Tuesday, 29 January 2013

10 Great Sciency Stories from Loughborough Uni in 2012

New £4.5M project to improve exhaust system efficiencies in HDVs
Loughborough are collaborating with Johnson Matthey and Caterpillar in an Energy Technologies Initiative (ETI) project to investigate ways of improving the efficiency of diesel engines catalytic converters, which may result in fuel consumption and CO2 emission improvements of 3-4%. (Read more)

Loughborough University Professor creates ‘petrol from air’
Tony Marmont, a Visiting Professor at Loughborough’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) has invested more than half a million pounds to set up a company called “Air Fuel Synthesis(AFS)” which extracts CO2 from the atmosphere by capturing it with Sodium Hydroxide and then releasing it by applying an electric current. Further processing can then convert the CO2 to a hydrocarbon fuel. The process does require a significant energy input, and the company expects this to come from a renewable source in actual production plants. According to their (very interesting) FAQ, the EROIE on a 1 tonne-a-day plant suggests that 3units of (renewable) energy in will give 1 unit of fuel out. Interestingly, the FAQ also mentions that existing industries that produce a lot of CO2 (e.g ammonia synthesis, algae farms) may be good locations for AFS plants.

It will be interesting to see whether it is the vision of the “Air Fuel Synthesis” route or the “Intelligent Energy” route, or perhaps both,

that succeeds in the low carbon energy world that we are heading towards.(Read more)

Petrol - the UK uses around 250million litres per day

Ricardo & Intelligent Energy Announce Partnership Loughborough technology spin-off Intelligent Energy is a company with some 400 patents to its name which is focussed on the design and manufacture of fuel-cells for automotive and other applications. Fuel cells are powered by Hydrogen (as a fuel) and Oxygen from the air, with water being the only by-product.

Intelligent Energy are partnering with automotive experts Ricardo to investigate synergies between the fuel cell technologies of Intelligent Energy and the low carbon vehicle design technologies of Ricardo. Intelligent Energy also announced a joint venture with Suzuki in February. (read more)

Loughborough University to be part of green fuel revolution

CynarPLC is a company that manufactures production facilities that can take end-of-life plastic products and then convert them back into liquid fuel products. It achieves this through the process of pyrolysis, where the plastics are carefully heated in an oxygen free atmosphere where they break down and form hydrocarbon vapours, which are then distilled to produce liquid fuels.

Experts from Loughborough University’s Department of Chemistry will use their expertise to analyse in detail the chemical processes that happen as the waste plastic materials are broken down, using a lab-scale Cynar recycling plant that will be installed at the University. The aim is to further improve and optimise the process.

Cynar are no pie-in-the-sky technology company, they already have a production plant operating in Ireland and an agreements in place for 10more in the UK. (Read more)

A Pyrolysis plant

3D concrete printing promises new artistic freedom for architects
A team, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin from the University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering, have been using additive manufacturing technologies to allow the manufacture of very complex concrete structures.

Conventionally, concrete is poured into temporary formwork. This is an efficient method of moulding if the shapes are simple but expensive for complex geometries. In contrast, Loughborough’s Freeform Construction process uses a special type of concrete which iis deposited very precisely under computer control, layer by layer, from a 3D computer-aided-design (CAD) model.

Speaking about the project Dr Richard Buswell said: “…Because each piece would be tailor-made, there would be virtually no waste. The possibilities are endless; it is a very exciting project.”

And the research team has now obtained technology-transfer funding from the EPSRC to commercialise the process, collaborating with Foster + Partners, Buro Happold and Hyundai Engineering & Construction. Their expertise and advice is essential to the team’s understanding of the needs of industry, the potential of their ideas and the creation of an innovation path.(Read More)

Artificial vascularised scaffolds for 3D-tissue regeneration (ArtiVasc 3D)
A team at the Additive Manufacturing Research Group (AMRG) are involved in a long term European Framework 7 ARtiVasc project involving 16 partners from 7 countries to develop the technology required to produce additively manufactured for soft tissue implants for regenerative surgery, after traumatic injuries and tumour treatment.

In addition, the project partners are investigating the possibility of using vascular test beds instead of animal testing during drug tests
Additive manufacturing (which you may know as 3-D printing) is a method of manufacturing that relies on building up components “additively”, usually layer by layer. This removes the need to produce expensive tooling and allows designs to be improved interatively much faster that with conventional processes.(Read More)

Additively manufactured vascular structures

The Science of Silence
But now a new patented technology, developed by a team from the University’s Department of Physics, looks set to revolutionise noise control and is already attracting a lot of interest.

The work has developed a new type of “sonic crystal” (cylindrical series of structures that absorbs specific frequencies of sound). These are often used in industrial applications to absorp sound from noisy machinery without having to resort to full enclosures, which have their own issues of cost and ventilation.

Conventional sonic crystals only work with specific frequencies whereas the systems developed at Loughborough can absorb a number of different frequencies. The technology has already drawn a lot of interest from industry, as well as funding from bodies such as European Regional Development Fund and the Royal Academy of Engineering. (Read More)

Development of fabric based antenna systems for Search and Rescue Applications in the 400 MHz range Researchers at the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering are investigating the characteristics of radio antennas that are woven into fabrics, initially for search and rescue applications. In a paper they comment that efficiencies are lower than for conventional rigid antennas but that this must be weighed against the flexibility, comfort to the user, cost and the speed of fabrication. (Read more, and more)

The importance of VOC’s
Not really a specific bit of research, but some very touching words by Prof Paul Thomas on the history and ubiquity of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)(Read More

Image Sources
Freeform, Gasoline via Wikipedia, Pyrolisis via University

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