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ISSUE 13: MARCH 2017

Celebrating 100 years of Mechanical Engineering at Sheffield

MechEngNews MechEngNews





Let’s get ready to rumble! Google scholarship


Profile Dr Luca Modenese

2017 promises to be a very special year for us as the Department celebrates its centenary.


On the grid From cleaner to intern


A Dynamic Display The DRG Showcase


Where are they now? Florence Warrener

10 SunbYte Sheffield’s solar telescope



Ahoy MATEy The MATE-ROV challenge


100 years of research The centenary scholarship


A year of celebration The centenary ball


Research focus A hat trick for Tribology


Reduce. Reuse, Recycle. The composites exchange


Track changes The Rail Research Group solve a common problem


Read all about it!


The Final Word.

Over the last few months I have been writing a book (available for pre-order here: looking back over the last 100 years of Mechanical Engineering and have loved being in touch with staff and students past and present, and hearing all of their memories of Sheffield and their successes since leaving. We will be holding events throughout the year to give everyone an opportunity to come back and celebrate with us, including a ball on 23rd of June where our book will be launched. In addition to all of our centenary activities, people have been busy with a huge range of exciting, ground breaking research, picking up awards and scholarships, and organising events in the local community.

Kat Kat Taylor


Follow us: @SheffMechEng /SheffMechEng MechEngNewsThis publication is produced using 100% recycled FSC certified paper

Let’s get ready to rumble! Anna Georgiadou is a PhD student in the Department looking at modelling dexterity and characterising manipulation. During her MSc with us, Anna designed a haptic device (using sense of touch) to see how people perceive different types of vibrations, particularly to see if people can understand the context of a message only through vibrations.

In our daily routine we all interact with a variety of computers, for example, smart phones, tablets, laptops, smart watches, etc. This interaction is mainly done with our sense of sight and hearing, and less with our sense of touch. “What many companies are looking for is to implement our sense of touch to make this interaction more efficient and enjoyable. This is done through vibrations.” says Anna.

learnable. All this while the user was occupied with other tasks (at the moment the vibrations were sent, the participants were playing an online game or listening to music). With very promising preliminary results, Anna decided to move forward and attempt to commercialise the technology with a focus on the entertainment and gaming industry. She believes that her technology will be best controlled using a smart phone app, so when she saw an advert from Google offering scholarships for Android App development using Udacity programs she couldn’t resist applying and won a scholarship for an initial 3-month course. “When I applied for the scholarship I had to provide my educational background and submit an essay stating the reasons I should be chosen and what I will do if I manage to learn app development.” Anna explains. “In the first phase only 14% of the applicants got chosen and I was one of them! In this phase we are all enrolled in an online beginner course, developing App layouts, in Udacity. In our cohort, we have several tutors and lecture slides from Google, to help us program and develop our first App. In three months time the top 1%, will get another scholarship to continue with a Nanodegree program, which is equivalent to an MSc.”

Anna designed an easily programmable wearable device able to transmit vibrations. “I began with a sensitivity study, to see what areas of the body are more sensitive and where I can position it effectively. I found that the most sensitive area was the lower part of the arm. Once I found a circuit board able to transmit haptic vibrations I 3D-printed the device making it resemble a smart watch. I then tested different vibration patterns, to see which and how many of them are differentiable and then at what point are they




Dr Luca Modenese Luca Modenese is a researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Luca specialises in biomechanics, based in the Insigneo Institute for in-silico medicine.

mechanical engineer. After graduation I moved to Imperial College London for a PhD in biomechanics and finally to Griffith University (Australia) for my first postdoctoral appointment.

What are your research interests? What made you want to become a mechanical engineer? It’s an interesting question, because I never had a precise desire of becoming an engineer. As a student I was interested more in mathematics and humanities than applied science. In fact, for my first year of university I studied philosophy. I think I came to biomechanics following a personal thread of evolving interests rather than seconding a well-defined career plan.

I am interested in biomechanics, which, broadly speaking, is the study of living systems by the methods of mechanics. More specifically, my field of expertise is musculoskeletal modelling, a computational discipline that aims to develop models of the skeletal and muscular systems and study how they interact when we move.

Where did you train? I studied for my undergraduate studies in Italy, at the University of Padua, as a 4

Computer simulation of walking using a musculoskeletal model created from medical images.


What are you working on at the moment? At the moment I am involved in a European project called MD-Paedigree and in an EPSRC grant called MultiSim. In the former we are generating models of children affected by a disease called juvenile idiopathic arthritis, causing their ankles to be swollen and painful. The second project is more explorative, and we will use our musculoskeletal models to estimate how bones of the lower limb are loaded in women at risk of osteoporotic fractures.

If there was one Mech Eng problem you could solve, what would it be? I can think of several problems that I wish I could solve. For instance I would like to see an exoskeleton really helping people with limited mobility. It would be fun to see my grandparents jumping again! I would also like to see a technology that can create automatically functional computational

models of the complete human biology and physiology. It would revolutionise the way we think about medicine.

What words of advice would you give to your student-self about the future? I would say to myself: just follow your genuine interests, compromising as little as possible. It might be not always be the easiest path but it will surely be an entertaining one.


I would like to see an exoskeleton really helping people with limited mobility. It would be fun to see my grandparents jumping again!


On the grid Stephen Soleye is a second year Mechanical Engineering student with a year in industry. Last year his summer cleaning job led him on a journey he never expected! Stephen tells us about his experience: “Over summer I was given a job from my agency to work as a cleaner for 2 weeks at National Grid in Leicester. I didn’t think much of it; it was more steady than weekend shifts so I accepted; I was kind of looking forward to starting the shift because it was my first time working as a cleaner and I felt humbled and so I was looking forward to doing my best. “During the induction, I met with the lady whom I was meant to be taking over from as she was going on holiday. She started showing me around and I was quite fascinated to see things I had learnt in my first year at University, specifically manufacturing techniques being used in the workshop. It came to light in one of our conversations that I was studying Mechanical Engineering in Sheffield and she encouraged me immediately to see if I could get a placement there as they are very supportive of it. I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t started my cleaning shift yet! She introduced me to the wonderful staff around and told them the degree I was doing.

normally doing the best I could in cleaning the floors, toilets and offices. “I finished my shift, and a few days later I got a call from the manager to offer me a one month paid internship with National Grid. It felt like a movie and it still does! “Over my time working there, I worked on circuit breakers and line isolators and I was able to go on site visits and gain good experience. At the end of the one month placement, I was invited to come back and work with them whenever I was free during summer. It really wasn’t how I expected my summer to turn out. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the National Grid staff and the Sheffield #takeuswithyou programme and thank God for the opportunity and favour. I learnt so many things but if there’s one main thing I learnt it was that whatever you do, do it well, and wherever you find yourself always try do the best you can.”

“A few days into the job, I had received good comments about the cleaning I was doing which was relayed back to my agency and I was proud of that. I finally met with Edward Murphy, the manager, as I was about to go home. As I was leaving, he called me back and we spoke about my degree and the possibility of an internship. Of course, I was like “yeah!” But I kept it professional and I tried not to get my hopes up and continued



a dynamic display The first annual Dynamics Research Group (DRG) Showcase took place in January with the aim to encourage collaboration and provide networking opportunities. this we use ultrasound together with statistical inference. Defects that occur during carbon fibre layup can have severe consequences to the integrity of the structure, so you want to avoid them at all costs. Monitoring them in-situ, on the other hand, is difficult because the process is happening in real time and continuously changing. We tried monitoring this with ultrasound and used some statistical inference techniques to model the changes in the wave propagation during this process, so were able to highlight defects during the process. The DRG showcase gives students, researchers and academics from the research group the opportunity to display their current research (via posters), to encourage collaboration and provide networking opportunities. The event was well attended by staff and students from across the Engineering Faculty and maths research groups, with an award for the best poster presented by Vice President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Mike Hounslow.

“This was a feasibility study, and being very pleased with the results we’ve now secured some funding for a full time PhD student to work on this problem in more detail.” Professor Kirill Horoshenkov says, “Paul Gardner and Tim Rogers did an excellent job organising the event in which 34 posters were presented to promote the research in the Dynamics Research Group and to obtain feedback from colleagues from other departments across the University.”

Following an afternoon of discussing their research and learning about that of their peers, the event concluded with the announcement of the winner, Ramon Fuentez with his poster titled ‘In process monitoring of automated carbon fibre tape layup using ultrasonic guided waves’. Ramon’s project was about monitoring defects during automated lamination of carbon fibre composites. Ramon explains how it’s done: “To do



Where are they now? Florence Warrener graduated from the Department in 2015 with an MEng in Mechanical Engineering. She is now working for Airbus Space and Defence in southern Germany where she has worked on projects such as Jason-CS / Sentinel 6 spacecraft that will be launched in 2020. As an undergraduate Florence chose to come to Sheffield after being impressed by the enthusiasm of the students helping out at our open days. “I came up to one of the lunches and open days and the student who I was speaking to and was giving the tour was extremely friendly and helpful. The people helping out at the other universities I looked at weren’t as enthusiastic so these tours really painted Sheffield in a good light.” says Florence. So impressed was she that she eventually signed up to be a student rep herself, giving those same tours and impressing students with her own enthusiasm. Florence’s masters focussed on “The Design and Development of a Domestic Waste Compaction Unit” which was aimed at helping to reduce the volume of waste being taken to unsustainable landfill sites. After graduating, Florence was accepted onto a 6 month graduate internship at Airbus Defence and Space in southern Germany. “I was working in the Thermal department as a junior thermal analyst and embarked on projects such as Jason-CS/Sentinel 6 which is a spacecraft that will be launched in 2020. Using a high precision radar altimeter it will be measuring global sea levels, a key indicator of climate change, and collecting temperature profiles to asses temperature changes around the world in the troposphere and stratosphere to help support weather prediction.” Florence explains. The development of operational oceanography is necessary to improve forecasts of the weather conditions likely to prevail two to four weeks


ahead (monthly forecasts), e.g. heat waves or sustained heavy downpours, and in the next seasons (seasonal forecasts) e.g. a cold winter or a hot summer, as a result of the sustained influence of the ocean on the atmosphere. Variations of sea level in our changing climate can only be monitored on a global scale by HPOA observations, and ocean surface topography measurements are essential to understand how the ocean stores and redistributes heat, water and carbon in the climate system. Mapping up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days, Sentinel 6 offers vital information on ocean currents, wind speed and wave height for maritime safety and provides data important for protecting and managing the increasingly busy coastal zones. The other main project that Florence was working on was to improve the modelling of bolt contact conductance. This is a research project where tests will have to be carried out to improve the current database they have in this area. Florence’s enthusiasm and hard work shined through again and about half way through her internship she was offered a 1 year contract as an internal employee. In her new role, Florence continues the work that she was doing on her internship, but has also been carrying out testing for the Grace Follow-On mission and spent a couple of weeks just outside Munich on the first of two testing missions. “It was extremely interesting and I was able to go into the clean-room where the spacecraft was in the vacuum chamber. The vacuum chamber


itself was 6m in diameter, so you can imagine the scale was very impressive. The testing itself was successful. We were there in conjunction with the company who has funded the project, JPL. They are a branch of NASA, so it was really exciting to meet them. I was on shift duty where we made sure that all the components on the satellite were within the specified temperature ranges and did not exceed any limits. To do this, I was in control of the heaters for the components and also for the vacuum chamber, so I could switch them on/ off and adjust temperatures accordingly.” Florence is mostly office based and on a typical day she would usually be editing the thermal model of Jason-CS so that it complies with any new updates. Her tasks include optimising the model and running simulations to gather data, which she will then use to decide whether or not the updates are worthwhile and should be implemented.

Florence is clearly loving her job so far, and she is hoping that at the end of her 1 year contract she will be offered a permanent position. As one of the last out of her group of friends to get a job after university, Florence had started to worry that there was nothing out there for her so she has some important advice to students who will be graduating this year: “The University of Sheffield is recognised world-wide so with a little bit of patience and perseverance, a fantastic job will come along soon enough and all the waiting will be worthwhile.” So, if in 2020, you look up to see a flash in the sky, it could well be the product of Florence’s work at Airbus Defence and Space as it leaves our stratosphere. Florence in front of the 1st Grace Follow-On satellite

When asked about her best day at work so far, Florence doesn’t hesitate: “As I am doing some testing for the Grace Follow-On mission, I was allowed to go into the clean-room on site to see first-hand where and how they were constructing the two satellites. I was even given a redundant part of the spacecraft to take home!”



Stars in their eyes SunbYte is a new student-led project with a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team that is designing, testing and manufacturing an inexpensive solar telescope that will be sent up into the atmosphere using a stratospheric balloon. Ground based solar telescopes are very expensive and it can be difficult to see certain wavelengths through the atmosphere and current solar telescopes that operate in or above the stratosphere are also very expensive. This makes it difficult for researchers to gain access to telescopes to take research quality images. SunbYte (Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Solar Telescope) want to prove that research quality images can be taken using a relatively cheap and lightweight solar telescope (based on amateur systems like PiKon) and a relatively cheap mode of transport, stratospheric balloon. As part of the German/Swedish student programe REXUS/BEXUS (Balloon Experiments for University Students) the SunbYte team designed and made a lightweight telescope capable of gathering data from the sun’s atmosphere. Helena Livesey is a Mechanical Engineering student involved in the project: “After submitting our project proposal to BEXUS, we were invited to attend the selection workshop in Leiden, Holland in November. We were delighted when we got the news that we’d got through, although we would have a lot more hard work to do.

The SunbYte telescope will collect images containing information on large-scale solar chromospheric activity, flows and oscillations measured with a high time cadence. This information is much sought after in both the solar and stellar physics international communities. High-cadence full-disk, or Sun-as-a-star H-alpha / H-beta observations will provide a connection between the integrated chromospheric intensity and activity, with potential applications to measure atmospheric activity of other stars. If successful, the team plans to compare the collected data with observations by groundbased solar telescopes. This comparison will enable them to determine the exact advantages of a balloon telescope system. It is hoped that subsequent SunbYte telescopes will become important and economically sustainable instruments of a high atmosphere-borne solar observatory. Visit: Follow: @project-SunbYte

In February, we travelled to Munich for a week to participate in a design review with space industry experts and we will have two more reviews in Sheffield before the balloon launch at the Esrange Space Centre in Sweden in October.” The team will use innovative manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing to produce an alternative to large and expensive telescopes.



Ahoy MATEy! The MATE ROV is an international competition to design and build a remotely operated submarine to carry out missions underwater. The competition organiser, MATE, provides a brief outlining the challenges that the teams are required to solve. The MATE ROV challenges are based on a theme which changes annually. Last year’s theme was about space exploration while this year’s theme is about future sea ports.
Teams are required to act as companies to tackle these challenges by having different positions such as CEO and Chief Engineer. The competition’s aim is to raise awareness about marine technical fields and to connect students and educators with employers and working professionals.

underwater. Each team must also have a marketing display that outlines features of their submarine.”

Abhinav Kongari is a Mechanical Engineering Student acting as Chief Engineer on the project, “We decided to enter the competition because it’s a chance for us to work on technical challenges that we are excited about. It’s also a great opportunity for us to apply our theoretical knowledge in solving real-life problems.”

The competition is run by The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center whose mission is to use marine technology to inspire and challenge students to learn and creatively apply science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to solving real-world problems in a way that strengthens critical thinking, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

This is the first year that Sheffield has put forward a team for the competition and, since they are the first team from England to compete, they have been invited to go straight to the June finals in California. The multidisciplinary team includes members from Mechanical, Electrical, Aerospace and Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, who all bring their own expertise to the project. “Before the competition we will be submitting a technical report that outlines the techincal details of our design,” Abhinav explains, “At the competition, the team will undertake a technical interview, in which a panel of judges will ask questions about design decisions and other technical aspects. The team will go through a safety inspection, after which the submarine will be tasked to carry out multiple missions

The team has received funding from a number of sources at the University, such as University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE) and the Faculty of Engineering and are looking to obtain sponsorship from companies and professional bodies.
Sheffield Robotics have also provided them with access to equipment that is essential to build the submarine.

The team will be running several outreach events throughout the campus and the city this year to showcase their work, engage with the community and introduce people to STEM subjects.

Last year’s competition, held in Nasa Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.



100 years of research As part of its centenary celebrations the Department has announced the Mechanical Engineering Centenary Scholarship. Applicants were asked to submit their CV, two references, academic transcripts and a statement of purpose to earn a three year award that will enable one successful applicant to undertake their PhD studies within the Department. The person who shone through all the competition and won the scholarship is 4th year student, James Wingham.

demand for greater knowledge of the mechanical and geometric properties of these materials.” James’ project is investigating whether the additives used to create the different colour filaments result in different part properties, even though the base material (type of plastic) is the same. His PhD project will be in powder polymer processes, determining what material properties make a material "good" or "bad" for 3D printing. James has always had an interest in additive manufacturing; he built his own 3D printer, which has progressed from something incapable of printing simple calibration cubes, to a machine that can build parts with complex internal structures and free-moving assemblies.

James is currently working on his final year project investigating whether pigment has an effect on the mechanical and geometrical properties of FDM parts. James breaks it down: “With the rise in popularity of desktop 3D printing, the capabilities of simple, low cost machines have improved dramatically, as has the range of materials available for them to print. FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) is by far the most common type of desktop 3D printer and some of these cheaper machines are matching the quality of the much pricier industrial ones. “Most of the new materials created for desktops have been developed solely for novelty purposes, with little consideration of the mechanical properties of the printed parts. With industry starting to use these desktop systems, there is a


“This scholarship means that I will be able to continue working in an area that I am fascinated by,” says James, “After my PhD, I hope to carry on working in the additive manufacturing (AM) sector. Although most of the technologies for 3D printing have been around for about 30 years, the use of AM in industry is only just starting to take off. By doing this PhD, I will be in the ideal position to enter this exciting and dynamic industry.”

3D printed dog bones in a variety of colours for tensile testing


100. The Centenary Ball open to mechanical engineering staff, students and alumni







book now:

firth hall, sheffield MechEngNews


Research focus: A hat-trick for Tribology Michele Schirru, a Research Associate in the Department, has developed a potentially ground-breaking instrument that uses sound waves to measure the oil viscolestic properties in the thin layers that exist in engine components such as journal bearings. Michele has recently been awarded the Institute of Physics Innovation in Tribology prize for his work. “There are two kinds of sound plane waves: longitudinal (like the sound of our voice when we speak), or shear,” Michele explains, “At the Leonardo Centre we use these types of sound waves at ultrasonic frequencies (frequencies above the human audible limit) to measure oil properties and performances in the engines.” Michele’s device produces an ultrasonic vibration using miniaturised sensors. “This vibration travels through the component until it is incident to the solid-oil boundary. At the boundary, part of the wave is reflected back, like an echo, and the reflection is the function of the fluid properties. When a shear wave is used, the reflection is the function of viscosity.” says Michele. Shear waves have been used since the 1950s to measure oil properties, but no one has ever run this measurement in-situ in an engine before. “The reason is that when a shear sound wave is incident to the boundary of two very different materials (in our case steel and oil) the wave is totally reflected back without interacting at all with the fluid. This phenomenon is called acoustic mismatch. I have overcome the acoustic mismatch by interposing a layer of material between the oil and the metal. The material thickness and mechanical properties are chosen carefully to excite resonance at the solid-matching layer-oil interface. The mechanism is very similar to what happens in the lenses of conventional glasses. The lenses of the glasses have a non-reflective layer that allows light to be transmitted to our


eyes limiting undesired reflections. With this layer, therefore, the ultrasonic measurement is sensitive to the oil. The matching layer can also be the existing coating in the component, so no existing material needs to be added to the component under study.” Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce, Michele’s supervisor, is very excited about Michele’s device, “As we try to squeeze the last bit of energy out of our fuel, friction in an engine becomes increasingly important. Friction depends directly on the viscosity of the oil. So knowing what the viscosity is, and changing an oil, not just at regular intervals, but when the oil is exhausted has important applications for industry. A key feature of Michele’s method is that it can be miniaturised and made at low cost - low enough to potentially install on every car. As well as being awarded the Innovation in Tribology prize, Michele’s work has been selected to be published in Springer Theses. Internationally top-ranked research institutes select their best thesis annually for publication in this series. Nominated and endorsed by two recognised specialists, each thesis is chosen for its scientific excellence and impact on research. And as if that isn’t enough, Michele has also been awarded £60k in the Preparing for the Grand Challenge Award from the Advanced Propulsion Centre as part of a feasibility study to develop his ultrasonic method and design novel automotive sensors in collaboration with industrial partners. Michele hopes this will lead to a new generation of automotive micro sensors.


Research funding received H2020 £295,112

Other £267,251

Industry £447,653 EPSRC £552,421

EU £3,199,864


our top 5 research grants this quarter:

I have overcome the acoustic mismatch by interposing a layer of material between the oil and the metal.

Professor Keith Worden, Dr Rob Barthorpe, Dr Lizzy Cross and Professor Kirill Horoshenkov - Laboratory for Verification and Validation - £3,199,864 from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian - NANOMEMC2 £255,820 from EPSRC. Dr James Meredith and Professor Patrick Fairclough - Novel composite manufacturing processes to ensure consistency and quality in high-volume automated manufacture for low tack pre-pregs £221,549 from Innovate UK. Dr David Fletcher - RateSetter: Improving passenger boarding rate and reducing risk at the Platform-Train Interface - £124,324 from Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB). Dr Patrick Smith - In-situ synthesis of urethane pre-polymer stage 3 - £46,560 from Tremco Illbruck International.


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. High quality composite materials composed of fabric pre-impregnated with resin, known as prepreg are expensive, have a short shelf life, long lead times and are often only available in large quantities. This is ok for large consumers but for research organisations such as Universities and small and medium enterprises (SME’s) the need to purchase minimum order quantities is expensive, wasteful and may limit access to a wider range of materials. Out of date prepreg lingers in freezers and is only suitable for landfill or recycling. However, elimination of waste is the most important part of the waste hierarchy and reduction of composite waste is a key sustainability target identified in the 2016 UK composites strategy. In a project funded by the Impact, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange fund at the University of Sheffield, Dr James Meredith, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering has worked with Razor, a local specialist in digital product development to create a novel website that enables composite materials to be shared for research and industrial use and prevent these high value materials going to waste. Harry Worsnop at Razor commented “We’re so pleased to be part of It’s been a great opportunity to contribute to something that can drive both growth and innovation within the composites industry whilst reducing environmental impact.” The site has been developed to enable users to share and acquire prepreg composite materials before they go off and are only suitable for landfill. This will reduce waste of energy intensive, expensive and time limited composite materials. Furthermore, it will facilitate collaboration with SME’s and Universities, potentially giving access to materials that promote excellent research.


Dr Meredith’s research focuses on high performance sustainable composites utilising recycled carbon and natural fibre alerted him to the potential for sharing materials. After a successful student project to develop the idea for a sharing website James worked in partnership with Razor, who created a high quality site with tight budget and time constraints that could be rolled out to the composites community. “Preventing waste of valuable and energy intensive composite materials is really important. I hope that this tool can facilitate sharing between all users of these materials, create new collaborations and help solve research problems through access to materials that would not normally have been possible.” says James. Ed Collings, CEO at Forward Composites, is already using the site for his company and said “this site supports our desire to be environmentally responsible. We have a passion for composite development and innovation, so we want to help support composite research by providing access to smaller quantities of aerospace grade materials, which otherwise would not exist in the traditional supply chain. ” The site is only as good as the people that use it and we want it to become the first point of call for anyone wishing to dispose of their usable prepreg material before it goes for disposal and for anyone wishing to get hold of small quantities of prepreg material quickly without the cost and time associated with ordering it new. So please give it a go.

Visit for more information or to start sharing.


Track changes Leaves and moisture on train lines can be a recipe for disaster, causing incidents and delays to service, but two projects in the Department of Mechanical Engineering are looking at ways to solve this problem and change the future of the railway industry. Professor Roger Lewis, Dr Adam Beagles and Dr Matt Marshall have received just under £1m from RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) for their projects looking at two possible solutions to overcome low adhesion on railway lines. This ‘phase 2’ funding follows ‘phase 1’ projects that established in laboratory tests that the technologies delivered measurable benefits. The RSSB launched a £4m competition that the Department entered and secured funding for both of its entries. The first project uses dry-ice blasting to give predictable and optimised braking conditions. The project aims to develop a demonstrator dry-ice application device, which can be trialled in the laboratory using full-scale representative conditions and on-board railway vehicles in braking tests and rail head cleaning scenarios. Previous research showed the dry-ice blasting technique as a viable means for removing contaminants, such as leaves, from a rail head and restoring adhesion in the wheel/rail contact. Network Rail and London underground are keen to explore the potential of the technique for cleaning the rail head of leaves and grease.

(although damp rails cause poor braking, trains cope well with wet rails). The team will develop a demonstrator water dispensing device to trial in the laboratory (using full-scale representative conditions) and on-board railway vehicles in braking tests. Project partner CoCatalyst will lead the development of the prototype water dispenser (with advice and support from LBFoster) and the process of taking the product to market and the Department of Mechanical Engineering will design and coordinate the fullscale testing and the field brake testing. “If the projects are successful, it will improve braking so that there are less incidents - station overruns and signals passed at danger - which will lead to less accidents and delays to trains.” Roger explains. “It will improve traction so, again, there will be less delays, particularly in the Autumn period, and less of a need to change timetables. It will be a real step change for the railway industry; at the moment they rely on application of sand from the vehicle largely to deal with low adhesion which is what they have used since the days of steam trains!”

The Department will design and develop the dry-ice application system (with advice and support from LBFoster and Icetech, and input from Network Rail and London Underground) and design and co-ordinate the full-scale testing and the field brake testing. The ultimate aim is to commercialise the technology. The second project will use the controlled application of water to the wheel/rail interface to give predictable and optimised braking



Celebrating 100 years!

100 years: Did you know...?

We are now well in the swing of our centenary celebrations: with our joint Infrastructure event in London last month attended by staff past and present and many of our alumni; our centenary book showcasing the last 100 years of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield is almost complete and now available for pre-order (; and bookings now being taken for our main event on 23rd June (see page 13 for details).

During the First World War the Department of Mechanical Engineering trained 1000 men to make shells and later produced aircraft and gun components. The Department’s first female student joined in 1960, 43 years after the Department first opened. It would be another 8 years after that before the next female joined and only in the Eighties did women really become common place in the Department. The Mechanical Engineering Society was the first society to be set up within the Department and has now been running for 40 years! When the Department was opened in 1917, there were just 6 students and 6 academic staff. Now, 100 years later, the Department has over 1100 students and 180 staff, over 60 of whom are academic staff.

But that’s not all! No, no! There is more to come! Our students will be invited to celebrate the end of exams as well as our 100th birthday with home made pizza on 9th June (details to be confirmed), staff and PhD students will be gathering for cakes and bubbles on the 21st June, the actual date of our birthday, and later in the year during October half term, we will be holding a public exhibition in Sheffield’s Winter Gargens where local school children will be invited to take part in engineering activities throughout the week and our industry partners will be invited to join us for drinks and nibbles in the evening.


The state of the art Diamond building is the University’s biggest ever investment in teaching and learning with 19 specialist engineering laboratories and over 5000 students benefiting from the extra teaching space. Since records began, the Department has received over £130 million in research funding to enable us to advance knowledge, develop technologies, progress thinking and potentially improve millions of lives. Remember to keep using #Mech100 and share your memories with us on social media!


Bouncing around

IDC annual conference

On 16th January, Dr Matt CarrĂŠ, Reader in Mechanical Engineering, researching human interactions and applications in sport, visited Hallam Primary School in Sheffield to speak to 10 and 11 year olds about why different sports balls are the way they are. For example, why golf balls have dimples and why tennis balls are furry. Demonstrating the effects of momentum and drag, Matt led experiments to make the children think about how things like size, shape and material affect the performance of the ball and why different types of ball are used for different sports. Matt went on to discuss how different sportsmen and women use a variety of techniques such as spin to affect play to their advantage. To demonstrate, Matt encouraged the children to throw different sized and weight balls around the room and observe how these different qualities affect things like speed and bounce. Mrs Barnes said, “the children have all really enjoyed it and learned something new.

The Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) for Machining Science will be holding its second annual student conference, at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham on 4th May 2017. The event aims to bring together PhD and EngD students with a machining, manufacturing or materials background. As well as the chance to present current research and learn about other research projects, and a great opportunity for networking with your peers. The AMRC MANTRA, an interactive hands-on HGV trailer containing simulations, technology exhibits and assembly robotics will be available throughout the day. If you would like to submit an abstract for a talk (by 28th February) or poster (by 31st March) please send it to: All PhD and EngD students are welcome to attend. Lunch and refreshments throughout the day will be provided. To find out more and to register, please visit:

Send your stories and photos to Kat Taylor at



The Final Word. Thank you for reading this, our thirteenth issue, celebrating 100 years of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield. While looking back, we can’t help but look forward, too. What will the Department look like in another 100 years? What will the world look like? Will we all be reporting to robots? Of course in our near future we await the completion of our exciting Heartspace project that will revolutionise the space that we occupy around the Mappin Building. Is it possible, though, to imagine what our students and researchers might have helped to achieve in the next century? There will be catastrophes to overcome, as there always are, but what about the positives? We might have addressed the climate change problem, we may have built safer nuclear fission power sources, we might all be driving around in electric and hydrogen powered, autonomous and accident free, vehicles and planes might be fuelled from sustainable sources. The last 100 years have been challenging, and exciting, but we think the next 100 will be something to really look forward to and welcome with open arms.

Neil Sims

Head of Department, Mechanical Engineering

This publication is produced using 100% recycled FSC certified paper



MechEngNews // Issue 13 // March 2017  

Find out what's going on in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield - the latest research findings from staf...

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