Improving how humans and robots can work together, enhancing the performance and safety of new battery technologies, and expanding sources of energy from offshore wind are some of the engineering challenges being addressed by researchers who have been awarded the latest Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowships.
Three out of the 16 projects supported by the fellowships are aimed at improving the safety and performance of lithium-ion, sodium-ion, and solid-state batteries. Other projects will address how to prevent overheating of next generation satellite communications systems, ways to help with earthquake resilience of civil engineering infrastructure, and the development of 3D-printed ceramic monolithic adsorption technology for life-threatening inflammatory conditions.
The full list of 2022 awardees, partners and projects is as follows:
Dr Qammer H. Abbasi, University of Glasgow/Celestia UK
RISE: radiating element development for satellite communications phased arrays
Next generation satellite communication systems are increasingly adopting phased arrays, so that operators can optimise reception and transmission in real time, in response to changing link requirements. But phased arrays are expensive and the electronics involved generate a lot of heat. The structure and integration of these electronics have a huge impact in performance and cooling needs. In this project, new approaches to radiating antenna elements, feeding mechanisms and array system integrations will be investigated, designed, and fabricated to cool the heat generated by the phased array.
Dr Stefano V. Albrecht, University of Edinburgh/Dematic
Multi-agent reinforcement learning for warehouse logistics with robotic and human co-workers
In future commercial warehouses, many robotic and human workers will collaborate to collect and deliver items. The fundamental problem that this project aims to tackle is how these workers must coordinate their actions in the warehouse to maximise performance (for example, in terms of order throughput) under given resource constraints.
Dr John Douglas, University of Strathclyde/Jacobs
Better assessment of UK earthquake ground motions for engineering purposes
One of the key inputs into the design and assessment process for civil engineering infrastructure is a mathematical model of the ground motions that could be expected in future earthquakes nearby. Benefiting from close and long-standing collaborations between Dr Douglas and the industry partner, this project will develop a UK ground motion model.
Dr Agustí Egea-Àlvarez, University of Strathclyde/ScottishPower Energy Networks
Stability of future electricity networks
The electricity network is shifting from conventional power stations to renewables interfaced with power converters at an unprecedented rate. This move introduces new challenges that, if left unaddressed, will increase the risk of blackouts. This project will develop new models and study techniques to mitigate control interactions induced by power converters.
Dr Agathoklis Giaralis, City, University of London/AqualisBraemar LOC Group (ABL Group)
OPTWIND: optimised fixed offshore wind turbine support structures
This project will facilitate a net-zero energy transition by extending the applicability of bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines (BOWTs) to deeper waters, with higher wind energy generation potential. This will be followed by a new optimisation-driven BOWT design protocol, coupling minimal weight sizing of the turbine support structure with optimal tuning of innovative vibration absorbers to minimize the critical wind/wave stresses
Dr Pooja Goddard, Loughborough University/Echion Technologies
Mixed niobium oxide anodes for high power batteries: optimising interfaces
This project will use a materials modelling approach to improve the performance of mixed niobium oxide (XNOTM) products used in lithium-ion batteries, particularly focusing on improvements in power density. These materials provide rapid fast charge/discharge of lithium-ion cells, without sacrificing on safety or cost.
Dr Ze Ji, Cardiff University/Spirent Communications
Active perception and learning for autonomous navigation
Autonomous robots, especially those involved in safety-critical tasks, have to rely on accurate, robust and assured navigation. This project will explore a framework for probabilistic robot localisation. It will incorporate machine learning, specifically reinforcement learning, for robots to actively perceive environments and learn decision-making for enhanced autonomous navigation.
Dr Ramaseshan Kannan, Arup/University of Cambridge
Uncertainty quantifying algorithms for a sustainable built environment
To reach net zero, the built environment industry needs ways to extend the life of existing building and infrastructure stock. This project will develop algorithms that use sensor performance data, statistical analysis, numerical modelling, and machine learning to quantify uncertainties to unlock reuse and resilience in built assets.
Dr Hungyen Lin, Lancaster University/LiNa Energy
Structural inspection in battery manufacturing using terahertz sensing
Solid-state batteries could potentially transform the electrification of the transport industry and boost progress towards net zero targets. This research programme will develop a new technique using terahertz radiation to non-destructively inspect the structural properties of new types of batteries to enhance product quality while reducing waste.
Dr Michael Merlin, University of Edinburgh/IONATE Ltd
Unlocking the flexibility of future power networks through smart transformers
This two-year project will bring IONATE’s technology to market through the development of a full-scale prototype and commercialization to energy customers. IONATE is a technology start-up developing an innovative Hybrid Intelligent Transformer (HIT) solution, technological concept of which has been demonstrated by Dr Merlin's lab. HITs are designed to optimize power flows in distribution networks and unlock power capacity; ultimately resolving key issues associated with decarbonisation and decentralisation within the electricity grid
Dr Peyman Moghadam, University of Sheffield/Immaterial Ltd
Digital manufacturing of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)
With more than 100,000 metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) already in existence, relying on trial and error or serendipity to discover and manufacture them is costly, slow, and unreliable. To address this challenge, a digital manufacturing set-up will be developed to transform MOF chemistry with data by integrating feedback from simple sensors that detect parameters such as temperature or pH, as well as online analytics.
Dr Meysam Qadrdan, Cardiff University/National Grid Gas Plc
Evaluating the potential of hydrogen to achieve net-zero
This research will investigate the role and value of hydrogen as energy storage in achieving the net zero target in the UK. A whole system modelling approach will be used to study the interactions between the electricity and developing hydrogen infrastructures.
Dr Craig Robertson, University of Strathclyde/TSI Technology Ltd
Developing 3D-printed ceramic monolithic adsorption technology for life-threatening inflammatory conditions
This project will develop a technology to treat life-threatening inflammatory conditions which cause the normally protective immune system to attack the body, including sepsis and COVID-19. Cytokines control the immune system and play a key role in these conditions, and the project will fabricate an adsorption technique to remove harmful cytokines.
Dr Tan Sui, University of Surrey/National Physical Laboratory
Developing innovative residual stress assessment for lifespan extension of materials
Residual stress assessment is vital to the lifespan evaluation and structural integrity of engineering materials and components. This project will develop a state-of-the-art time-resolved residual stress measurement method, with tunable cross-scale resolution and a real-time data analysis routine, using nuclear fusion technology to demonstrate its impact to the UK net zero strategy.
Dr Zari Tehrani, Swansea University/ENSERV POWER
Self-healing fire retardant gel polymer electrolytes for sodium ion batteries
Next-generation sodium-ion batteries are at the frontier of the rechargeable battery market. However, they face safety issues and are fire-prone. Gel polymer electrolytes are a promising route to mitigating these issues. The goal of this project is to produce gel polymer electrolytes with optimal ionic conductivity, along with self-healing and fire-retardant properties, to fast-track the commercialisation of sodium-ion batteries.
Dr Shufan Yang, Edinburgh Napier University/Codeplay Software Ltd
Software-hardware ecosystems for edge AI/ML devices (SHED)
Standard methods of assimilating edge AI and machine learning (ML) devices into an integrated development system have not reached the market. Historically, acceleration design for various hardware devices was performed by computing engineers using customised methods. The software-hardware ecosystem for edge AI/ML devices (SHED) project will make the platform compatible with PyTorch and Tensorflow in field-programmable gated array (FPGA) platforms so that software developers can focus on application-level development, instead of managing a low stack of factors in an AI edge device.
More details about each of the 2022 Industrial Fellowships can be found on the Academy’s website.
Media enquiries to: Pippa Cox at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. +44 207 766 0745; email: Pippa.Cox@raeng.org.uk