Margaret Lucas - Ultrasonics

Prof Margaret LucasMargaret Lucas is Professor of Ultrasonics, with a research group that spans a range of research application areas in high power ultrasonics. High power ultrasonics uses vibrations at frequencies above the human hearing range, usually delivered by tuned devices operating in the 20-100kHz range.  

“The most exciting aspect of working in ultrasonics is the diversity of research, with current projects on ultrasonic needles for bone biopsy, an ultrasonic drill for planetary exploration, ultrasonic orthopaedic surgical devices, and an ultrasonic compactor for an oil exploration tool. We also work on novel transducers for delivery of the vibrations, including for delivery of combinations of vibration modes, and multiple frequency tuning capability through incorporation of smart materials.”

Margaret started her research career in ultrasonics as a PhD student, working on reducing the diameter of the ends of metal cans. You can typically see these diameter reductions on drinks cans. To prevent the cans from wrinkling, the diameter must be reduced by several dies – making a small reduction at each die stage. For such high volume production as the drinks can industry, any removal of a die stage results in huge savings in production costs, so the work on ultrasonically excited dies represented a new and important manufacturing technology.

Margaret’s research has been funded by the research councils and a large number of industries, with her early work on ultrasonic cutting devices largely concentrating on food cutting and supported by Nestle. The move into surgical devices presents very different challenges and requires close working with clinicians and medical device companies, but the consistent focus is in understanding how the ultrasonic vibrations interact with the material to be cut or drilled or cored, whether it is human tissue, Martian rocks or a confectionary bar.

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First published: 26 March 2015