Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘multidisciplinarity’

Intelligent Manufacture of Functionally Graded Materials

In Knowledge Transfer, Seminars and Keynotes on 2019/03/27 at 3:55 pm

Simon Backwell is working in our lab on a system that instruments and controls the manufacture of a multifunctional material with a controlled porosity. Because there is no commercially available hardware, he is looking into building a fit-for-purpose apparatus that will allow the monitoring and control of the process. He is also developing the s/ware that will allow this realisation.

He presented his work to the researchers in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence during their ‘Orientation Day’


His work sees immediate applications in industry and the main beneficiaries are manufacturing practitioners, as well as researchers investigating materials properties when the manufacturing process is affected by external fields.

He is sponsored by EPSRC CDT-EI and co-sponsored by FAR Ltd, an innovate materials company operating in the automotive ecosystem.


Magnetic Fields to Aid the Manufacturing of hi-performing Composites

In Info, Jobs & Vacancies on 2019/03/04 at 2:36 pm

Bradley Mee has spent his Wolfson bursary in our lab developing a novel method to align reinforcing fibres within a polymeric matrix using magnetic fields. In this way, the mechanical properties of the composites can be tailored for specific applications and load requirements.

In his final report he wrote:

“Polyurethane composites are widely used due to their strength and light weight-ness, as well as the low cost and scalability in production. The PU material comes in two separate liquid chemicals that once combined in equal amounts rapidly expand to 200% of the original volume and cure hard, taking the shape of the mould it is placed in. There is an opportunity to shape and further increase the strength of these parts by forming a composite of PU and carbon fibres (added in the liquid/expanding stage), with localised reinforcements. It has previously been shown that these composite materials produced increase stiffness in both tensile and compressive testing.

The aim of the project is to test the hypothesis that [a magnetic field] aids the alignment of carbon fibres in a certain direction and will increase the strength of the material, compared to randomly located fibres. To achieve this; firstly, a literature review of electromagnetism and permanent magnets was carried out. Secondly, finite-element software was used in order to create a model of the problem and to visualise the magnetic fields created by the magnets. These two objectives provided the basis for a prediction on the direction and alignment that magnetised carbon fibres. Thirdly, lab-based experiments were carried out using a magnetometer to measure the actual magnetic field strength in air. The results were compared to those of the computer model and confirmed to be congruent. Finally, composites were produced in a bespoke mould and the specimens underwent mechanical testing.”


Bradley in the lab during sample production

Bradley has returned to his Electrical and Electronics Engineering studies and is aiming to pursue a career in the aerospace where these high performing composites could be in use in the near future.

A manufacturing protocol for the production of biocompatible porous catalysts

In Publications, Seminars and Keynotes on 2018/02/09 at 2:23 pm

Mohammad Alqahtani, researcher of the Multifunctional Materials Lab, is conducting research to develop a new manufacturing method and testing protocol for the fabrication of biocompatible catalyst-carrier for controlled drug delivery. The carrier could be used as a prodrug activation agent when implanted in cancerous tissues in the human body. When orally-ingested drugs are deployed into the area under treatment through the blood stream, the catalyst could activate the prodrugs and these affect the area by releasing anticancer treatment. In this research, a titanium-based carrier was used to manufacture the medical device due to their biocompatibility and non cytotoxicity.

In a feasibility study, the samples were made as porous carriers.  Porous materials have larger surface area than solid materials. Therefore, when the contact area between the drug and the carrier increases this has a potency effect on the effectiveness of the drug.

His work has been presented recently


This work is a continuation of the research work already presented here and published here and here.

EPSRC CDT in Embedded Intelligence – who we are

In Funding, Info on 2018/01/24 at 2:09 pm

Loughborough University hosts the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Embedded Intelligence since April 2013. This centre is training the engineers and scientists of the future in Embedded Intelligence technologies at post-graduate level before they join industry as high calibre employees.

We are proud to count on more than 50 industrial partners to be part of our Centre, co-sponsoring studentships or providing with industrial and research experience to our PhD candidates. Some of them are large companies such as Ford, Renishaw, GE, MOOG, JLR, Rolls-Royce, Taylor Hobson, AVL, Apical (part of ARM), etc. Some others are SMEs who believe that research in this topic can make the difference to their business. To name a few of our collaborators and supporters: FAR UK, Printed Electronics Ltd, Izon Science Ltd, Effect Tech ltd, Motion Robotics ltd, etc. Other organisations that support training and industry impact are also part of the Centre, e.g. MTC, NPLMTG research, HSSMI, Moredun, and TWI. The Centre keeps sight of employability and realistic prospects for our students once they graduate, so the ILM is also working with us. Our Centre is about applied science, technology and engineering. It is well known that we might be missing half of the population (i.e. females, who are ~5% of the eng-tech workforce in the country) to fill the technical and engineering posts in the next 5-15 years. The Centre’s Consortium is assisted by WISE (via the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in SET) so we can effectively encourage more women into engineering, trying to achieve gender balance that brings competitive benefits to UK’s plcs.

This is our story so far: full version can be read here


We are looking for bright students who would like to study and research the integration of ‘intelligence’ into products, machines, buildings, factories, work environments, transport systems, and supply chains.

If you are interested, find more info here.

Porosity and pore size effect on the properties of sintered Ti35Nb4Sn alloy scaffolds and their suitability for tissue engineering applications

In Publications on 2017/11/03 at 11:04 am

Our most recent results on the importance of tailoring porosity engineered materials for cell regeneration are to be published in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds.

Porous scaffolds manufactured via powder metallurgy and sintering were designed for their structure (i.e. pore size and porosity) and mechanical properties (stiffness, strength) to be controlled and tailored to mimic those of human bone. The scaffolds were realised to fulfill three main objectives:

(i) to obtain values of stiffness and strength similar to those of trabecular (or spongy) bone, with a view of exploiting these as bone grafts that permit cell regeneration,

(ii) to establish a relationship between stiffness, strength and density that allows tailoring for mass customisation to suit patient’s needs; and

(iii) to assess alloy cytotoxicity and biocompatibility via in vitro studies.

The results obtained using a very low stiffness alloy (Ti35Nb4Sn) further lowered with the introduction of nominal porosity (30–70%) with pores in the ranges 180–300 μm and 300–500 μm showed compatibility for anatomical locations typically subjected to implantation and bone grafting (femoral head and proximal tibia). The regression fitting parameters for the linear and power law regressions were similar to those found for bone specimens, confirming a structure favourable to capillary network formation. Biological tests confirmed non-cytotoxicity of the alloy.

Scaffolds of porosity nominal 50%vol and pore range 300–500 μm performed best in the adhesion and propagation assays due to a good balance between surface area and pore cavity volume.

Graphical abstract for

Study on bio-mechanical properties of porosity scaffolds tailored for cell regeneration,

A pre-view of the article appears on Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 731, 15 January 2018, Pages 189-199,


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.