Department of Physics

Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

The Physics and Electronic & Electrical Engineering Departments at the University of Bath have established a Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

Within Physics, the principal areas of study are remote sensing of the marine environment and the micromachining of active and passive electronic devices for operation up to terahertz frequencies in radioastronomy applications.

The common theme running throughout this work is the use of waves, either ultrasonic or electromagnetic, to obtain information remotely. This requires a thorough understanding of the appropriate fundamental physics, and is achieved by a combination of both experimental measurements and numerical modelling.

Seabed Mapping and Characterisation

Sonar signals are used to image the seafloor in detail and new techniques are being developed to characterise the type of seabed (e.g. sand/silt/basalt or coral/mine/rock). Research focuses on developing new algorithms and linking them to applications such as object detection and environmental assessment.

Sonar Experiments

The Acoustics group has a strong tradition in experimental acoustics. This work is made using the large tank facilities available in the Department, including real seabeds. These facilities are now being modernised, and have been used in significant international projects. Research focuses on designing/running experiments, comparing the theoretical and actual results, and later applying these methods to topical problems (buried waste detection, seafloor imaging, etc.)

Numerical Modelling of Sources, Propagation and Scattering

The successful application of these wave techniques requires an ability to accurately model complicated sources, propagation through complex media and the interaction of waves with discrete structures and rough surfaces. Fundamental studies of these areas are also undertaken. A recent, interesting development has been the study of tsunami propagation in deep and shallow water.

High-Speed Detectors for Radio Astronomy and Atmospheric Sensing

High-speed detectors are essential for developing instrumentation used for studying the composition and structure of both interstellar molecular clouds (star-forming regions) and the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Such observations are made at wavelengths of typically one millimetre. A recent highlight was the deployment on the UK Infrared Telescope, Hawaii, of an instrument designed to study emission from neutral carbon at 800 GHz. Project areas include: development of state-of-the-art Schottky detectors for atmospheric sensing, wide-band LTG GaAs optoelectronic detectors and imaging cameras for studying atmospheric waves.

The research is supported by a variety of funding bodies ranging from government establishments and the Research Councils to the European Union and industry. The marine acoustics work involves collaboration with several international partners. Research projects typically include both detailed experimental measurements and numerical modelling. Most of the work is laboratory-based, although sea-based trials are performed for some of the marine applications.

For futher information visit the CSAOS web page.

Academic staff

Philippe Blondel

  • Underwater acoustics
  • Seafloor exploration
  • Planetary remote sensing

Nick Pace

  • Acoustic properties of the seabed
  • Mine detection
  • Sonar for underwater vehicles

Steve Davies

  • Instrumentation for millimetre wave astronomy
  • Microfabrication of high frequency devices

Jacques Guigne

  • Acoustic levitation 
  • Space DRUMS