Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘multidisciplinarity’

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

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.


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.


Empowering resilient communities

In Publications on 2017/02/06 at 10:58 pm

We have created low-cost housing solutions for the local community in Pabal (India). Those people have a lot of ingenuity but not a lot of money to buy expensive building materials. Only the transport to their villages would cost them a significant amount.

But they have a wealth of natural resources. And amongst them, they have bamboo, a fascinating multifunctional material, ideal for structure-erecting, wind-loading and vibration-proofing due to its heterogeneous porous structure and high shear modulus.


Bamboo: macro and microstructure

We have helped them to build those modular huts by providing them with a set of instructions that are universal and accessible to all, no matter the mother tongue, ability or building skills. In this way they are prepared to adapt and be resilient to the threats posed by natural forces and climate change hazards (e.g. floods, pluvial, wind, earth tremors) and reinforce their coping strategy as a resilient community.

In the process of developing those instructions we have learnt a lot from the Information Design community. There is so much lo learn about user-centric design, cognitive load and the language of actions, perspectives and colours to convey instructions and allow self-guidance. I deeply thank them for having mentored us.

Our work can be read here and directly on the Information Design Journal site


Information Design Journal 2016 volume 22 no. 1


The Future Engineer podcast engineer

In Seminars and Keynotes on 2015/02/10 at 11:23 am

STEM XX 016 episode is on the importance of multidisciplinary engineering, the power of positive thinking and biomimetics – learning from nature to solve our technical problems.

If you have ~30min to spare, have a listen and please leave comments below and tell me what you think. Thanks!

You can listen to it here and download it here.

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

Embedded Intelligence

In Comment on 2014/01/07 at 7:36 pm

Embedded Intelligence means greater productivity, connectivity and efficiency.

Smarter products and systems for a smarter life.

A successful Embedded Intelligence application is one that we don’t even realise is there.

There is more to Embedded Intelligence than a sensor with code that processes acquired data. Embedded Intelligence is the ability of a product, process or service to reflect on its own operational performance, usage load or in relation to end-user or environment.

This is facilitated by information collected by sensors and data processed locally or remotely to yield understanding/insight

e.g.  A manufacturing production line that never breaks down, or has no unintended stoppages for whatever reason.

Nature gives us great examples of embedded intelligence in ecosystems and organisms. How demographics regulate in relation to the amount of resources and space available to the population. How we sweat to cool down, or faint when our brain is at risk (and shuts down to avoid any major damage). All these are processes so embedded in our primal brain that we don’t even have to be aware of what’s going on to react that way.

Learning from that deep hard-wiring and harnessing the power of the info collection and processing to embedded in our man-made processes open new venues to creating a more intelligent, efficient, safer world.

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