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UK marks Year of Engineering with £6.6m new funding for R&D

17 Jan 2018

Photonics-heavy research projects part of new investment package into high-tech firms and universities.

Year of Engineering 2018: inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Year of Engineering 2018: inspiring the next generation of engineers.

As the 2018 UK Year of Engineering gets underway, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has announced support for 28 pioneering new research projects, including several with a significant photonics element.

Throughout 2018, hundreds of organisations across the UK will showcase the world of engineering and look to inspire the next generation of engineers by bringing young people face-to-face with engineering experiences and role models.

Coincident with the YoE, EPSRC has announced a new package of investment of £6.6 million through the Engineering for a Prosperous Nation call to support projects with potentially transformative impact in fields ranging from autonomous vehicles to energy storage and healthcare.

As part of the Engineering for a Prosperous Nation call, EPSRC has encouraged bids for creative, novel engineering research projects with the potential to contribute to EPSRC’s four Prosperity Outcomes for the UK.

Twenty-eight projects at 17 different universities have been supported, with grants awarded to researchers across all career stages and representing a diverse range of fields. Research areas include the development of intelligent driver seats to act as co-pilots in autonomous cars; the use of diamond quantum technology to investigate neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease; the use of novel materials to create artificial leaves for use in solar power generation; and the investigation of new solutions to antimicrobial resistance in wastewater systems.

Photonics-related projects

Imaging at the University of Southampton This proposal, which has attracted funding of £250,000, intends to take cutting-edge imaging techniques and use them to improve the outcomes of assisted reproduction treatment procedure also known as in-vitro fertilisation or IVF.

Whilst IVF has been used for almost 40 years now, it remains a largely unsuccessful procedure (only 26% of cycles end with a live birth) and is expensive for patients to use (around £5000 for a basic cycle, and typically more than one cycle is needed).

During the procedure, a woman's eggs are taken and fertilised by sperm in the clinic. They are then incubated for several days and the best embryo is selected and returned to the patient. The main problem to solve is that the embryologist has very little information helping them to choose, and does not know which embryo is the best.

More information at: Engineering Novel Imaging Technologies for Reproductive Health: Transforming IVF Outcomes, led by: Dr Sumeet Mahajan.

EPSRC is investing £6.6m in new R&D.

EPSRC is investing £6.6m in new R&D.

Interferometry at the University of Southampton Gravity gradiometry is a technique for measuring the difference in the acceleration due to gravity between two points. The technique, which has been in use for several decades, can identify underground oil and gas reserves, monitor ocean circulation, and detect geological faults, as well as measuring the shape of the earth's gravitational field, which is necessary for accurate navigation.

This proposal, which has also attracted funding of £250,000, aims to explore new methods to separate the required two atomic test masses required to make such measurements and couple them via actively-stabilized optical fibers.

More information at: PLAIN-GG: Phase-Locked Atomic Interferometers for Gravity Gradiometry, led by Dr Matt Himsworth.

Developing ‘artificial leaves’ – University of Bath The manufacturing of artificial leaves that reproduces at larger scale what plants do when they form carbohydrates by natural photosynthesis is a significant ambition for the creation of a sustainable society. Success would have the potential to cease our dependence on fossil sources for polymer syntheses, pharmaceutical manufacture, and transport applications and instead allow us to use atmospheric or flue gas CO2.

This research project aims to develop artificial leaves with halide perovskites, novel materials of unprecedented success in photovoltaics that remain unexplored in photocatalysis because they suffer from chemical and structural instability.

More information at Engineering halide perovskites for artificial leaves, led by Dr S Eslava.

Other YoE projects are listed on the EPSRC website.

Bristol Instruments, Inc.Sacher Lasertechnik GmbHDelta Optical Thin Film A/Sart Photonics GmbHNanoscribe GmbHLouwersHaniquePhoton Engineering, LLC
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