Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

Mathematical modelling of sonicated bubbles

In Publications on 2017/05/31 at 5:10 pm

One possible manufacturing method for bone scaffolds used in regenerative medicine involves the acoustic irradiation of a reacting polymer foam to generate a graded porosity. Sonication of foams have been our focus of research for many years now as this technology allows the porosity tailoring of cellular materials.

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Sonicated foam (energy received from the left) with a marked gradation in porosity

We have joined forces with Prof Mulholland’s team (Dr Barlow and Dr Bradley) at Strathclyde University and worked on a mathematical model of a non-reacting process in order to develop theoretical confirmation of the influence of the acoustic signal on the polymer foam.

The model describes single bubble growth in a free rising, nonreacting polymer foam irradiated by an acoustic standing wave and incorporates the effects of inertia. Investigations are carried out to explore the influence of inertia on the bubble volume, fluid pressure and the stress tensors of the foam, and to explore the effect of fluid viscosity and acoustic pressure amplitude on the final bubble volume, and the curing time. A key result is that increasing the applied acoustic pressure is shown to result in a reduced steady state bubble volume, indicating that ultrasonic irradiation has the potential to produce tailored porosity profiles in cellular materials such as bioengineering scaffolds and light-weight structures.

Our work has been compiled as a paper recently published in the Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics and can be found here (Open Access).

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An integrated approach towards zero net emissions via lightweight manufacturing

In Funding on 2017/03/14 at 4:05 pm

We have managed to secure funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK and Far UK Ltd to develop research that makes an impact on emissions savings from road vehicles.

My Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing Lab at Wolfson School and my industrial collaborator (Far UK ltd) have been awarded more than £250k to develop excellent science that allows the design and manufacture of low weight structures for vehicle chassis components. Low weight is beneficial for reduced tailpipe emissions for both existing internal combustion engine vehicles but also as an enabler for further electrification of the fleet. The manufacture of the optimised structures via the sonication process incurs another challenge: to achieve mass market weight reduction this needs to be done cost effectively.

This project is part of the Integrated Delivery Programme 13: Low Emission Vehicle Systems (IDP13): Stream 1 – Collaborative technical feasibility studies.

Applying International Standards to manage comfort

In Publications on 2017/03/01 at 6:46 pm

Have you ever seen the seat testing device at IKEA? We have used a very similar one in our study.

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IKEA durability test

Open cell polymeric foams can be tailored so that the support provided and the level of stability is customised to people’s needs. For those who are bed bound or wheelchair users the selection of a cushion can improve their health and general well being. Avoiding pressure points, managing sores and permitting air permeability are the three main design specifications that patients and clinicians aim to when choosing a cushion. In addition to that, a functional cushion, such as those who support lateral movements (e.g. leaning sideways to grab a glass of water and be helped to return to your initial position without compromising one’s stability) and protect from vibration and impacts (e.g. dropping off a curb), are the focus of our last research project.

My team and I have had the privilege to work with the biomechanics and physiotherapists at the SMART Centre at Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh to study how we can help their clinician colleagues understand cushion performance and therefore aid them with the prescription of these to patients and users.

The results from our study have been presented at the PMG 2012 Conference and recently published by the Assistive Technology journal (free e-prints can be collected here). This has allowed us to interact with the community that is preparing the new version of the ISO16840-2:2007 which will regulate developments in this area.

 

Lightweighting

In Funding on 2016/02/24 at 2:58 am

Lightweight materials are the next pit-stop in the challenge of reducing mass, curbing emissions and improving fuel economy in the low carbon vehicles of tomorrow.

UK’s ambitious commitment to decarbonisation of the transport industry by 2050 is going to require a creative approach. Current reductions have been gained by improvements in engine performance but these gains are diminishing. If we were to go 100% electric, we still need to produce the electricity, so the footprint is not necessarily diminished as much as it could appear. To meet the carbon emissions target we need to reduce vehicle mass. For example, a car the size of a Ford Focus would need to reduce mass by about 300kg (from ~1200kg to ~900kg).  The car industry needs to find a way to manufacture lightweights without adding production cost in the shorter term.

Loughborough University and Far UK Ltd, a Nottingham-based innovative low-volume tailored vehicle designer and manufacturer, have joined forces to explore the concept of novel and engineered structures, multifunctional materials bespoke for their mechanical properties, and manufactured in a cost-benefit and continuous fashion using Sonication technology that allows on-demand tailoring of porosity. This exciting research program has just secured co-funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

This programme of research presents a new avenue for high value manufacturing and helps support the UK knowledge base, economy and jobs.

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We have been in the press here and here

Baking with Sound: a successful industry-focussed research project

In Knowledge Transfer on 2015/02/11 at 10:15 am

The Baking with Sound project, a research project co-funded by industry and Innovate UK, has come to the end of its current funding. We have taken the technology from a ‘batch’ setting to a set of prototypes that can produce bakery foodstuff in an industrial environment. In TRL terms, we have ratcheted up about 4 levels. We have generated and protected IP and trained 2 students and 2 research associates. We gelled a working research team that had fun, traveled the UK extensively and ate lots of our own experimental samples. (Some of them were even nice).

We have shown that the sonication technology has a positive effect on the crumb structure and texture on baked products in general, and of ‘free-from’ product range in particular (e.g. gluten-free and low-salt). The next stop for us is the integration of the sonication technology in the commercially designed bakery equipment apparatus.

The Baking with Sound consortium was formed by Macphie of Glenbervie, Nortek Piezo, MONO Bakery Equipment and Fosters Bakery (as industrial partners), and Loughborough University (as the academic lead).

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.

Engineered metal implants to target cancer cells and eradicate side effects of chemotheraphy

In Publications on 2014/03/06 at 12:12 am

The work done by my colleague Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta and our ‘dream team’ has been published in Nature Communications.

Asier proudly presents to the world the work done using his clever “bioorthogonal” method for activating a prodrug by palladium catalyzed dealkylation. What motivates us is to move towards the eradication of the side effects of chemotheraphy (e.g. depleted immune system, hair loss, tiredness, etc) in the very near future. This is done by focusing the cancer treatment only to the affected area. Like a ‘trojan horse’, in our vision we implant the engineered catalyst carrier first. Then, by a selective activation via oral drugs, we produce the chemo-destructive effect with maximum effect on the targeted area, and minimal negative effects (i.e. death) on healthy tissue.

The technology in a 'nutshell'

The technology in a ‘nutshell’

The full paper can be found here.

The press release by University of Edinburgh can be viewed here.

Asier is an academic fellow at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre at the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, the University of Edinburgh.

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

Making sense of standardisation

In Publications on 2013/11/18 at 12:27 am

Standardisation is that useful process that allows us engineers to share a common ‘plane of reference’ on which to base our conversations. It is useful to know that a material (say, a slab of titanium) has the same mechanical properties when it is measured in Loughborough, Sydney, Lima or Granada.

But sometimes standardisation goes too far on the other extreme. The over-translation from observation to technical definitions might turn an ISO norm into a document that is no longer useful for practical purposes. This is particularly risky when ISO norms attempt to tabulate and measure in ‘softer’ areas such as healthcare and rehabilitation.

In a piece of work recently published here, my colleagues from the NHS Scotland SMART Centre and we have restated some practical insight to an ISO norm that guides the characterisation of wheelchair cushions for a better guidance to prescription by clinicians.

Our work has been well received by the practising community and we look forward to continue working with them.

Ref: Hollington J., Hillman S.J., Torres-Sanchez C., Boeckx J., Crossan N., “ISO 16840-2:2007 load deflection and hysteresis measurements for a sample of wheelchair seating cushions”, Medical Engineering & Physics, in press. DOI:10.1016/j.medengphy.2013.10.010