Engineering researchers whose projects have the potential to bring radical innovation to their fields have been awarded research fellowships by RAEng.
Each of the seven research projects addresses unresolved or critical issues in a specific engineering field and the fellowships will provide the academics with financial support and mentoring for five years to enable them to establish independent careers in research.
This year’s winners include innovations in new composite materials that could replace metal in several applications; safer, high-performance metal alloys for the nuclear industry; ‘many-core’ computers that outperform today’s fastest machines and software that can process sounds like a human ear.
The other three projects are looking into new ways to use light to transfer information as the capacity of fibre optic networks approaches its limit, and ways to improve medical technology, by developing novel techniques for brain imaging and better designed prostheses for amputees.
“Innovation is crucial to keep the UK ahead of its competitors in today’s highly competitive globalised market, and it is thanks to the work of outstanding researchers such as the recipients of this year’s research fellowships that the country can develop and maintain a technological advantage,” said Professor Ric Parker, director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce and chair of the Academy's research and secondments committee.
“As part of the Engineering for Growth campaign, the academy is committed to showing the key role engineering plays in creating industrial and economic growth for the benefit of society as a whole. Supporting the best and most impactful engineering research is one way of ensuring that the flow of innovation continues uninterrupted.
“As every year, the applications we received for these positions were numerous and of the highest quality, which makes the selection process very difficult. The winning candidates were truly outstanding, with a clear vision for their future work and career. I wish them all the best and an exciting future in research."
Non-invasive imaging techniques that show the blood flow to the brain are valuable tools, so Dr Thomas Okell from the University of Oxford, is working on a way of performing two measurements – perfusion maps of brain tissues infused by blood and angiography, which shows the flow of blood within arteries – simultaneously, which is not currently possible.
Dr Emmanouil Benetos from Queen Mary University of London aims to develop versatile algorithms able to separate and interpret sounds, based on the way the human auditory system works and his fellowship will produce a multipurpose software tool capable of analysing music recordings and complex acoustic scenarios.
With two new nuclear power plants being commissioned at Hinkley Point Dr Ben Britton from Imperial College London will study two of the alloys generally used to build reactor cladding, tubing and heat exchangers to develop models that predict how to process these alloys and how they perform in service in harsh environments over long periods of time.
Dr Alex Dickinson from the University of Southampton will develop dynamic models of how residual limbs interact with prosthetic sockets in lower limb amputees to help plan more efficient surgical and prosthetic treatments and enable the design of better prostheses.
With fibre optic networks approaching their limits, Dr Martin PJ Lavery from the University of Glasgow is planning to use light’s orbital angular momentum (OAM), a property that can assume discrete, measurable values that could form a new ‘alphabet’, to develop high capacity, secure communication networks.
Dr Antoniu Pop from University of Manchester is addressing the programmability, performance and energy issues of ‘many-core’ processors, from a software engineering perspective by creating a new programming language specifically designed to fully exploit the power of many-core processors and investigating new computation models and optimisations.
Another Imperial researcher, Dr Soraia Pimenta, is developing mathematical models to assist engineers designing with new multiscale discontinuous composites and her new models will help to understand and optimise the mechanical properties of this new family of composites.