Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Archive for the ‘Info’ Category

Transition Zone Training: 2017 Summer School #SSEI17

In Info, Seminars and Keynotes on 2017/06/25 at 6:34 pm

The Transition Zone Training Programme is holding a Summer School in Loughborough University London from the 3rd to the 6th July in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.

Innovation insights for the digital workforce of tomorrow is the 4-day event organised by the EPSRC CDT in Embedded Intelligence in partnership with the Digital Economy Network and attended by the UK community of practice in Digital Manufacturing, Robotics, Big Data, Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.


A much-provoking Panel discussion to address the digital skills gap and the role PhD students play in the knowledge economy will kick-start the #SSEI17: ‘Aligning skills to jobs for the digital future of the knowledge society’. Chaired by Dr S Barr, head of The Manufacturer, brings together industrialists and entrepreneurs (the MTC, HSSMI, Block Solutions), postgraduate educators (Loughborough University) and funding bodies (EPRSC). Seminars, workshops and practicals will be facilitated by world-class innovators and practitioners who are bringing to us the latest in Cybersecurity, Robotics, Computational Thinking, Data visualisation, Film making, and fostering of Creative thinking through Serious Games. Attending to the ethos of a Transition Zone activity, there will be time for the honing of effective communication skills focusing on personal brand.

The programme for the event can be viewed here: CDT-EI Summerschool programme 2017 prf3.2

You can follow the event online: on Facebook: CDT-EI, DEN Digital Economy CDT Network; on Twitter: @cdt-ei, @decdtnetwork, @carmentorres

Congratulations to Fares!

In Info on 2017/04/11 at 6:57 pm

My PhD student Fares Almushref successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled ‘Design and manufacture of engineered titanium-based materials for biomedical applications’.

Congratulations to him for the hard work for the last 3 years and the great effort to get it finished in time for the summer graduation.


Is DIY a western thing?

In Info on 2015/09/11 at 6:18 pm

Changxi Huang has been working on the bamboo hut project as part of his MSc project. His work has focused on the optimisation of the procedure for assembling the hut and looking for ways of best presenting the assembly instructions to those who can’t read instructions or have no previous knowledge on building huts.

He ran experiments with participants from different walks of life and, most importantly, from western and far east countries. One of the main points of discussion of his dissertation is based on his observations on the approach that western nationals have towards do-it-yourself products versus that of Far East countries citizens. In countries like China, assembling a product (a table or a chest of drawers) is left to those who perform that job for a living. On the contrary, the B&Q-isation or the IKEA-ising of western countries has made our exposure to self-assembly furniture and products an activity of our everyday life. Could this have an effect on our cognitive ability to understand instructions and our dexterity to carry out such assemblies?

Huang observing one of the tests in our study

Huang observing one of the tests in our study

Huang has successfully finished his MSc course and is going back to China for a most deserved rest. Well done, Huang!

MSc exhibition on 9th Sept (Loughborough University) and Farewell (or a ‘see you soon’):


Predicting energy demands in Portsmouth

In Info on 2015/09/09 at 5:55 pm

Brian Nwike, my placement student, has been working at Atkins on a prediction tool capable of analysing various energy drivers to create a forecast detailing the shifts and changes in energy use over a 20 year project timeframe. There are two very different locations, Portsmouth and Kano and Kaduna in Northern Nigeria, where the local governments are making use of this resource to forecast future gas and electricity demand and take educated expansion decisions.

“The inclusion of user adjustment to create unique demand scenarios demonstrates the model’s commitment to exploring the unpredictable change of the future”, Brian says

Along with his work on energy studies, Brian took part in the Good Jobs Campaign, launched by Boris Johnson and CitizensUK which Atkins supports. The campaign identifies future skills gap and the effect this will have on the UK economy if this gap remains. Brian attended to events to rub shoulders with Boris Johnson and Atkins Chairman, Allan Cook.

Brian is back to Uni in Loughborough this October to embark on his 3rd year of MEng in Mechanical Engineering.

The increasing demand for STEM graduates: a shortage or a recruitment failure?

In Info on 2015/09/01 at 10:18 am

My student Andrew Craik has spent the past year investigating the perceived shortage of STEM talent by industry and why STEM graduates are so inclined to work in occupations that are not related to their degree.

“Although evidence suggests that there is a high demand for qualified STEM graduates in core STEM areas, why do so many still stray to different sectors?”

Andrew concludes that there is no shortage of STEM talent entering the pipeline at university, it is how they are treated throughout their university life what influences their career choices and, sometimes, a large number of drop-outs to other industries. Low numbers of females studying STEM (Engineering in particular) subjects exacerbate the problem of not enough graduates available for Industry (45% of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) members declare there is a serious problem with the supply of STEM graduates (Phillips, 2013)).

The main three reasons are:

  • A realistic and perceived salary shortage in a traditional STEM career which creates an interest shortage from candidates
  • A self-inflicted shortage imposed by recruiters, in particular STEM Industries who produce far less attractive graduate offers than non-STEM recruiters (eg Financial services)
  • The fallacy of the 2:1. Staff screening applications are not often qualified to appropriately judge the level of technical expertise of the candidates and refer to artificial thresholds such as the 2:1 or degree awarding university. In most cases these are irrelevant to the reality of the role.

Andrew recommends:

“The shortage comes from these barriers imposed on the graduate market and unless there is a dramatic change in the influx of students studying STEM subjects at A-Level and subsequently University, employers must deal with the problem directly. Whether this means putting more resources into their recruitment, increasing graduate salaries, moulding more interesting graduate jobs, creating more engaging graduate schemes or considering students with a 2.2 in a reputable course from top universities then actions need to be taken sooner rather than later.”


Bridging the gap between lectures and practice

In Info on 2015/08/31 at 8:29 am

Richard Vigis, 3rd yr Mechanical Engineering student at Loughborough University, has been my DIS student this past year at Transport for London. A major piece of work he accomplished was the research and development of a new locking mechanism for the battery trays on the 1992 Tube Stock, used on the Central and Waterloo & City lines on London Underground. This change will affect 350 cars and will help prolong the life-in-service of those trains. On his year in industry, he says:

“This year has completely changed my view of understanding of engineering; having a fundamental understanding of how engineering works in a real life environment compared to a lecture hall will stand me in great stead for my future. Not only have I become more competent in analysing systems and problem solving, but I have reinforced much of the theory I have learnt in the first two years. This should give me a good platform to go on and perform well academically over the remaining time of my degree. Working in a corporate environment has also made develop a more mature and professional attitude to my work, and this is something I will take back and apply to my work at university.”

Richard also devoted his time to promote engineering as a career for pupils and he got a Transport for London Bronze Award for his work. Congratulations!

Richard receiving his award from Principal Engineer Peter ***

Richard receiving his award from Principal Engineer John Batchelor for his work promoting STEM and engineering amongst pupils

Update: After rigorous assessment, Richard has succeeded and been offered a graduate position upon his graduation in 2017! Congratulations on this massive achievement, Richard.

Mathematical Modelling of the use of Ultrasound to Tailor Polymers

In Info, Seminars and Keynotes on 2015/01/27 at 12:13 pm

Materials whose internal porosity can be tailored during the manufacturing process could be of use in a wide range of applications such as bone scaffolds (to help new bone grow from stem cells).  A recent method for achieving such a manufacturing process involves the acoustic irradiation of a reacting polymer foam which then results in a final sample with a graded porosity.  This talk will present the first mathematical model of this process. The polymerisation process is complex involving, for example, bubble dynamics, evolving rheology, two phases, reaction kinetics, and gas diffusion.  In addition, the model has to include the effects of the irradiating ultrasound.  The model I will present treats the evolving fluid as a multimode Oldroyd B system and will focus on a single moving bubble boundary using a Lagrangian frame of reference.  After looking at the role that inertia has on the dynamics of the system, a multi-bubble model is constructed that generates a heterogeneous bubble size distribution shaped by the ultrasonic standing wave pattern.

My colleague Dr Tony Mulholland, from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, will present this remarkable piece of work on the 27th January 2015 at 1pm in venue: S.1.73 (Materials Department, Loughborough University). Join us if you can.

Assisting mums-to-be in water and house births

In Info on 2014/06/12 at 7:05 pm

The medical device we designed to help midwives monitor labour with minimum interruption has seen the light! Different newspapers and media have been attracted to our invention, a team effort from our colleagues in Univ of Edinburgh and NHS, Heriot-Watt University, and us in Loughborough.

This has been a great enterprising opportunity for us. Being able to form a team with engineers, designers, medics and business developers has been truly rewarding. We all showed great enthusiasm and reached out to understand each others’ ‘language’ so we could bring the project to a fruitful completion. Working with midwives for the development of a new medical device was great because they were able to provide us with insightful input during the design stages, and with useful feedback in the development phase.  We hope the device will help the midwives carry out their work in more comfortable conditions, and for future mothers-to-be to benefit from this device that allows them to experience a more dignifying labour.

The work has been presented at the Perinatal Medicine 2014 (Harrogate International Centre, Monday 9th – Wednesday 11th June 2014).

The press releases can be found here and here

More press material can be found here and here and here.

CDT in Embedded Intelligence at Loughborough University

In Funding, Info on 2014/01/09 at 1:07 pm

Loughborough University has been awarded the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Embedded Intelligence. In collaboration with 23 external partners (large companies, SMEs and other organisations that support training and industry impact) and Heriot-Watt as academic partner, this centre will train the engineers and scientists of the future at post-graduate level before they join industry as high calibre employees.

The research activities in this CDT are around the integration of ‘intelligence’ into products, machines, buildings, factories, work environments, transport systems, and supply chains. And nature can inspire the best examples of Embedded Intelligence.

The 4-year programme includes: (i) technical training in key areas of Embedded Intelligence; (ii) non-technical training in the ‘Double Transition’, to equip our students with the skills to be effective researchers during their PhD (from undergraduate into postgrad studies), and to become suitably qualified employees (from students to graduates); and (iii) industry interaction from early days throughout in a myriad of applied research rich-impact activities.

For more information, click here and here.

For the job ad, click here

Learning from natural ‘sandwich’ structures

In Info on 2013/07/16 at 10:28 am
porcupine quill

porcupine quill

The porcupine quill is a quite interesting material. A pretty large shear modulus, flexible in 3-pt bending tests, but very stiff in the longitudinal direction, which serves well as a defensive weapon.

It is surprisingly lightweight, so the first thought is for a sandwich structure of different materials, but what type of structure?

The photos below show images of a longitudinal slice of a quill under the optical microscope. As expected, a soft core (cellular-foam like) and a denser ‘skin’.

Optical micrsocope images: transversal section and several magnifications

Optical microscope images: transverse section and longitudinal at several magnifications

As it commonly happens, the interesting story starts when you get to see beyond what the human eye can. At higher magnifications, the ‘skin’ shows a complex structure, with layers of material oriented so they form another ‘skin’ structure within the ‘skin’ itself, with a core oriented vertically (in these photos) and the skin running horizontally. (The big black vertical scars could be scratches at the time of polishing, though)

Transverse sections at different magnifications

Transverse sections at different magnifications

This multiscale ‘skin’ is a good solution for providing stiff properties but not at the expense of heavy, dense materials.

Special thanks to Andy Sandaver, who recently retired from the Wolfson School and we already miss his exceptional technical skills. And my gratitude to Edinburgh Zoo, where the samples were collected.