Four leading female researchers from across the University’s engineering faculty are making history during Women’s History Month, having secured significant funding awards that will allow them to continue their ground-breaking research.
The researchers explain how the research they will be doing with this funding will have an impact on society and make a lasting impact:
The on-going work of Professor Furong Li, from the Department of Electric & Electronic Engineering, with Western Power Distribution has resulted in her and her colleagues securing grants of over £1m from power regulator OFGEM through the Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF), which will allow them to carry out research through a number of projects.
Professor Li has worked closely with the energy industry for the past seven years. It was her knowledge of the systems in place and issues that exist that made her and the team at Bath the ideal choice of research partner for Western Power Distribution.
Professor Li said: “There are three projects included in this funding, focused on different areas including the testing of methods for adapting and developing the regional grid to increase its ability to handle low carbon technologies; exploring the use of direct-current power in homes and businesses; and developing methods for identifying pressure points in the low, street-level grid system that can result in a loss of power.
“This is on-the-ground research that will have huge impact in achieving the country’s 2020 energy objectives set by the EU.”
Dr Jun Zang, from the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, has secured two EPSRC funding grants to investigate and address issues which are currently preventing marine energy technology from being widely used, and the impact of climate change on coastal and offshore structures. The total funding for both joint projects is over £1m.
Dr Zang’s research in wave and tidal energy aims to understand the extreme pressure put on the technology and devices used to generate energy in marine environments, analysing the impact of extreme waves and turbulent currents on marine energy devices.
This research will have significant impact on marine energy technology, feeding directly into wave energy converter and current turbine performance and survivability assessments, and resulting in improved design methods and certification.
Dr Zang said: “These two research projects will have direct impact on the marine energy sector and coastal and offshore engineering. The research team will be engaging with an industrial advisory group, which includes members of the UK’s major leading energy bodies and industrial players, to ensure the rapid delivery of important research outputs.”
Dr Marianne Ellis, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, has secured a total of £340k for a 3-year project through the NC3Rs’ (National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research) CRACK IT Challenge.
Dr Ellis’ research will look at new approaches to model organs and tissues, with the aim of reducing the use of animals in research. The focus will be to design an in-vitro system that is better able to replicate chemical toxicity than other models currently in existence.
The project is led by Liverpool University, with collaboration from the Universities of Bath, Loughborough, Strathclyde, Oxford and Simcyp, with in-kind support from Unilever, AstraZeneca and Syngenta.
Dr Ellis said: “I believe this project has massive potential. This is the first step towards a new model for testing drug and chemical safety; there is huge potential for the wide-spread use of the results of this project. We are ultimately aiming for a replacement for animal pre-clinical trials.”
Dr Alicia Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has secured a 3-year EPSRC research grant of £400k to study the composite laminates that are used for air and spacecraft.
Dr Kim is exploring the use of composite laminates that flex when a machine vibrates, creating movement from which energy can be harvested and used to power
electronic equipment on aircraft, automobiles, trains and industrial machinery.
The novelty of Dr Kim’s research is the use of bi-stable composites. Until now, only machines with regular vibrations could benefit from this type of energy harvesting, however the new bi-stable composites Dr Kim is investigating could allow energy to be harvested from non-regular vibrating machines.
Dr Kim said: “My method for harvesting energy works in more chaotic, less regular environments, vastly increasing its potential applications. I am working with a number of industrial partners who will help to ensure the results of our work see a number of real-world applications.”
Women’s History Month is an annual declared month worldwide that highlights contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The University of Bath is celebrating the month by highlighting the successes of its female engineers who are making a significant and lasting impact on the society we live in.