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What are Research limitations

what are your research interests and what does research validity mean and what is descriptive research with example
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HelenaColins,New Zealand,Professional
Published Date:06-07-2017
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Research IN THE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES Design, Discover, Deliver Our ability to be at the forefront of research is built on and shaped by the heritage of the College with its long-standing and pioneering achievements across the spectrum of basic and applied science and engineering since 1900. A characteristic of research at Birmingham are the synergies between theoretical and experimental endeavours, coupled with large-scale experimental facilities. Our facilities span the main Birmingham campus and at Ansty in the West Midlands and major collaborative activities in Switzerland (CERN), and China (Guangzhou, Hefei). This provides a diverse and unique environment for our scholars and their research groups. From atoms to astronomy, computers to cars and n Advanced manufacturing – driving the transferring these discoveries to applications railways to robust extreme environment materials, industry forward by staying head of the has seen some of the major transformations in our wish is to transform our understanding of global competition through our innovation technology. This requires connectivity between complex systems to build intellectual talent – n Science frontiers – fundamental fundamental science, engineering and ultimately expressed in high calibre people – and to breakthroughs in our understanding business and industry. That is what we do at the improve global well-being and our economy. of the way Nature works College of Engineering and Physical Sciences – n Resilience, energy and sustainability – and we are striving hard to develop further. Across the College the breadth of expertise in tackling the challenges of future discovery science and in bringing innovation to generations now Professor Richard A Williams societal use through engineering is extensive. We Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of College actively encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in our Making important discoveries in fundamental science is both exciting and revolutionises the research community and business networks to ensure knowledge exchange. Our research has way we think about the world around us, but impacted society in many ways. Our portfolio of capabilities and selected achievements may be summarised in three key overarching themes: Contents Welcome from Head of College 2 Map/Diagram of the three research themes 3 Highlights of Advanced Manufacturing (Design) 4 Highlights of Science Frontiers (Discover) 9 Highlights of Resilience, Energy and Sustainability (Deliver) 14y t i l i b a n i a t s u s d n a y g r e n e , e c A n d e i v l 3 Research themes Computational Intelligence and Applications Resilience Materials Chemistry and Energy Centre for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Pure Mathematics, Chemical Biology Combinatorics and Drug Discovery Imaging in Chemistry and Biomedicine Particle and Nuclear Nuclear Physics Computer Energy Energy Research Security and Policy Astronomy, Seismology of stars, and Gravitational Waves Magnetic and Computational Hydrogen Materials Nanophysics Neuroscience and Theoretical Cognitive Robotics Computer Science Natural Computation Vehicle Quantum Matter and Metamaterials Technology Railway Research and Education Microwave Systems and Devices Intelligent Robotics Formulation Engineering Bioengineering Engineering Properties of Materials i a s n s e r c R e e i t d n o m r f a n e c u n f a e i c t c S u r i n g4 Advanced manufacturing Advanced engineering and manufacturing are pivotal to the UK’s business success, at home and abroad. Birmingham has long aligned its research programmes with industry and national priorities – and we now lead the way in key areas. We are developing engines of the future and A major frontier is the development of artificial biological materials, such as bone, for use in designing tomorrow’s railways – from materials and modelling to power and risk analysis. The surgical substitution. The challenge is to develop drivers being efficiency, reduced environmental materials that are not only structurally similar but behave the same as the material they replace. impact and safety. We are driving advances in the aerospace sector, including novel materials This ground-breaking research is only possible and fabrication methods for aero-engines; our because we have the technology and the know-how coupled with our development of expertise underpins some of the most advanced engine designs. cutting-edge techniques for enhanced imaging of biological systems. In design and manufacturing of electronic devices, we are working on radio frequency and microwave We have extensive research in formulation engineering – to help meet the demand for of soft structured products such as food, fuels new, internet-based services on small and and products such as washing detergents. Advanced Materials mobile devices and systems for advanced automotive radar. In all of these, we work alongside global industry Engineering partners such as Jaguar Land Rover, Procter and Formulation Engineering Gamble, Rolls Royce and Unilever. Engines for the future Automotive radar Advanced Materials Engineering We are leading UK research in developing advanced resource- efficient processing techniques for a variety of metals – such as nickel, titanium and aluminium – to make a range of state-of-the- art components using revolutionary technology. 3D Printing of Advanced Engineering Direct Laser Deposition Components Traditionally, if, say, an expensive turbine engine More properly known as ‘additive manufacturing’ blade breaks or becomes worn, it is discarded or ‘selective laser melting’, we are able to ‘print’ and replaced. But we are exploring the use of complex items, such as an engine component, metal powders to ‘fill’ the worn or broken bits. in their finished state rather than machining them Again, the benefits include cost-reduction and from the bulk. Using lasers to melt a metal powder, increasing the product life. we print the component by adding layer upon layer of the powder. We are at the heart of the These new approaches to manufacturing ‘third industrial revolution’ – using 3D printing are transformational: techniques to make components out of metal. n The lead-time, from design to production, We are the only university in the UK to use a is much shorter than using casting and forging. It can take just two days to make variety of metals in this way, especially the laser and powder based techniques. a geometrically-complex component. n They are resource-efficient. Nickel, for example, is very expensive material. Manufacturing by Net Shape Manufacturing We are at the forefront of net-shape manufacturing This technology, used to manufacture large machining, removing metal, results in a lot technology – making large components from metal powder components from metal powder to final shape of waste. to final shape in one step. This is known as Net Shape n The buy-to-fly ratio is vastly reduced. For in just one step, is known as ‘net shape’. It works HIPping (Hot Isostatic Pressing) and overcomes the waste by filling a mould, designed through sophisticated example, with traditional methods, 10 kg in traditional manufacturing. computer modelling, with powder and then may be required to make a 2 kg component, whereas with 3D-printing, just a little over 2 kg applying temperature and pressure so that the We are pioneering the use of the technique of direct laser powder holds itself in the shape required – will be required to make the same component. deposition to repair worn components, such as engine an engine casing, for example. As with other n They create products to a higher specification blades, using metal powder, or to build large structure and dimensional accuracy. novel engineering technologies, net shape by free-form laser deposition. manufacturing is much more efficient than traditional methods, with buy-to-fly ratio (the Additive manufacturing is one of several novel We are founding partner of the Manufacturing Technology techniques we employ to take engineering into weight ratio between the raw material used for Centre (MTC). The MTC represents one of the largest a component and the weight of the component a new era – where industry is able to design for public sector investments in manufacturing for many itself) slightly over 1, compared to about 10 for functionality rather than manufacturability – years and is housed in a 12,000 square metre purpose bringing new prosperity to the UK. Moreover, material removal processes: 60 kg of powder built facility at Ansty Park, Coventry for advanced will make 56 kg of engine casing. This method this approach minimises manufacturing’s carbon manufacturing. It is a partnership between some of the also requires minimal finishing. In traditional footprint through the three Rs – Reusing, UK’s major global manufacturers and the universities Recycling and Remanufacturing (repairing) of manufacturing, machining work can account of Birmingham, Nottingham and Loughborough. The for two-thirds of the price of a component. existing products. This is an example of ‘high-value MTC founder members include internationally renowned manufacturing’ (HVM), where Birmingham’s companies such as: Aero Engine Controls, Airbus and Rolls advanced technical know-how is used to develop Royce. There are now more than 50 members representing products and manufacturing processes that can a broad range of industrial sectors. bring sustainable growth and prosperity. 6 Formulation Engineering Imagine a chocolate bar that is low in fat yet tastes just as luxurious as its full-fat counterpart. Thanks to world-leading research by our chemical engineers, you may not have to imagine for much longer. Our scientists have found the solution to making foods healthier but without compromising their taste and texture. Working closely with the food industry, the aim is We are designing a material that is structured Because of our strengths in the design and characterisation to help reduce food-related diseases like obesity in a way that encapsulates cells and locates them of microstructured products, and in heat and mass transfer, in a position where they have a therapeutic effect. and hypertension by encouraging the population fluid flow, particle technology and materials engineering to cut down on sugar, fat and salt. Until now, the The release of the restructured cells is then done across chemical, biological and physical systems, we big problem has been that low-fat and low-sugar in a controlled way so as to enhance their benefit. collaborate with world-class industry, as well as with varieties of convenience foods simply aren’t leading-edge engineering and science departments as flavoursome and therefore not as appealing. This research focuses on taking a population of nationally and internationally. What’s more, many such products replace natural cells from a person’s own tissues, encapsulating them into a gel – which acts as a filler – and ingredients such as fat and salt with artificial The School of Chemical Engineering was awarded the alternatives, thus compromising their ‘healthiness’. injecting it into that person’s body. From there, Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in recognition the cells will excrete growth factors, which will of its pioneering research in micro-structured materials What we do is to use process science to encourage healing. and outstanding track record in collaborative research and understand and manipulate food on the training with UK and multinational companies involved in microscale to engineer products that deliver As our knowledge of biological systems improves, process engineering. consumer expectation but with controlled energy we are moving from the use of materials as crude and salt delivery so as to give a dramatic reduction compositional mimics, to designing ones that can We are the largest group of its type in any UK academic in the amounts of fat, sugar and salt consumed in interact with specific biological processes engineering department – we have 30 PhD and engineering the diet. For example, we have found a way to to enhance tissue formation. doctoral students working on these projects. substitute some or most of the fat globules in foodstuffs such as chocolate, mayonnaise and margarine with alternative, natural materials such as water. So successful is our research that the food industry may be only two years away from bringing products that are as healthy as they are indulgent to market. We are also revolutionising future health care and medical treatment. We are working to develop cell therapy treatments for regenerating diseased or damaged bones, cartilage, ligaments, skin and even eyes, and to improve the body’s ability to heal. This might seem a million miles away from chocolate, but the principles are the same.7 Engines for the future The engines of today are both powerful and efficient, but the engines of tomorrow need not only to be powerful and efficient but significantly greener. Our mechanical engineers are working with some of the biggest names in industry to develop future fuels (including biofuels) and new combustion system/after treatment to reduce the environmental impact of transport. We work closely with UK industry in engine design and advanced engine technologies, helping to design the engines and fuels of the future. Our exceptional engine research and development mode (eg, homogeneous charge compression labs are second-to-none: Our Future Engines ignition) include a glass cylinder in which it is and Fuels Laboratory houses ten engine test bed possible to perform world-leading measurements facilities for engines, fuels and catalysts and it is of fuel injection and combustion. here that we carry out extensive collaborative work with the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Johnson Biodiesel can be manufactured from, for Matthey and Shell. example, vegetable oil. This is used in blended fuels, the global consumption of which is about The main challenge in engine development is 30 billion gallons per year. Our research has to enhance fuel efficiency and the reduction of helped manufacturers to understand the possible emissions such as nitrogen oxides and carbon proportion of biodiesel in order to both optimise monoxide. Changing the way fuel is injected into performance and reduce carbon dioxide and the cylinder can improve both combustion and other regulated emissions. performance. Our facilities for new combustion We are working with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) to improve current and future generation engine technology, as well as on next generation gasoline direct injection combustion technology. Using Birmingham research, JLR has been able to improve the flexibility of its engine technology to accept a wide range of environmentally-friendly fuels. With the results of our research, Johnson Matthey has been able to optimise its environmental catalyst technology. This is helping to reduce regulated and unregulated pollutant emissions, thus lessening the environmental impact. Shell is one of the largest purchasers and distributors of biofuels in the world. Through Raízen, a joint venture between Shell and Brazilian firm Cosan to produce ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane, it produces more than two billion litres of biofuel annually. We have helped the company to design fuels that are compatible with current engine technologies.8 Automotive radar Making cars ever-more exciting to drive while at the same time improving road safety are two key components for maintaining pole position in automotive manufacturing. Cutting-edge radar research at Birmingham over two decades has powered the industry into the 21st century. ACC enables a vehicle to automatically adjust Our communications engineers have been We were integral to the EU Technical Committee setting involved in the research and development of its speed, by controlling the throttle and brakes, the European radio frequency spectrum standard on ‘adaptive cruise control’ (ACC) radar and ‘blind to maintain a safe distance from a target vehicle automotive radar. We provided radar expertise to the ahead and other objects nearby. spot monitoring’ (BSM) from the very beginning. committee, which included members from Birmingham, BMW, Daimler Benz, Fiat, Volvo, M/A Com, Siemens Both are now integral to the Jaguar Land Rover Our engineers have also worked on pedestrian and GEC Plessy. and collision-avoidance systems, such as (JLR) range: ACC radar was introduced by Jaguar in 1999 and other car manufacturers have also investigating the effects of rain and spray and We have delivered training programmes in ‘understanding started incorporating it into their vehicle design. radar interpretation of vehicles, pedestrians, automotive radar: theory, practice and current development’ Birmingham’s research in this sector continues animals, bicycles and road infrastructure. to Jaguar Land Rover to lead the way in the UK. Our research has helped to improve vehicle efficiency, capability and road user safety. Optimum vehicle progress control offers environmental benefits by reducing energy wastage through inappropriate driving and also lessens damage to the terrain. 9 Science frontiers Our research has delivered breakthrough discoveries which are challenging the understanding of the universe, its laws and fundamental characteristics. We have world-leading research programmes that reach from the smallest to the largest scales, from quarks to galaxies, through to challenges of pure mathematics and computing. We are probing what happened an instant after the We are developing new quantum materials – Big Bang, have helped discover the Higgs Boson, metamaterials – changing the way materials respond to light and microwaves and could lead are leading the quest to find gravitational waves, and have led the way in developing experiments to the fabrication of human scale invisibility cloaks. that can ‘see’ inside the sun and other stars. We We are conducting research on human cognition and robotic systems, leading to a better are discovering new planets around distant stars, which are similar to Earth, in the habitable region understanding of both brain function and known as the Goldilocks Zone. advanced robotics. Astronomy Particle Physics and Nuclear Physics Combinatorics Quantum Matter and Metamaterials Astronomy The possibility of finding other planets on which life might exist, is coming closer – thanks to research by astronomers at Birmingham. We listen to the ‘music of the stars’, elsewhere in our galaxy, around which new planets are being discovered. The characteristic pitch of the oscillations of the stars reveals their size and composition. Our scientists are working with the Kepler Mission, Our task is to characterise the host stars a space observatory launched by NASA to find around which new planets are discovered, potentially habitable planets like our own, orbiting using a powerful, rapidly-growing field of stars like our Sun, outside our solar system. astronomy called asteroseismology, which is the Already it has produced dramatic results. study of the stars by observation of their natural resonances which manifest as characteristic Our astronomers are studying the planets’ ‘suns’, oscillations, similar to how resonating musical because the more information we can gather instruments are detected by our ears. about the neighbouring star, the more we will know about the planet and the possibility of life We are leading an international team of scientists, elsewhere in the universe. which is playing a leading role in this exciting international project. Our work with the NASA Kepler Mission is enhancing our understanding of the life-cycles of stars, which will help us to better understand our own Sun. We can select for study stars of solar mass and composition that are younger and older than the Sun – allowing us to study the ‘Sun in time’ and open a window on the past and future of our star. This will enable us to better understand the potentially damaging effects on the Earth of solar storms and ‘space weather’. Our scientists played a major part in the detection of a rocky planet – smaller than our solar system’s smallest planet, Mercury – orbiting a solar-type star 80 per cent of the size and mass of the Sun. The exact dimensions of the star, and the absolute size of the planet, were determined by asteroseismologists led by Birmingham. We are an international collaboration of asteroseismologists that are studying Sun-like stars, using Kepler, and we are represented on the Kepler Exoplanet Council. We have published hundreds of research papers in scientific journals. 11 Particle Physics and Nuclear Physics The discovery of the Higgs boson which gives mass to fundamental particles – was one of the biggest discoveries in physics in half a century. Our pioneering research helped to track it down. The identification of this tiny particle, predicted by Peter Higgs in 1964, has revolutionised the way we think about the fundamental mechanisms at work in the universe. This endeavour is being spearheaded by CERN understand why there is more matter than We have been involved in the discovery of the quark-gluon – the Geneva-based European Organization for antimatter in the Universe – after the Big Bang plasma, which will help us to understand how the universe there should have been equal amounts of matter Nuclear Research – and our elementary particle came to be the way we see it today and also give us an and nuclear physics groups are involved in as and antimatter, so where did all the antimatter go? insight into the structure of matter within the cores of many experiments at the laboratory as any other neutron stars. All these experiments require human endeavour group in the UK. at the cutting-edge – the extremes of energy, Our research programme is pushing the frontiers of These – ATLAS, ALICE, LHCb and NA62 – are precision and technology. We are world leaders instrumentation and radiation detection. The advances we’ve in the design and construction of state-of-the-art being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider made have potential for producing sensors that function in (LHC), the world’s biggest and highest-energy electronics that are needed to identify the most high temperature environments, such as aircraft engines. particle accelerator, which was built by CERN to interesting collisions at the LHC within two- enable physicists to test the predictions of different millionths of a second. theories of particle and high-energy physics. As part of the ATLAS experiment – a collaboration of nearly 3,000 scientists – our physicists performed some of the key analysis that resulted in the discovery of the Higgs boson in ultra-high energy proton-proton collisions at the LHC. We are now busy testing our standard model theory against the Higgs’ properties and looking for signs of even more exotic physics. With the ALICE experiment, we are probing the nature of matter an instant after the Big Bang which resulted in the creation of the Universe. This will help us to understand how the Universe came to be the way we see it today. Through precise measurements of the lifetimes of particles containing beauty quarks and antiquarks at the LHCb experiment we are trying to 12 Combinatorics The Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP) has baffled mathematicians for more than 50 years, yet two of our professors have ‘half-solved’ it; in the field of Extremal Combinatorics, that is no mean feat. The question posed by the TSP is: ‘If you have PJ Kelly: the connection between the two is We hold two European Research Council Starting a group of cities at various distances from each not obvious and was, therefore, unexpected. Grants. So far, only 16 such grants have been awarded other, what is the shortest possible route a to mathematicians in the UK, and only seven to travelling salesman could take so he visited each In graph theory, the vertices or nodes represent combinatorialists in Europe. city only once and returned to where he started?’ cities and the edges between them represent possible routes the salesman could take. We have also applied our methods to other classic What makes the TSP such an intellectual mathematical problems: for example edge-colourings of challenge is that the number of solutions is so Our proof spans almost 90 pages () and has graphs (which can be applied to real-life situations such vast that there’s no efficient algorithm – it is well also led to the solution of other notoriously as school timetables and other scheduling problems) and beyond the capacity of current computers to solve. difficult-to-solve problems. matching problems (which can be used to decide which teams of colleagues will work best together). But as world leaders in our field – we have come Although graphs are an abstract concept, they closer than anyone has come before. An algorithm can be applied to many real-life situations, such In Probabilistic Combinatorics, a major new research was devised to map a route that was in the top as modelling social networks (the vertices of direction is to study random graph models that capture half of the list of all possible routes (ranked a graph representing people and the edges typical features of real-world networks such as the Internet according to their length) – a vast improvement between them representing mutual acquaintances), – carried out at Birmingham. One current research focus over any previous results. as well as networks and structures in biology, is on random graphs on the hyperbolic plane (this involves communications, computer science and genetics. unusual geometries such as those featuring in many of MC Surprisingly, this breakthrough came via their For example, applying graph theory to the internet Escher’s pictures). Surprisingly, these graphs turn out solution of a famous conjecture on Hamilton enables you to see how resilient the network is to to capture crucial features of such networks. Cycles in graphs – made by the mathematician attack or component failure.13 Quantum Matter and Metamaterials Imagine the ability to make everyday objects invisible – even ourselves. It sounds like a science-fiction scenario, but our quantum physicists are working to develop an ‘invisibility cloak’ to do just that. Using matter waves – made by exploiting the We have developed the first macroscopic example We have developed new types of materials with of a material capable of hiding from view a small particle wave duality of an atom – which react electromagnetic properties that have the potential to object by bending light waves around it. These to gravity, we are able to detect objects and other revolutionise the field, with huge translational possibilities. matter where even 3D sensing technology cannot. novel materials – known as metamaterials (materials engineered to have electromagnetic Although still in its developmental stage, we are We are EU leaders in developing a highly novel gravitometer properties that may not be found in Nature) – working on gravity sensor technology to that will be capable of detecting minute changes in gravity, diffuse light so that even the target’s shadow aid archaeologists and civil engineers. enhancing our ability to detect anything from new oil is obscured. reserves to archaeological treasure. We have developed this research to be – To date, only very small objects have been almost literally – ground-breaking. Mapping the Quantum devices based around the cold atom science rendered invisible – we have made a paper clip Underworld and Assessing the Underworld – both allows for precision measurements. We are developing novel disappear – but we are among the world’s leading multi-million pound research projects – aim to find compact atomic clocks that surpass current time standards quantum scientists working towards making ways to locate pipes and cables beneath our by orders of magnitude and might boost the next generation, objects as large as human beings appear invisible. streets without the need for excavation. high-speed communication networks and satellite navigation. Using the same science, we are also developing ways to enable biologists to detect and therefore analyse viruses earlier, and to analogue certain astrophysics phenomena, such as black holes. Manipulating matter so that it behaves unnaturally – but to our benefit – is also done through ‘cold atom’ science: cooling atomic matter to almost absolute zero – 0 Kelvin degrees or -273.15°C – to bring about a change in its behaviour. Close to absolute zero atomic matter behaves in an extraordinary way. Quantum matter can either be fermionic or bosonic, if it is the latter then at 0 kelvin the collection of atoms behave like a single superatom. 14 Resilience, energy and sustainability Our research is driving both the technology and thinking required to solve some of the challenges facing the UK as it seeks to develop sustainable solutions to the designing of future cites, energy and transportation. It is the ability to combine the practical with the radical which has placed Birmingham at the forefront of this endeavour. We also design sustainable infrastructure The way we design the cities we inhabit shapes the way they function and the type of society and systems for cities and develop ‘smart’ they engender. Designing more ‘resilient’ cities, technologies for the design and control of utilities for the urban environment. requires thinking in a seamless fashion about energy, water supply, transport, building design and construction – we are leading the way in both Our work on artificial intelligence and robotic systems is helping design systems of the future by developing the thinking and providing advice to local government. which will enhance the potential in everything from Chemistry for Health medical surgery to manufacturing; we are helping and Sustainability improve the way robots see and understand their Our researchers are meeting these considerable challenges in several ways. We are the UK’s world and ours. Future Cities national centre for hydrogen research into the Mapping the Underworld The way we use technology in the future generation, storage and use of this energy Railways source, as well as fuel cell-enabled vehicles. will be different to today. Hydrogen and Fuel Cells We are developing the UK’s first national centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage and related thermal Energy materials research. Robotics and Human Interface Technologies Cyber Privacy Chemistry for Health and Sustainability Our leading research in chemistry focuses on health, energy and sustainability, mapping squarely onto pressing national and global issues. By working at the interface of several disciplines, new understanding in diverse areas ranging The Analytical Facility in the School of Chemistry brings as well as being strong in fundamental areas of from sperm movement and modelling of force Mass Spectrometry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance theoretical and experimental Chemistry, research generation by flagella to adhesion of platelets Spectroscopy, Chromatography, Elemental Analysis and in the School of Chemistry is creating real societal and leukocytes to the walls of vessels, vital for X-Ray Diffraction/Fluorescence together under one section impact. The Chemistry-Life Science and Chemistry- understanding thrombosis and inflammation. to provide the very highest quality of data analysis. With our Medicine cross-overs exploit biointerfaces, excellent facilities and high level of expertise, we can offer bioimaging and biosensors, for example facilitating Materials Chemistry and Energy our analytical services to other Schools across the University drug design. In collaboration with Chemical and Materials chemistry covers subjects from ceramics and external commercial organisations. Materials Engineering, Materials Chemistry is to nanomaterials, biomaterials and organic solids. helping develop fuel cells, which can efficiently Our research underpins a range of industrially The Centre for Physical Sciences of Imaging in the convert chemical energy from a fuel into electricity important areas, with a major focus on new Biomedical Sciences (PSIBS) was set up through a through chemical reactions. Research in these materials for energy technologies. Efficient energy prestigious EPSRC award to facilitate the training of areas is underpinned by computational studies. storage and production is a grand challenge high-quality engineering and physical sciences graduate facing our society, and meeting this challenge students in a multi-disciplinary environment at the Life Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery requires new directions to achieve the step Sciences Interface. The focus of PSIBS research is on the Our researchers are exploiting the power of change in performance to make the necessary development of imaging techniques and the computational catalysis and synthesis to generate new molecules advances. Our research is targeting the next analysis of image data to enable and support future and materials, which are being used to probe the generation of materials for hydrogen storage, breakthroughs in biology and biomedicine. function and behaviour of biological systems, fuel cell, battery, solar cell, and nuclear industries. source new drug molecules and generate drug This research is underpinned by fundamental delivery systems, such as nanoparticles whose experimental and computer modelling studies application in drug delivery is set to spread into the role that the chemical structure plays rapidly. With a large, well-established and vibrant in dictating the underlying properties of materials, research base in the life sciences and medicine leading to strategies for the rational design of at Birmingham, the possibility for translating new materials with improved properties. fundamental chemistry into therapeutic application is very real; diseases currently being targeted include various cancers, TB and irritable bowel syndrome, together with infection, resistance to antibiotics and vaccine development. Imaging in Chemistry and Biomedicine Our research is developing the chemical tools and materials required to image biological systems, and in so doing, provide new insights into how they function at hitherto unprecedented resolution. It draws together synthetic and biological chemists interested in molecular probe design and physical and computational chemists developing instrumental approaches to imaging. New fluorescent, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and molecular probes are being developed for imaging blood flow, labelling and tracking cells, and visualising and quantifying receptors to guide therapeutic treatment. This research is leading to 16 Future Cities Across the globe and throughout history, cities have been the centres of commerce, cultural evolution and innovation. People in cities have tended to be more productive, wealthier, better educated and also more resource intensive. Our researchers are helping think about how to design the cities of the future. With populations rising, how do we plan, design ambitious carbon reduction targets which and manage cities that can cope with increasing will be tested in three UK cities. pressure on resources while meeting carbon and climate challenge needs? Will our investments With engineering solutions comes the challenge in cities and infrastructure today still be resilient of implementation. We are collaborating with in a changing future? Can we design for long-term the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds to sustainability unaware of future technologies? establish the i-build centre. The centre will How do we re-engineer cities to reduce the support the development of our understanding carbon footprint by 80% whilst retaining on what new business models are needed to societal wellbeing? develop our national systems of infrastructure networks (eg, energy, water, transport, waste). Academics at the University of Birmingham are These systems support services such as trying to tackle the needs of future generations healthcare, education, emergency response today. These interdisciplinary challenges require and thereby ensure our social, economic and collaborative solutions and consequently the environmental wellbeing. University of Birmingham is providing leadership by bringing together a team of 35 specialists from Continued delivery of our civil infrastructure, the Universities of Southampton, Lancaster, UCL particularly given current financial constraints, will and Birmingham. require innovative and integrated thinking across engineering, economic and social sciences. ‘Liveable Cities’ is an ambitious national programme of research to develop a method of designing and The i-BUILD centre will deliver these advances through engineering low carbon, resource secure, wellbeing development of a new generation of value analysis tools, maximised UK cities. The team are developing a interdependency models and multi-scale implementation unique City Analysis Framework that will measure plans. These methods will be tested on integrative case how cities operate and perform in terms of their studies that are co-created with an extensive stakeholder people, environment and governance, taking group, to provide demonstrations of new methods that will account of wellbeing and resource security. enable a revolution in the business of infrastructure delivery The aim is to develop realistic and radical in the UK. engineering solutions for achieving the UK’s 17 Mapping the Underworld To engineers, underground Part of our long-standing research into civil The cutting-edge work has combined a range infrastructures is a ground-breaking research of technologies – ground penetrating radar, pipes represent buried treasure project, aimed at finding ways to allow this acoustics and low-frequency active and passive and beneath our feet lies a important work to be done without the need to electromagnetic field approaches – and intelligent veritable trove – a vast network dig holes and trenches. Together with several data fusion with the aim of achieving a 100 per other leading UK universities, as well as the British cent location success rate without disturbing of pipes and cables on which we Geological Survey, the multi-disciplinary team the ground. depend for our utility services. is developing the means to locate, map in 3D To install more, or find and repair and record – using a single shared multi-sensor Our research in this area is evolving and paving platform – the position of all buried pipes and the way for exploration into other project areas existing ones, about four million cables without having to resort to excavation. including an innovative ‘body scanner for the holes are dug into the UK road streets’. This uses the same multi-sensor, non- invasive approach to assess the condition of network each year, resulting in the buried infrastructure, as well as the ground traffic disruption, high costs and in which it is buried and the roads that overlie it. wasted man hours. A successful feasibility study for Mapping the Underworld paved the way for a rigorous and detailed programme, termed the Mapping the Underworld Location Project, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), along with in-kind funding from 34 formal practitioner partners. Our researchers successfully come together with practitioners to understand the needs of industry and develop a facility that has far-reaching implications for industry standards and safety. Being able to map the vast network of buried utility pipes and cables without digging holes in the ground is faster, less disruptive, safer and more cost-effective. It will also allow engineers to predict how the ground, in its present, possibly altered condition will react if a trench is dug at a particular point in a particular road.18 Railways The UK rail industry has a clear vision for transforming the railways To limit disruption to services when one train is running in the coming decades and we are at the heart of that transformation. late, we have developed automatic route-setting for areas of high traffic density and a method for dynamic rescheduling As a world-leading centre, many of the vital research requirements following service disruption of main-line railway operations. contained in the latest UK Rail Technical Strategy are being carried out in our laboratories – and then transferred to railways across the globe. We have designed the ‘single train simulator’ to generate a power-versus-time profile for an electric train on a particular The vision is to initiate a step change in interruptions due to product failure or extreme journey. This is now being used around the world and can performance to satisfy existing rail customers weather conditions. We combine analysis, advise drivers on how best to drive trains on specific routes simulation and measurement to find ways to and attract new passenger and freight business. in order to conserve energy. For diesel trains, simulations we To do this, we are helping the industry to improve counter these difficulties in the long-term. have carried out for the Department for Transport show that its performance by eradicating perennial problems, up to 20 per cent of energy can be saved through the use of As well as solving existing problems, we work with including track failures, cutting costs and hybrid braking systems. becoming more resilient and energy-efficient. organisations around the world, including in the US, China and Japan, to develop new train and railway We work on winter preparation with Network Rail to find system designs, through research, consultancy Bringing together a multi-disciplinary team effective ways to overcome problems caused by ice and from across the University – along with other and professional development. Several universities snow, such as developing chemical products. We have universities and partners in national and conduct railway research, but we are the only one devised a computerised in-service third rail condition international industry – our focus is to address in the UK that covers the entire engineering monitoring system to measure the forces and movements fundamental railway engineering problems. spectrum, using pioneering technologies to find of the third rail, which is now being tested on a Southern These range from line-side signalling and safety solutions to obstacles in the labs and on trains Railway train. to frequent unplanned maintenance and service and rail networks around the world. We have devised a ‘robot train’ that travels round the track spotting faults, generating a map which details the precise location of the problems. This is highly effective and hugely cost-effective because it saves on manpower and identifies faults before they become failures. Our innovative approach to research includes a ‘spinning rail’, measuring about 4.5 metres in diameter and capable of notching up a speed of 80 km/h, which equates to two laps per second. Combining many different technologies, this enables us to collect a raft of data very quickly in terms of novel fault detection, such as cracks in rails at high speed. Because the temperature in the lab can go to as low as -58°C, it helps us with extreme weather analysis and problem-solving.19 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Quieter, cleaner, zippier and cheaper to run, hydrogen-fuelled cars as The centre is home to the UK’s first public hydrogen filling station and there are now several others around the country for example developed here at Birmingham are set to revolutionise the – which is crucial for the commercial success of fuel cell motor industry. And it’s not only cars – we are also developing fuel cars. Our hydrogen-powered house, a few miles from the cell systems for trains, planes, ships and rail buses. In fact, we are the centre, uses a hydrogen fuel cell Combined Heat and Power system. only UK research centre looking at all aspects of how hydrogen can be harnessed to create a greener future. The centre was awarded a grant to create and run a doctoral training centre in hydrogen, fuel cells and their applications Hydrogen cars cut carbon emissions through The internationally acclaimed centre is also in 2008, the first of its kind in the UK; the centre is currently the use of fuel cell technology which converts working on the design and production of fuel running in its fifth year and is currently looking at extending hydrogen’s chemical energy into electricity cell equipment various mobile and portable operations to 2022. through a chemical reaction. They only emit applications – replacing batteries. water into the atmosphere and can already A hydrogen-powered canal boat has been built on campus, be competitive to petrol or diesel models. We manufacture our own fuel cells and test and powered by a combination of a metal hydride solid-state optimise them in our laboratories. Our five-strong hydrogen store, a proton exchange membrane fuel cell, a Replacing fossil fuels with alternative energy fleet of hydrogen cars has gone through a series lead acid battery stack and an NdFeB permanent magnet sources is vitally important if we are to cut carbon of improvements and the next generation will soon electric motor. emissions. But powering vehicles – as well as be trialled on the streets of Birmingham. domestic heating and lighting systems and electrical devices – with the likes of hydrogen and methanol will become a reality only if they can be proven to be reliable, robust and cost-effective. And that is what we are doing here at the centre: from basic research on fuel cells to more complex work on the integration of green energy systems into existing transport vehicles, we are road testing the sustainable production, storage and commercial application of hydrogen and other green energy sources.20 Energy One of the greatest challenges the UK faces revolves around energy. Through collaborations with the Universities of Nottingham and Loughborough, we established the Midlands Energy The drive towards decarbonisation – reducing greenhouse gas Consortium (MEC), which hosts the UK Energy Technologies emissions – requires changing the way we produce electricity. It Institute. The wealth of complementary expertise within the MEC has resulted in it leading three energy-related national also means electrification of transport and heat. In the near future centres for doctoral training, as well as hosting the Higher electricity production using coal will become uneconomic, a fuel Education Funding Council for England-funded Midlands which provides about 40% of the current electricity production. Energy Graduate School. This aims to broaden the wider energy knowledge of our research-led and taught The government strategy is to replace some of this by renewable postgraduates to help meet the growing demand in the UK sources, for example wind power, and new nuclear power stations. for more highly-trained low carbon technologies researchers. expertise and capacity. We are also making One of the challenges of sources such as wind Our Policy Commission, chaired by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is what to do when the wind does not blow. The significant investments in the area of nuclear recently presented a report on nuclear power, which other problem is what to do when the wind is engineering, waste management and advocated a ‘road map’ to stall the ‘sense of drift’ in UK decommissioning. energy policy. It called for public consultation, greater blowing and providing more electricity than cooperation between government and industry and required. Currently the surplus is dumped. Clearly government-led training and education to ensure a suitably the solution to the latter is to find ways of storing In energy storage we are working to develop new skilled workforce, to meet challenges such as the threat of approaches which could provide technological the excess to be used at times of low production. an energy crisis and climate change. Currently energy storage is limited to sources solutions to the intermittency of wind. We are such as hydroelectric plants – of which there helping develop cryogenic energy storage, are few. Other approaches are urgently required. where electricity is used to liquefy nitrogen gas Together with Nottingham, we have established (essentially air) – this is where energy is stored. an active and growing research and education presence Birmingham is making important contributions The energy is then released by allowing the liquid in Brazil, creating collaborations to develop energy- related technologies such as next-generation quantum to both nuclear energy and energy storage. nitrogen to boil and turn into gas, expanding sensors for oil discovery and well-management and dramatically. This expansion may be used to material performance characterisation for deep oil For half a century, we have been at the vanguard drive a turbine, thus generating electricity. extraction pipelines. of the UK’s nuclear research and education. Our work has been fundamental to the country’s Our research extends to areas such as bio fuels, retention of its nuclear industry and we have led powertrain systems and novel energy carriers, as We are a partner in the Centre for Low Carbon Futures the education of nuclear engineers and scientists. well as more energy-efficient manufacturing. The (CLCF), a joint project with the Universities of Leeds, energy challenge is global. Understanding the Sheffield, Hull and York. This reflects our focus on challenges We have provided capital and infrastructure in issues and finding solutions is at the heart of our related to energy storage, storing wrong-time energy from renewable generation and balancing the grid when required. order to expand further the University’s nuclear research and education here at the University. We have provided leadership in understanding the pathways for energy storage in the UK and are supporting the creation of a CLCF-China Centre for energy storage technology development and integration. As a civic university, we also look to have an impact closer to home: Collaborating with the University of Leeds and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, we have carried out a mini-Stern review of Birmingham and the wider region, to support the City in its vision to reduce its carbon footprint by 60 per cent by 2027.