, low-cost, highspeed laser marking system designed for mainstream uses, including glass patterning, fabric decoration, and inscribing date codes on consumer products. Global sales of these products now exceed $1 billion. Dr Ken Lipton, Rofin-Sinar UK’s managing director, is a pivotal player in this story. He and his engineering colleagues have been part of the collaboration with Professor Hall’s research since the early days, back in Hull. Dr Lipton says: “The relationship between us has been so successful for so long because we have shared a consistently clear vision, turning leading-edge science into sustained commercial success. “The research undertaken by Professor Hall’s group at Heriot-Watt IMRC keeps up the momentum. Over the last 10 years, they have consistently made advances in laser technology, many of which have been commercialised by Rofin-Sinar UK.”
many years but the IMRC has provided critical continuity of support. “In the past, we might come up with a new concept but then have a six- to-ninemonth hiatus to secure funding to develop it. With the IMRC in place, we’ve been able to combine long-term thinking with the capacity to work on ground-breaking technology enhancements that have high near-term commercial value. For example, we’ve enabled growth in new manufacturing markets through laser enhancements such as pulse shaping, wavelength selection and power scaling so as to tailor the laser beam for specific applications. “We’ve also been able to keep core teams together and provide a strong industry-oriented research environment as well as direct manufacturing experience for our graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
The IMRC effect So what exactly has the Heriot-Watt IMRC initiative brought to the story?
“Overall, the IMRC has mentored over 120 researchers, with 70 per cent moving on to positions in manufacturing industry, including pretty well all leading global laser companies.”
“In a word, consistency,” Professor Hall says. “EPSRC funding previously underpinned our work at Heriot-Watt for
The IMRC has also enjoyed considerable success through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, such as one led by Professor
Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres (IMRCs) were established in 2001 to provide a focus for EPSRC investment in innovative manufacturing. The portfolio comprised 15 separate centres, each addressing a series of manufacturing challenges. focused on high power planar solid state lasers, high power diode laser optics and laser fabrication of micro-optics. This work, part of a general industrial orientation involving partnership in many industry/university collaborative research projects, continues to produce commercial laser products and industrial laser-based applications and systems.
Sharp-end science The planar waveguide laser technology co-developed by Professor Denis Hall, his research colleagues and Rofin-Sinar UK uses a revolutionary business-card shape rather than the classic cylinder shape of traditional lasers. The lasers are used to cut, drill, join and mark different materials in a range of industrial sectors, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, food & drink and consumer products. Global sales of these products now exceed $1 billion, while future markets potentially include the micromachining of new engineering materials. Jim Ritchie with Caledonian Alloys Ltd, through which the PhD student involved was instrumental in the development of a new optimised logistics process for the metal recycling industry. The commercial benefit to Caledonian Alloys was substantive, with net operating profit increasing by £6 million per year. The IMRC, through Professor Marc Desmulliez, has also been at the heart of a ground-breaking ‘3D-Mintegration Grand Challenge’, working with the likes of Zeiss and the National Physical Laboratory on revolutionary ways to manufacture small, complex laser products and components. Professor Hall’s research team is currently
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Fruitful partnership As for the partnership between the HeriotWatt team and Rofin-Sinar UK, there’s clearly serious global demand for just about everything the partnership produces. Rofin-Sinar UK commands a staggering 35 per cent of its sector of the worldwide industrial laser market, with more than 99 per cent of its output exported to over 50 countries, bucking the uncertainty clouding the global economy over the last five years. Since 2007, the company has doubled its workforce and achieved 80 per cent growth in sales, more than double the industry average. Queen’s Awards for both Technological Innovation and Sustained Export Performance have provided a strong endorsement of the firm’s achievements. But let’s leave the last word with Denis Hall. He says: “The partnership between HeriotWatt IMRC and Rofin-Sinar UK provides hard evidence that, with the right support in place, the UK does have the capability to grow its manufacturing sector – a positive legacy that’s being forged by an EPSRC initiative which really does deserve to see its name in lights. “The IMRC model as a whole has enabled a more strategic research focus, promoted multidisciplinary working and helped us respond quickly and flexibly to industry needs. It has also helped us build and retain industrial partnerships, and to further develop the extremely strong industrial relationships for which Heriot-Watt University is renowned.”
A total EPSRC investment of £192 million was supplemented by £207 million in industrial support from over 700 collaborators. The programme has created over 1,300 doctoral level manufacturing engineers. It also created 160 new jobs; safeguarded a further 230 jobs and brought 20 new technologies to market.
Heriot-Watt IMRC Heriot-Watt IMRC comprises three multidisciplinary groups, in microsystems, digital tools and photonics. The centre’s primary focus is the development of laser, laser processing and optical sensor technology. To date, the centre has undertaken more than 60 projects with 55 companies, filed 22 patents (12 of which have been licenced) and spawned five successful spin-out companies.
Changing lives “Finding a rewarding job in these tough economic times is very challenging, so it’s brilliant that I’ve been able to find a demanding and exciting position at a hi-tech manufacturing company that’s continuing to expand.” Dr Jason Lee, Laser and Optics Group Manager at Rofin-Sinar UK and a PhD graduate of the Heriot-Watt Laser Group
Market ready “Working on innovative projects you know are going to feed straight into cutting-edge laser products with a genuinely global market adds extra motivation for any research student.” Ben Fulford, doctoral student at Heriot-Watt IMRC
Efficiency drive 3D computer software that can create and test automation systems before they’re even built is set to save manufacturers millions of pounds, while increasing their competitiveness. The software, which builds up a virtual representation of the automated system, allowing engineers to get their fingers dirty in 3D, was developed by an EPSRCsupported team at the EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC) at Loughborough University. The tool is aimed at helping manufacturers save money, increase efficiency, improve prototype safety and accelerate the process of getting their products to market. The research, which focused on applications in automotive engine assembly but can potentially be used across the manufacturing sector, is led by Professor Rob Harrison. He says: “Conventional automation systems are slow and complex to service, reconfigure and integrate. The software we’ve developed gives a quick, accurate, virtual 3D prototype view of assembly machine behaviour before the machines are physically built.
resource engineering specialists; and the project was comprehensively trialled through a series of full-scale automation-build events at Ford’s Dunton Engineering Centre. Les Lee, of Ford Manufacturing Engineering, Powertrain, Europe, says: “The BDA project is a fine example where measurable benefit was delivered with shared knowledge utilisation and the creation of innovative products. “Collaboration offers opportunities for
Deployment (3Deployment) a two-year multipartner initiative, funded by the Technology Strategy Board. This project looks beyond BDA so that, in addition to providing a virtual representation of the automated system, the control system for the automotive manufacturing machines will also be created from the same 3D model. Such new manufacturing capability is seen as vital in the transforming powertrain industry which it is estimated will be worth over €460 billion by 2030, as numerous product technologies mature, such as optimised, lowemission internal combustion engines, and hybrid, and electric systems.
“Intelligent automation research will fundamentally change the way manufacturing machinery is designed, operated… and retired”
“We aim to make these tools much easier and faster to develop and use, and we want to see them used throughout the machine lifecycle, not just at initial build.” The Business Driven Automation (BDA) project was a collaboration between the IMCRC, Ford Motor Company, ThyssenKrupp Krause System Engineering GmbH and Schneider Electric. The IMCRC team worked closely with the collaborating partners’ engineering teams, including process, productivity, product, and
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reduced costs, faster time-to-market, improved customer satisfaction, strategic thinking and quicker problem solving.” Following the success of the initial BDA research project, the work has since spawned two KTA projects, which piloted the use of the system for the virtual build of Ford engine assembly line stations and its trial use with Airbus for aerospace manufacturing systems. Collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover is also currently under discussion. The success of this work has led to several new projects, including Direct Digital
A reconfigurable full-scale powertrain assembly test loop has already been built in support of the new projects. Commercialisation of the BDA software tools and services has also begun through the licensing of the software by the university to current project partner Fully Distributed Systems Ltd. Professor Harrison says: “Intelligent automation research will fundamentally change the way manufacturing machinery is designed, operated, supported, upgraded, re-used and retired. “Our approach is highly generic and applicable to virtually all industrial automation sectors, from electronic goods assembly to the food and packaging industries.”
image: David Lewsey, Photographic Dept, Ford Motor Company Ltd
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Film stars It took revolutionary industrial membranes developed with EPSRC support at Imperial College London just a few years to generate profits for UK plc and enable chemical, pharmaceutical and other manufacturers to slash key costs by 75 per cent while boosting their environmental performance.
hen EPSRC launched its Speculative Engineering Programme in 2005, with a brief to support adventurous proposals, Professor Andrew Livingston and his team at Imperial College London took the challenge very literally. Andrew, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial, says: “We knew we had the seed of an idea with the potential to push industrial membrane technology forward in a dramatic way, significantly cutting energy costs while reducing environmental impact across a host of industrial applications. “However, we had no track record in developing new nanofiltration membranes – and we were proposing an entirely new PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
technique. So, yes, it really was speculative engineering. Still, nothing ventured...” Membranes are thin, pliable sheets of material that are permeable to substances in solution. Thin polymer membranes are widely used in industrial applications to separate different substances mixed up in liquids and gases. For example, they are used to remove pollutants or to desalinate seawater. The membranes allow certain molecules to filter through nano-scale holes in their structure while preventing larger molecules from doing so. The trouble is, conventional membranes come to grief when used with organic solvents.
Words: Barry Hague
Professor Livingston says: “Organic solvents, such as alcohols, polar aprotic solvents and ethers, are used in a range of chemical processes – from manufacturing industry to pharmaceutical and chemical research. “Once the process is complete, substantial processing is needed to remove these solvents from the substances they have refined. This requires large amounts of energy, which could be saved if membranes were used to separate out the organic solvents at the end of the process. “Traditionally, however, membranes have not been used to do this because they lose their separating properties when they are exposed to organic solvents. This is
doubly unfortunate, as membranes might also offer a cost-effective way to recover valuable chemicals like drug intermediates or expensive catalysts like palladium from a range of industrial processes in the oil refining, bulk chemicals, pharmaceutical and other sectors where solvents are used extensively.” The Livingston team’s grant proposal focused on tackling this very problem, and duly secured EPSRC support to develop an innovative technique called organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) – a tool that would enable membranes to withstand exposure to solvents, among a range of benefits. Professor Livingston says: “By making membranes insoluble in solvents, the OSN tool reduces energy requirements, cuts down on costs and is kinder to the environment – all in one fell swoop.” Within two years, the project had successfully concluded, the technology had been scaled up and patents had been secured for a new solvent-resistant membrane dubbed DuraMem® (pictured). DuraMem® was licensed for commercial manufacture to Membrane Extraction Technology Ltd (MET), an Imperial College spin-out company, where Professor Livingston was managing director. “It was incredible how quickly everything fell into place,” Professor Livingston says. “We turned a bright idea into a viable product that found a market and enabled the companies that bought it to make vital cost savings while reducing their environmental footprint.” In fact, it’s estimated that Organic Solvent Nanofiltration technology can cut a company’s separation-related capital costs by 30 per cent and operational costs by 75 per cent. One major refinery using OSN technology to de-wax its lube oil has realised a net benefit of $6 million a year – with corresponding benefits in terms of carbon offset from reduced energy use. Acquired in 2010 by international chemicals giant Evonik, MET has continued to prosper, taking advantage of further cutting-edge Imperial College Intellectual Property, seeing its workforce double and making the most
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of a brand new manufacturing facility in West London. Given the scale of the savings that can be achieved it comes as no surprise that there is considerable demand for the breakthroughs the Imperial College team regularly generate. Indeed, the team have gone on to consolidate their reputation as a centre of excellence in industrial membrane development, with EPSRC support a constant feature and a second consecutive five-year Platform Grant now secured. “It’s so satisfying to see a concept grow from nothing into something that has such a beneficial impact and adds to the UK’s manufacturing capacity,” says Professor Livingston. “EU and industry funding have both played their part and it’s just been announced that Imperial College is to be one of the ‘spokes’ in a new BP International Centre for Advanced Materials which includes membrane research as a core objective. “But it’s been our ongoing EPSRC funding that’s really made the big difference between ideas that pay dividends and those that fail to deliver their potential. “We aim to go on providing manufacturing opportunities that will help to drive economic growth. “Our experience shows not just that the UK really can ‘do’ manufacturing and reap the economic rewards, but also that important benefits can spread through the customer bases of companies selling well-conceived manufactured products.”
It’s estimated that OSN can cut a company’s separationrelated capital costs by 30 per cent and operational costs by 75 per cent.
Qualified success Professor Livingston’s team at Imperial College London comprises no less than 15 PhD-holders among a 20-strong team. Four of the staff currently working at Imperial’s former spin-out company, Membrane Extraction Technology, were previously PhD students at the college; a further two industrial PhD students are based there.
Sharp-end science Organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN): The key concept underpinning the OSN technology developed by Professor Andrew Livingston and his team is the use of a technique called chemical cross-linking. This involves establishing chemical bonds between the polymer molecules that comprise the membrane. The bonds make the membrane physically tougher and less liable to dissolve. Professor Livingston says: “If you want to separate out substances contained in liquids that contain solvents, distillation has always been the traditional route to take. But the heating and cooling involved is highly energy-intensive and that makes the process very expensive. “By comparison, the only energy required when using a membrane is the power needed by the pump that pushes the liquid towards the membrane. That’s because the whole filtration process takes place at ambient temperature.”
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Cutting edge Nikki Hilton, an Engineering Doctorate student at the EPSRC-supported Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Machining Science at the University of Sheffield, is leading a project at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing.
Nikki (pictured left) says: “I’m getting used to jokes about being able to ‘bore for England.’ But, to be honest, that’s a fair description of what I’m doing. I’m leading a research project that will virtually double the current record for drilling deep holes into stainless steel. This has tremendous significance to the nuclear industry, and will transform the way key components are produced for it. The challenge I’ve been set by my industry sponsor, Rolls-Royce, working alongside the machining group at Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, is to create a process that makes it possible to drill through steel to a depth of up to eight metres – and arrive at the other end within millimetres of the target. PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
The current industry depth limit is 300 times the diameter of the drill bit. We aim to push that to 500 and to make the process more efficient, accurate and consistent. Not only that, there must also be zero human intervention. We’ve just taken charge of one of the largest machine tools in the UK – custombuilt by a specialist precision deep hole drill manufacturer. At 27 metres long the drill is the largest piece of equipment of its kind in any university, and took two weeks to install. The facility is also available for customers to use in their own research projects. Our project challenges conventional manufacturing techniques, and will have an immediate impact on the nuclear industry.
It will also have applications for oil and gas, and, ultimately, for high value manufacturing across the energy sector. I was one of the first students to enrol at the new Industrial Doctorate Centre in Machining Science, which offers a four-year programme of funded training and research and is a collaboration between the university and industrial partners. The environment here is fantastic. People are very keen to think creatively, knowing we have a deep pool of knowledge and experience to draw on both within the university and from our industrial partners.” You can read more about Nikki, in Discover, a magazine devoted to research and much more at the University of Sheffield. firstname.lastname@example.org
How I work
Professor Sanju Velani
Head of Pure Mathematics at the University of York, describes his influences and working methods. When did you know you were going to be a mathematician? I knew that I liked mathematics from a very early age, when my older brother and sister showed me how to calculate the area of a circle. I learned to draw a circle, cut it into sectors, put them together in the approximate shape of a rectangle, and work out the area of the new shape. I found this really exciting. The smaller the sectors, the more precise the calculation. This was a revelation to me. Another major influence was an inspirational teacher, Dr Logan, who arrived at my comprehensive school straight out of training. His Year Three Calculus From First Principles class was absolutely thrilling for me, but not so for all of my classmates, I suspect. I have tried to find Dr Logan a couple of times, to let him know how he changed my life. I haven’t had any success so far, but perhaps he’ll read this!
Have you always been a problemsolver? Yes, though not always in obvious ways. My parents were a strong influence. My father is a skilled carpenter and builder, and can work out calculations about length, volume, quantities and so on in his head. I learned a lot from watching him solve problems, such as how to put a skirting board on a curved wall. I also laboured on building sites when I was a student, and became quite good with my hands, and used to make periscopes and other objects. I also learned a lot from watching my mother in the kitchen, estimating quantities of ingredients when preparing meals for the large number of visitors that regularly turned up. My mother bought me my first blackboard when I was about 10. That was probably to stop me pestering her in the kitchen.
How do you work? To begin with, I usually need to form a picture of the problem in my head. I also spend a lot of time talking to others – in seminar rooms in front of blackboards, in cafes, on the phone. I have several exceptional collaborations, including one with my colleague at York, PIONEER 08 Autumn 2012
Victor Beresnevich, with whom I’ve just been awarded a £1.6 million EPSRC Programme Grant to develop work on number theory, specifically Diophantine approximation. Working with Victor is intellectually rigorous and a lot of fun. My colleagues at York often remark on the laughter they hear coming out of my office. That’s the noise of Victor and me, and perhaps a visitor or two, working together. I owe a huge amount to many people, including my DPhil supervisor Maurice Dodson, to Jim Clunie who was like a second supervisor, to Paddy (S.J.) Patterson with whom I worked as a postdoctoral student, and to Alan Beardon, a wonderful mathematician who was remarkably open to ideas. They taught me the immense value of collaborative work. For someone like me, working collaboratively is an extension of how I operate in the world.
How do solutions come to you? There is no single manner that solutions come about. Even with abstract problems. I normally try to think about them in terms of pictures. Solutions often come about after a long period of digestion. The key is understanding what lies at the heart of a problem, and, most importantly, sleeping on things. I’m often not satisfied with the first solution I arrive at. If it’s overcomplicated or lacks clarity I’m not happy. Finding the ‘right’ or ‘elegant’ solution is just as fulfilling. There are times, or course, when I need solitude to work through problems. My happiest times, work-wise, are spent sitting with a pad of paper and a pen, working something out.
What is the impact of your research on the real world? Diophantine approximation is a branch of
number theory that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Chinese who used good rational approximations to the number pi (3.142...) in order to predict the position of planets and stars accurately. Throughout history mathematicians have used Diophantine approximation as a gateway to solving real-world problems. Today, it’s used in computer programs to model experiments and other natural behaviour, and is also at the core of electronic communications, antenna design and signal processing, which rely on high efficiency and reliability. It also underpins many other mathematical and scientific settings based on number theory. The programme of research we have embarked on is ambitious. Significant progress in any of the research challenges would be a major success. Six decades ago the UK became a world leader in this area. The proposed research will build upon the Diophantine approximation expertise in the UK and enhance the UK’s leadership in the field.
EPSRC Programme Grants Professor Velani and his colleague, Professor Victor Beresnevich, are the recipients of a six-year EPSRC Programme Grant to help establish new frameworks in number theory that could solve long-standing problems in mathematics and have potentially farreaching benefits for the real world. EPSRC Programme Grants support a suite of related research activities focusing on one strategic research theme. They serve as a flexible mechanism to provide funding to worldleading research groups to address significant major research challenges.
Moss: scourge of all gardeners; never gathered by rolling stones. At last, however, there is a use for it. EPSRC-sponsored scientists at Cambridge University have found a way to harness energy from plants – and have built this stunning prototype mosspowered table to demonstrate how it’s done. The table showcases an emerging technology called biophotovoltaics (BPV) which uses the natural process of photosynthesis to generate electrical energy. Still at early stages, BPV has the potential to power small devices such as digital clocks, with greater things perhaps around the corner. The table is the brainchild of Alex Driver and Carlos Peralta from Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing and Paolo Bombelli from the University’s Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Department.
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Editor: Mark Mallett Design: Rachael Brown, Doggett Jones Strategic Creative Design Contributors: Jane Edmonds; Barry Hague; Professor Denis Hall; Professor Andrew Livingston; Jack Snape; Jon Sumanik-Leary; Richard Tibenham Pioneer@epsrc.ac.uk Contact: 01793 444305/442804 Produced by: Corporate Communications, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Printed by: RCUKâ€™s in-house service provider www.epsrc.ac.uk