Engineering projects receive �13.6m boost

Cutting-edge engineering research given �13.6m boost

Grants totalling £13.6 million have been announced for three major engineering research projects.

The flagship research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will explore three areas: re-using carbon; the fundamental design of major infrastructure constructs; and the way we predict the complex behaviour of fluid flows, which have implications in industries such as the transportation of oil and gas in pipelines.

“This research is significant and will bring about ‘green’ advances in industrial practice at a time when the UK needs to up its game and build for growth,” said EPSRC Chief Executive David Delpy.

“Research into re-using carbon can help us cut our carbon emissions, new design techniques will help us build safer structures and new industrial models will change the way the UK works.

“These are exciting projects and demonstrate the role fundamental science and engineering can play in the future of our economy.”

The grants have been awarded to the following leading researchers and their teams:

- Carbon re-use at Sheffield. Professor Ray Allen, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has a £4.5 million grant to look into new ways to capture CO2 efficiently and to study how it can be converted into a fuel - something that could make a significant contribution to reducing the UK’s carbon footprint.

The team from Sheffield, University College London, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Manchester, led by Professor Allen, will focus on a recently developed solvent which has been shown to be an excellent sorbent of CO2 and look at reducing the captured CO2 to a syn-gas.

The team will also work to ensure its research outcomes are sustainable and economically viable.

“This is a difficult and highly interdisciplinary project but it is potentially extremely important,” said Professor Allen.

”We are optimistic we will be able to find new, safe ways of re-using carbon to provide valuable energy.”

- Structural dynamics at Bristol. EPSRC has awarded £4.2 million to Professor David Wagg and his research team from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea.

The team want to create new methods for designing complex structures like bridges and aeroplanes which often suffer from unwanted vibrations.

For instance, sometimes when an aeroplane taxies along a runway it is possible for the wheels to vibrate violently from side to side.

This effect, called shimmy, is exactly the same as the juddering of a shopping trolley wheel. 

However, because this effect is nonlinear current linear design methods cannot help us understand and avoid it.

Professor Wagg, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, believes that by including nonlinear effects in the design process, they will find new ways to design safer, lighter and more energy-efficient structures.

“The complexity of modern designs has outstripped our ability to fully understand their dynamic behaviour,” he said. 

”All our understanding is based on linear dynamics and we find it really hard to anticipate nonlinear effects.

”We plan to advance our knowledge in this area to develop a new and radical era of design for structures such as wind turbines, bridges, building, spacecraft and aeroplanes.”

-  Multiphase flows at Imperial. Professor Omar Matar, from Imperial College London, and his team have been given £4.9 million to change industrial practice making it more reliable and efficient.

Working with industry leaders including P&G and BP, the team will rely on sound fundamentals to design a new generation of modelling and simulation tools for fluid flow systems such as oil and gas transportation in pipelines.

“We believe our work will result in a paradigm shift in the way we think about the prediction of complex multiphase flows – which are key to the design of virtually every processing and manufacturing technology,“ said Omar Matar, Professor of Fluid Dynamics at Imperial’s Department of Engineering.

“Currently, there is an over-reliance on existing models which are often used beyond their range of validity.

“We want to change that culture and ensure researchers in academia and industry rely more on fundamentals.

“This approach will ultimately lead to more innovative and inventive products for us all, more reliable equipment design, with an associated reduction in emissions and our carbon footprint.

“This will be of tremendous benefit to the UK economy.”  

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