Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘students’

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.


Functionally-Tailored Cellular Structures

In Publications, Seminars and Keynotes on 2018/01/10 at 1:41 pm

Many applications in science and engineering can benefit from the control of porosity
gradients. Producing heterogeneous materials allows the properties of that material to
be tailored more specifically to the requirements, reducing resource consumption and
weight. A designed microstructure is able to produce similar strength and stiffness values to a homogenous material at a reduced weight by removing discontinuities between phases where stress concentrations occur.

Joe Holt, researcher of the Multifunctional materials Lab, studying at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence and co-sponsored by FAR UK Ltd, has presented our work on functionally tailored cellular structures via topology optimisation.


A tailored cellular structure is realised by topology optimisation of a volume loaded
in compression. The optimisation is set-up to incorporate a full spectrum of densities
of the parent material, as to simulate a cellular solid of varying density. The resulting
structure is produced by ultrasound sonication of a polyurethane foam system during
the foam rise. Targeted sonication power and frequency allows the manipulation of
density in specific regions, producing a finished structure with a density profile representing the results of the topology optimisation.

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,


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.

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

Meet the midwife!

In Knowledge Transfer on 2013/07/17 at 1:23 pm

And we met a lot of them! on the 28th June we visited the NHS Lothian’s Birth Centre, at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, under the facilitation of our team leader, Dr Fiona Denison. We showed the practising midwives our designs and mock-ups and obtained user-specs from this first workshop of the ‘Waterbirthing Mirror’.

Workshop user-group at the Birth Centre

Workshop user-group at the Birth Centre

It was wonderful to see so many people with so much experience and enthusiasm willing to give us comments, ideas and feedback.
Thanks to Fiona and her team for making our stay so comfortable in their superb facilities at the Birthing Centre.