RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy
Overview and Summary
The period under review provides clear evidence of vibrant and expanding research activity both at national and international level, with a focus on research in: joining technology; vibration, acoustics and vehicle engineering; stress and materials analysis; electronics; medical instrumentation; and solar energy. As detailed in the rest of this document, our main achievements to date include an increase in:
· the number of higher degrees awarded;
· both the quality and quantity of national and international publications;
· the external research income, with funding in particular from EPSRC, EU, DTI, and DERA;
· the depth of external recognition as evident, for example, in our successful bid in collaboration with University of Oxford for a Faraday Partnership in Automotive and Aerospace Materials.
Research Structure and Environment
The University has given a very high priority in its Strategic Plan to the enhancement of its research activity. Research income is ring fenced for research purposes only, in a two-pronged strategy. This allocates as much funding as possible to those who direct and undertake research. An overhead is retained for the expansion of the University research infrastructure. For example, in 1997 a University Research Centre facility was opened to bring together University research and consultancy support, and to provide a research students' Common Room and conference/meeting facilities. The University provides central training for supervisors, students and contract researchers through a University Research Training Co-ordinator. The University manages its research activities through the Research and Consultancy Committee, chaired by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), who is responsible to the University for the promotion and management of research.
The School gives a very high priority to the continuing development of its research activity. A clear focus for this has been the expansion and consolidation of the activity within the six Research Groups in the School, through the appointment of new staff who can contribute to these areas, an increase in research income, and an increase in completion rates. Particular strengths are the work undertaken by the Joining Technology Research Centre, which has achieved international recognition and was recently part of a successful bid for a Faraday Partnership in Automotive and Aerospace Materials, and the Solar Energy Materials Research Laboratory, which also has an international reputation for its work on physical deposition and optical properties of advanced thin film materials.
1. Joining Technology Research Centre
Staff in the Joining Technology Research Centre (JTRC) include: Prof A R Hutchinson (group leader), Prof A Beevers, Prof K W Allen (Visiting Professor), a visiting research fellow, 2 postdoctoral research fellows, 5 research assistants and students, 2 technicians and a secretary. JTRC's major research activities are with adhesive bonding and sealant technologies for the aerospace, automotive, construction [Hutchinson 1], defence, general engineering, marine and packaging industries. Most of the research efforts are directed towards adhesion [Allen 1-4], surface pretreatments [Beevers 2], joint testing, joint modelling [Beevers 1], joint design and joint durability [Beevers 3]. Specialist laboratory facilities include a comprehensive instrumentation laboratory for surface analysis, surface treatment techniques, dedicated preparation areas, mechanical testing and a wide range of environmental chambers. A dedicated construction sealants test facility forms an integral part of the Centre. There are professional marketing brochures for the Centre and for the separate sealant testing and consultancy services, as well as a dedicated website (www.brookes.ac.uk/jtrc).
JTRC has strong national and international links and hosts an annual international conference on Adhesion and Adhesives organised by Allen. The separate sealants research activity is visible through membership of, and active participation in, RILEM committees and seminars by Hutchinson. The Centre became the preferred laboratory for evaluation of a new RILEM durability test for sealed joints in 1999, following international agreement. JTRC contributed heavily to the global RILEM Symposium in Florida in February 2000 as well as providing several chapters of an international State-of-the-Art Review on sealants technology published in 1999 [Hutchinson 4]. Collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada resulted in the 4-month secondment of a research assistant during 1997 to work on sealants; there is also an agreement with the University of Singapore. Beevers ran a significant 25-partner EC Thematic Network on Multimaterials Technology during the period 1997-2000; the partners were grouped in industrial/technical clusters to provide focus and synergy. Many workshops and seminar activities were run, culminating in a final European conference in the Netherlands in October 2000. The project website (www.brookes.ac.uk/dogma) was established in 1998, and contains useful information and research data which continues to grow.
National and international visibility is also associated with particular research projects, often in which government policy objectives are addressed. A DTI/EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Initiative project on lightweight vehicle manufacture (LIVEMAN) was completed in 1999; the project involved a very large consortium of industrial interests including Ford, Jaguar and Hawtal Whiting [Beevers 4]. The ten-partner EPSRC LINK project on carbon fibre strengthening of bridges (ROBUST) finished in 1997. One output was a best-selling book on the subject to which Hutchinson contributed two chapters [Hutchinson 3]; another related to the first application in the world of prestressed CFRP to a cast iron bridge in Oxford. The ROBUST project managers, Mouchel Consulting, have now submitted a European bid with our input. Three projects were run within EPSRC's Materials for Better Construction initiative: two on sealants and one on timber connections (with the University of Bath) [Hutchinson 2]. All of these projects involved considerable industrial input from materials suppliers, engineering consultants and end-users. Surface treatment of timber for coating represents another research area and we are currently involved with six European partners in an EC FAIR project; a further EC Framework V project has also just begun. All of the timber bonding/coating projects involve TRADA Technology Limited. This research will be extended in further EPSRC bids and by collaboration with CSIRO Australia. Consultancy activities on behalf of European industrial organizations are routinely undertaken.
In October 2000 JTRC was successful as part of a consortium which bid for EPSRC and DTI funding for a Faraday Partnership in Automotive and Aerospace Materials. The overall partnership objective is to link industry with the science base through a high quality research programme, a training programme, and a flow of personnel between industry and HEIs. This award represents a significant achievement and recognition of the standing of the JTRC research. It also interfaces with the Cranfield University/Oxford Brookes Masters Programme in Motorsport Engineering and Management.
2. Vibration, Acoustics and Vehicle Engineering
Dr D Morrey, the Group Leader, and two other new members of staff are involved in work carried out by this group which supports 6 research students. The main focus of the work undertaken by the group is in the following areas: noise and vibration in automotive vehicle structures, dynamic behaviour of vehicle components, and vehicle telematics. Recent projects undertaken include: the dynamic behaviour of vehicle structures incorporating adhesive and spotwelded joints (an EPSRC CASE studentship funded by Ford, with work undertaken as part of the DTI/EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Initiative project on lightweight vehicle manufacture (LIVEMAN)); the development of a variable event timing system for internal combustion engines (a patent has just been lodged for this work) [Morrey 3]; damping characteristics of adhesive bonded joints in automotive vehicle structures; development of a CFD model of a vehicle damper (in collaboration with Prodrive); and adaptation of vehicle environmental response by telematics (AVERT) (an EPSRC project, funded through the Foresight Vehicle LINK Programme, as part of a consortium involving Daewoo, TRL, MIRA, and Southampton University) [Morrey 4]. The work of this group (along with JTRC) is one of the major areas which underpins work in the School in the area of Automotive Engineering, with a particular bias towards Motorsports Engineering. The School has very strong links with the Motorsports industry, an economic cluster which is largely concentrated in a region within a 35 mile radius of Banbury, and as part of this is a founder member of the Oxfordshire Motorsports Forum. These strong links were highlighted in a successful EPSRC bid from Cranfield University to run an MSc in Motorsport Engineering and Management, with Brookes as a collaborating institution.
3. Stress and Materials Analysis
Dr J F Durodola is the leader of research activities in the area of solid mechanics modelling [Durodola 1], design and mechanical properties of materials. He is supported by Dr N A Fellows, another full time member of the academic staff and 2 technicians. They are currently supervising 4 research students, 3 based in Brookes and 1 based in Brunel University. They have projects on bearing-by-pass loading of polymer composites, metal ceramic joining, residual stresses and functionally graded materials [Durodola 2-4]. They have established very productive research links with BAE Systems, ALSTOM (formerly GEC ), Solid Mechanics, and Advanced Composite Materials research groups in the Departments of Materials and Engineering Science, University of Oxford. They have also maintained consultancy links with Oxford Instruments, Oxford Magnets Technology and Oxford Engineering companies. BAE Systems have over the last three years supplied CFRP materials and financial support to the group for studies on the effect of stress concentration in open holed structures. They have recently agreed to supply materials and collaborate with the group in a new initiative to study damage in loaded by-pass joints in composite materials. ALSTOM has provided silicon nitride, Si3N4 ceramic material for research work on prediction of failure of metal-ceramic joints. The group has over the last five years been developing expertise in modelling and characterisation of compositionally graded disks using indirect and presently direct optimisation methods. Fellows has continued work on mechanical properties of materials at high strain rates together with Oxford University and DERA [Fellows 1-4].
Durodola was part of a recently successful bid led by the Department of Materials, University of Cambridge, and including UMIST, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, Sheffield, Leeds and the University of North London for funds for Dissemination of Information Technology for Promotion of Materials Science. Durodola and Fellows were both technical contributors to a recently concluded £180k EPSRC funded project on Light Weight Vehicle Manufacture (LIVEMAN). They have established international links with the INP Mexico and are currently supervising two research students from the Institute. They are also involved in collaborative work with the Joining Technology Research Centre and the IST Portugal on the application of functionally graded concepts in adhesive bonding.
4. Electronics Research
This group is led by Professor F J Lidgey and comprises Dr V Kalinin, Dr A Cordery, J Larminie and one new member of staff. The group supports one postdoctoral researcher and 6 research students. All of Lidgey's research projects are in the area of current-mode analogue integrated circuit design, the focus being on high frequency applications in communications [Lidgey 4] and electrical impedance tomography [Lidgey 3]. The work in the latter area is in collaboration with the Medical Instrumentation Group. Developments of current-feedback op-amps (CFOA) have been explored extensively and novel design techniques used to provide significant enhancements to both BJT and CMOS architecture designs [Lidgey 2]. The conventional current-conveyor, a close relative of the CFOA, has been developed with a new architecture design which has achieved improvements in circuit performance [Lidgey 1]. In addition to the CFOA work, amplifier linearisation and linear transconductance designs for analogue multiplication are being studied. Significant advances in linearisation have been achieved. This work is not yet in the public domain as these developments have significant commercial value. Results of the transconductance project have been successfully applied in low power supply, RF gm-C filters. Both projects are focussed on telecommunication applications and Nokia Networks, Camberley, are collaborating in this work.
Kalinin's work on Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) devices continues to progress well. He has developed a new method of resonant optical grating recording in photorefractive (PR) materials and is a member of a consortium developing a solid-state gyroscope based on SAW technology and funded by the LINK Inland Surface Transport Programme. Kalinin is also involved with a Micro System Technology funded project investigating the possibility of application of SAW filters for remote sensing on spacecraft. In January 2001 Kalinin's role as a consultant with Transense was developed into a jointly funded post. This will be a base for future collaboration. Kalinin's collaboration within the academic community includes the work of photorefractive materials and their application to signal processing [Kalinin 1-4] carried out with the Engineering Science Department, University of Oxford, Institute of Physics, National Academy of Science, Ukraine and Physics Laboratory, University of Kent.
Cordery's research interests lie in the area of semiconductor technology, novel manufacturing materials and techniques. Her work involves experimental design techniques to select vital parameters for plasma deposition of thin diamond-like carbon (DLC) films [Cordery 1-4]. DLC films are known for their superior mechanical properties, as well as their promising field-emission properties that could be used in the production of flat-panel displays. Cordery's most recent work involves reliability studies of Flip-Chip Technology. Her work is of significant scientific and commercial value and the EPSRC project that she is currently co-ordinating enjoys the support of six major electronic manufacturing companies, Mitel, Celestica, Multicore, Rood Technology, Via Systems and Quantel. She also works very closely with researchers from Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Oxfordshire.
Larminie has been actively contributing to recent developments in the topical area of fuel cells. With an industrial colleague from BG Technology he has written a much needed text [Larminie 3] in the field. Small fuel cells have been the particular focus of Larminie's research [Larminie 1-4]. His expertise in the area has enabled him to advise companies like Scientific Generics Limited on commercialisation of fuel cells.
5. Medical Instrumentation
In this group there are 4 research students and 1 postdoctoral research assistant working under the supervision of Dr C N McLeod (Group Leader) and Dr S Sehati. Sehati's work on sound transmission through normal and diseased lungs in collaboration with the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, University of Oxford, continues to progress well [Sehati 1,3] and a new research student has been appointed. Sehati's latest work in this area has resulted in the discovery of some major findings. These have been published in the American Physiological Society's Journal of Applied Physiology [Sehati 3]. The work in the area of Clinical Risk Management [Sehati 2] enabled the collaborative company to launch a new software aimed at the NHS and private hospitals and clinics. In the wake of continuing patient related risks, such as the Harold Shipman case, this work continues to be an important area of research which is now ready for commercial exploitation. One of Sehati's new postgradute researchers has just begun an EPSRC funded project in the area of "internet reconfigurability of digital systems" including medical instruments. This work is the continuation of Sehati's earlier work on in-system Programmable Logic Devices [Sehati 4]. In collaboration with the Diabetes Unit at the University of Oxford, Sehati is about to embark on a new research project involving the ambulatory monitoring and analysis of patient related data over the internet.
McLeod's research covers Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT), Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) and physiological monitoring in adult and neonatal intensive care. The EIT systems developed at Brookes are unique in Europe in providing absolute impedance measurements through a body section. They are now undergoing clinical testing in a collaborative study with the Department of Anaesthetics, University of Oxford, to determine the distribution of lung water in intensive care patients undergoing various therapies and to attempt to detect ventilatory or circulation anomalies within the chest. Parallel work on healthy volunteers and tank models continues for system hardware and software improvement. This work has been funded by the Wellcome Trust and further funding is currently being sought. The EIS work arose from the need to make accurate impedance measurements of intact, living tissues to confirm the EIT image data, but the research has grown per se with the development of a non-invasive measurement probe and a new analytical method, Dielectric Relaxation Time Spectroscopy. It is expected that this method will lead to better discrimination of tissue characteristics and may provide a tool for the assessment of the state of transplant tissues and organs on bypass circulation. The EIT and EIS methods being developed for clinical research will be applicable in many other contexts, such as process monitoring, chemical analysis, surveying and non-destructive testing. A smaller effort is continuing with novel ideas for physiological monitoring of patients in intensive care. A patent application has been submitted and commercial partners are being sought for the exploitation of this and other research developments. The research group is involved in the EPSRC Engineering Network on Biomedical Applications of EIT.
6. Solar Energy Materials Research Laboratory
The Solar Energy Materials Research Laboratory (SEMRL) led by Professor M Hutchins is concerned with the physical deposition and optical properties of advanced thin film materials for solar and thermal radiation control relevant to building, energy conservation, renewable energy, automotive, aerospace and defence applications [Hutchins 1]. Research interests include electrochromic devices, transparent conducting low emittance coatings, selective paints for solar absorptance and radiative cooling, shading devices [Hutchins 2] and optical properties measurement techniques [Hutchins 3]. The research is applied in nature and features strong partnerships with UK industry. SEMRL participated in 3 European Union JOULE projects led by Pilkington Group Research which successfully developed "smart" electrochromic glazing systems for use as variable solar transmission windows [Hutchins 4].
Present work on the integration of switchable façade technologies is being pursued under a recently approved EU FP5 RTD project. Work on infrared materials, thermal signature recognition and control is on-going and supported by 2 DERA, Malvern, contracts. This work has led to 2 patent applications and the development of the first practical prototype monolithic all solid state electrochromic variable infrared reflectance devices reported worldwide. The work is classified as "Restricted" but the first 3 papers were published following patent filing in 2000. Supportive analytical work, in collaboration with Prof R Egdell, University of Oxford, involved high resolution XPS of lithiated transition metal oxides using the central EPSRC RUSTI facility. Further work on the infrared properties of tungsten oxide, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, Pilkington and Southampton University is proposed with EPSRC support within the JRS/MoD arrangements. To aid in the development of monolithic electrochromic devices an ion assisted electron beam evaporation facility has been established in a purpose built clean room at Brookes in collaboration with Pilkington and an infrared imaging camera has been procured. Long term DERA support is being negotiated for the period commencing April 2001. New work in collaboration with UCL and Salford University has been approved by EPSRC and will commence in 2001.
Work undertaken within the EU Standards, Measurement and Testing programme led to the development of an absolute variable angle reflectance/transmittance accessory for spectrophotometric measurement of oblique incidence uv/vis/nir/ir optical properties. The work contributes to the improvement of CEN Standard prEN 410 Glass in Building and Hutchins participates with the EU CENSTAR working group to establish a new working group on Daylighting within TC129. Most recently the Laboratory forms part of the Steering Committee of the EU FP5 Thematic Network WINDAT which will establish a validated optical properties database and design tool for windows in collaboration with the European glass and glazing industry. Capital investment in optical properties has seen the commissioning of a new PE Lambda 900 integrating sphere spectrophotometric facility within the Laboratory. Dissemination of information on the energy performance of windows in buildings has been supported through the EU ALTENER programme.
Research Management and Promotion
In order to strengthen the structure supporting research within the School of Engineering, Sehati was appointed as the Director of Research. He has specific responsibility for the strategic planning and co-ordination of all research activities, together with administration of all matters relevant to postgraduate students. He chairs the School's Research Committee and is a member of the University Research Degrees Board, and is directly supported by a research administrator.
The School Research Committee is responsible for the formulation of strategic and operational plans for research within the School. The School Research Committee is also responsible for the disbursement of research funds allocated to the School, and for monitoring these funds and the progress of the research. An annual report of these matters, together with monitoring information, is passed to the University which monitors plans, outputs, and income and expenditure patterns. Other business considered by the committee relates to the formulation of policy relevant to research and consultancy within the School, such as staffing policy, procedures for recruitment of research students, technical support for research, and the consideration of documentation relating to research strategy within the University as a whole and within the national arena.
All research students have their own personal desk space equipped with a networked PC. They have access to a dedicated laboratory which houses the experimental hardware and which may include a second PC for experimental work. Within the School, students organise and attend weekly seminar sessions where they present their work and findings to other students and staff. Research presentations are also made by staff and invited visitors. Research related information is disseminated within the School through Research Committee meetings, the school newsletter and email.
As well as the facilities available within the School, students can also make use of the excellent facilities for seminars, discussions, meetings and social events provided by the University Research Centre. The Research Centre also offers research students generic skills training courses. There are weekly meetings between students and supervisors, and student progression is monitored at the School level through annual progress meetings, reports authored by the student, and monitoring forms issued by the University.
Collaborative and interdisciplinary research is strongly encouraged and supported within the School. As evident from the activities of the research groups, virtually all the research work carried out is collaborative or involves external advisors.
National and International Priorities
As highlighted under the section on 'Research Groups' the school has a good record of responding to national and international priorities and initiatives, such as the FORESIGHT Vehicle initiative and Faraday Partnerships.
The School has a clear policy of recruiting staff with an existing research profile, or the potential to contribute to existing areas of research or the development of new research activities. The three new full-time members of academic staff recruited during the period of review, Dr L Austin, Fellows, and Dr K Hayatleh, are actively pursuing research. The school wide research support, combined with the individual's commitment and research aspirations, has resulted in Fellows being returned as research active; both Hayatleh and Austin are positioned to be returned as research active in the next RAE. This is indicative of the School's growing research vitality and its healthy infrastructure for supporting these activities. The main mechanism in place for developing and enhancing the research activity of the younger and new researchers is to enable increased time for their research. This is achieved through our policy of selective distribution of duties. New researchers are also speedily integrated into a research group and practice team work. Informal mentoring is also provided by both the research group leader and the Director of Research. Research staff development follows the guidelines of the Concordat for research careers. One of the active researchers returned in the 1996 RAE has now moved to Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine.
Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL
Last updated 17 October 2003