Faculty Research Successes
Within the Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing, we believe in science for the betterment of all. We collaborate with industry, private enterprise, government, charity, not-for-profit and academia throughout the world to share knowledge and apply our expertise to benefit individuals, communities, nations, organisations and businesses of all sizes.
Receiving critical acclaim through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is just one measure of success, though it does influence research funding. Since 2014, we have doubled the value of research grants, securing support from a diverse range of sources. They include: the UK's innovation agency, InnovateUK; Research Councils UK (RCUK), particularly the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); the British Council; European Commission and many more commercial partners.
Our core objective is to pursue scientific breakthroughs and technological advances, developing world class engineering solutions to global problems. We will focus on: sustainability; energy neutrality; materials and processes discovery and utilisation; understanding and measurement of complex flows; and the design of future cities and living. The snapshot below of recent and ongoing projects demonstrates our excellent progress so far, with more examples on Faculty Research Centre pages.
Laser shock peening
Coventry is recognised as a world leader in measurement and analysis of residual stress. With Airbus and, more recently, the US Air Force, we have been refining an innovative laser surface treatment – laser shock peening (LSP). LSP uses high powered, high speed lasers to yield the material, increasing resistance to surface-related failures, such as fatigue and cracking.
Primarily used to improve aircraft integrity, mainly for jet engine turbine blades and airframes, and other engineering applications, it is now being considered in other sectors, such as marine and medical applications. The team has conducted multiple global projects to ready the technology to be deployed for repairs or at the point of manufacture, including the US Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
Flight crew are central to aircraft operations and the optimisation of the pilot interfaces is vital for safe and efficient flight. Back in 2014, Coventry partnered with GE Aviation, BAE Systems and University of Southampton to design the next generation of flight decks, one of seven aerospace research projects supported by InnovateUK, worth £60 million in total to keep Britain at the forefront of the global aerospace market.
In a follow-up project, we are incorporating the latest developments in computing platforms, crew aids and pilot interaction technologies. The research will improve flight crew work load, enhance situational awareness, add functionality, simplify the flight deck, reduce error potential and harness big data opportunities.
Improving Britain’s schools
Our expertise in thermal performance of buildings is assisting the Department of Education to update regulations on ventilation, thermal comfort and indoor air quality in schools. There is a direct link between the attainment of children at school and ambient conditions in classrooms.
Raised CO2 levels and temperature have a negative effect on the cognitive performance of children – impacting concentration, productivity and attention. Building Bulletin BB101 makes recommendations and sets guidelines on the design, construction and operation of school buildings. Revisions to the existing guidance, last published in 2006, take account of our research which revealed that children's threshold comfort temperatures are at least 3°C lower than adults.
Reducing air pollution
Every year in Britain, tens of thousands die prematurely due to poor air quality. A major contributor, almost a quarter of global CO2 emissions are generated by transport. In 2010, we designed an award-winning lean weight hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with zero emissions; the only hydrogen vehicle built for less than £3 million for urban use only.
Our spin-off company, Microcab Industries, was a key partner of the Government’s £400 million ‘Transport Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan'. In 2013, 10 cars were released for public hire purchase, two years ahead of the major companies. We are now developing new electric vehicles with Lotus and Westfield. The technology is also being investigated as an efficient storage solution for wind-generated energy.
Sustainable building materials
An ancient construction technique, use of compacted or ‘rammed earth’ offers a sustainable building material. Local soil avoids industrial processes or heavy transportation; it has high thermal mass and good moisture control. Concerns, however, surround its unpredictability when exposed to freezing temperatures after erosion, typically from water and frost.
With the National Center for Scientific Research (France), the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, we will evaluate durability, moisture and heat performance in new and existing (heritage) buildings, some with insulation or plastering, utilising our climatic simulation chamber. Our work will inform global policy-making and improve the sustainability and performance of our built environment.
Saving £££s in the oil industry
Around 70% of the world’s remaining oil resources are classed as ‘heavy oil’, but existing measurement technology was never designed to cope with this type of oil. Incorrect results cost the oil and gas industry millions of dollars a year. Now, a new method promises to improve the accuracy of differential pressure meters for high viscosity oil, safely control the production processes and optimise recovery.
It should reduce the industry’s financial exposure and tackle measurement challenges. It is just one early outcome of our unique partnership with NEL, the former National Engineering Laboratory, part of the TÜV SÜD Group, to deliver a ground-breaking Engineering Research Doctorate (EngD) programme of high impact, industry-focused research.