Ultrasonics can be used in the examination of materials for hidden defects and ensuring weld joins are correct. It is also used to join materials together, such as for cutting, drilling, and forming, or for detection, such as in parking sensors. These capabilities can be combined to produce highly advanced ultrasonic exploration technology. Coupled with measurements of surroundings, ultrasonic vibrations can also be used in the extraction of rock and ice samples in extreme environments, from Antarctica to extra-terrestrial environments. We are also interested in deployable structures for low-earth orbit and space applications.
Key Projects: BADGER
We are leading developments in sensing and communication through spatially structured optical fields. We aim to understand the dynamics of structured light in turbulent environments, with application towards imaging systems, light detection, quantum technologies, microscopy, remote sensing, and optical trapping. Our research is also enhancing communication and digital technologies for the provision of high-speed networks, particularly critical for rural or underdeveloped communities. One way in which we have investigated this is by developing self-aligning free-space optical systems, removing the requirement for initial manual positioning.
Notable Staff: Prof Martin Lavery
Key Projects: SuperPixels
Acoustic Cavitation and Hydrometallurgy
Acoustic cavitation can be used in the process to liberate materials such as oil from targets such as porous rock. We are investigating how ultrasonics can deliver highly effective processing and recovery of valuable minerals from different materials including ores, and for the recycling of e-waste. One method of such green processing is by sonocatalysis in deep eutectic solvents. Here, we are investigating new ultrasonic-based methods to enhance such effects for the sustainable processing of materials, including recycling.
Ultrasonic transducers are vital for a broad range of applications in a range of environments, for example from domestic water metering to flare gas measurement. Flexural ultrasonic transducers have received increasing attention in recent years and are being investigated for measurement in liquid and gas into the hundreds of bar pressure and hundreds of degrees Celsius. There are now demands for measurement in fluids such as hydrogen. We are focusing on addressing the key engineering challenges associated with enabling ultrasonic devices for such environments.
Notable Staff: Dr Andrew Feeney
Our research into micromanipulation means we can interact with different materials with ‘touchless’ technologies such as optoelectronic tweezing and optical tweezing. Patterned light can be used to generate the electric fields gradients necessary to create the required forces for manufacturing electronic components, including reconfigurable circuitry. We have been able to demonstrate ‘manufacturing with light’, where we have successfully undertaken the micro-assembly of optoelectronic microstructures using optoelectronic tweezers. In other research, we have also been able to achieve high-density data encoding with plasmonic nanopixels.
Notable Staff: Dr Steven Neale
Key Projects: Micromanipulation
Destructive Tools and Devices
Our expertise encompasses the design, fabrication, and optimisation of ultrasonic devices and tools for forming, welding, cutting, compaction, and drilling processes. Examples of specific applications include ultrasonic cutting of food products, metal forming, and the joining of dissimilar materials through targeted ultrasonic vibrations. Our drilling capabilities have crossed over into the development of rock sampling devices for extra-terrestrial environments. We have also conducted leading research into nonlinear vibration responses, which are vital to understand for improving industrial ultrasonic processes.
Li, X., Harkness, P., Worrall, K., Timoney, R. and Lucas, M. (2017) A parametric study for the design of an optimized ultrasonic-percussive planetary drill tool. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, 64(3), pp. 577-589.
Timoney, R., Worrall, K., Li, X., Firstbrook, D. and Harkness, P. (2020) Development of a robust mating system for use in the autonomous assembly of planetary drill strings. Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 33(4), 04020040.
Yemets, V., Harkness, P., Dron, M., Pashkov, A., Worrall, K. and Middleton, M. (2018) Autophage engines: towards a throttleable solid motor. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 55(4), pp. 984-992.
Yusuf, L., Symes, M. D. and Prentice, P. (2021) Characterising the cavitation activity generated by an ultrasonic horn at varying tip-vibration amplitudes. Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, 70, 105273.
Dixon, S., Kang, L., Ginestier, M., Wells, C., Rowlands, G. and Feeney, A. (2017) The electro-mechanical behaviour of flexural ultrasonic transducers. Applied Physics Letters, 110(22), 223502.
Lavery, M.P.J. et al. (2017) Free-space propagation of high dimensional structured optical fields in an urban environment. Science Advances, 3(10), e1700552.
Sperling, J. R., Neale, S. L. and Clark, A. W. (2017) Bridging the gap: rewritable electronics using real-time light-induced dielectrophoresis on lithium niobate. Scientific Reports, 7, 9660.