Four leading academics from the universities of Exeter, Sheffield, Bristol and Cambridge have been awarded substantial fellowship grants, totalling £2.38 million; it was announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
They will carry out innovative research that will:
- Enable better water management
- Monitor the health of structures in the aerospace and wind energy sectors to save money and improve lifespan
- Develop tools for optimising manufacturing design of aircraft and wind turbines
- Provide computational models to calculate the effects of energy policies on global greenhouse gas emissions
The fellowships have been awarded to the following leading researchers and their teams.
A new approach to water management in UK cities
Professor David Butler, Co-Director of the internationally-leading Centre for Water Systems and Professor of Water Engineering at the University of Exeter, has been awarded a five-year fellowship, worth around £1.5 million.
Professor Butler said: “The water sector in the UK has, by many measures, been very successful up to now. However the sector is increasingly under threat as a result of climate change, increasing population, urbanisation, demographic shifts and tighter regulation.
“The fellowship is about understanding the key characteristics of sustainable and resilient water systems and then applying that understanding to develop and test new and improved ways to tackle problems associated with water scarcity, urban flooding and river pollution. The work will be carried out in conjunction with industry partners such as Severn Trent Water and government bodies such as the Environment Agency.”
Health monitoring for structures in the aerospace and wind energy sectors
Professor Keith Worden, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, has been awarded a fellowship worth around £900,000 to fund this project. The project aims to provide a means to monitor the structural health of populations such as fleets of aircraft or offshore wind farms.
Professor Worden said: “The fundamental idea is to allow a form of epidemiology for structures.
“The ultimate objective of my main area of research – structural health monitoring – is to provide a means for industry to optimise management of their assets by allowing them to diagnose potential problems in operation at as early a stage as possible. This will have overwhelming benefits in terms of both cost of ownership and safety of operation. The aerospace industry alone could save potentially millions of pounds from more effective maintenance and asset management strategies.
“The EPSRC Fellowship will allow me the freedom and resources to concentrate on this challenge and bring my own experience and expertise to bear on the problem without the usual, but necessary distractions from research that the senior academic usually faces.”
Tools for optimising manufacturing design of aircraft and wind turbines
Dr Simon Neild, from the University of Bristol, has been awarded a five-year EPSRC Fellowship worth around £760,000 to develop a computer validation programme to analyse the behaviour of mechanical structures, focusing on the aerospace and wind energy sectors.
Dr Neild said: “Modern manufacturing is concerned with making structures more cost efficient whilst using fewer resources. For example aeroplanes are made with lighter wings to improve fuel efficiency, and wind turbines are made with longer blades. The need for greater efficiency in manufacturing is driving the need for new tools.
“Currently design tools used by design engineers and engineering consultants in the manufacturing process can’t measure how structures behave under extreme conditions in terms of vibration, comfort, noise and fatigue life. The more flexible structures become, the more difficult they are to model. To account for this, designers employ multiple design cycles and may be forced to make structures heavier or stiffer than necessary – this is more costly in terms of materials and less fuel efficient.
“I hope that my work will help high-end manufacturing in the UK and make it even more competitive internationally.”
Computational models to calculate the effect of energy policy on changes to global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
Dr Jean-Francois Mercure, from Cambridge University, has been awarded around £230,000 to produce a computational modelling system which can be used by government to shape energy policy and will provide new data for climate change scientists.
Dr Mercure said: “The main aim of my research is to construct a system to answer questions about the impact of UK or international policy changes on global emissions. Policymakers and climate scientists can use the data we provide to assess whether policies for CO2 reduction will reach their goals.”
Currently energy systems modelling predominantly relies on methodologies that attempt to provide optimal solutions. The research will use known empirical trends in how technologies have behaved in the past to project how they will behave in the real, non-optimal world.
Dr Mercure’s research will focus on energy end-use transportation, household and industrial energy consumption, as solutions involving only energy supply sectors are currently over-represented.
Dr Mercure said: “This project will address the evolution of energy end-use technology and consumption, which will take an important role in any future scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”