EPSRC awards fellowship grants to four academics

The EPSRC has announced that four academics are to receive fellowship grants totalling £2.38m.

The academics, from the universities of Exeter, Sheffield, Bristol and Cambridge, will carry out research that will enable better water management, monitor the health of structures in the aerospace and wind energy sectors, develop tools for optimising the design of aircraft and wind turbines and provide computational models to calculate the effects of energy policies on global greenhouse gas emissions.

Prof David Butler, co-director of the Centre for Water Systems and professor of water engineering at Exeter University, has been awarded a five-year fellowship, worth around £1.5m, to advance a new approach to water management in the UK.

In a statement, Butler said: ‘The fellowship is about understanding the key characteristics of sustainable and resilient water systems and then applying that understanding to develop and test new and improved ways to tackle problems associated with water scarcity, urban flooding and river pollution. The work will be carried out in conjunction with industry partners such as Severn Trent Water and government bodies such as the Environment Agency.’

Prof Keith Worden, professor of mechanical engineering at Sheffield University, has been awarded a fellowship worth around £900,000 to fund a project that is intended to provide a means to monitor the structural health of aircraft or offshore wind farms.

‘The ultimate objective of my main area of research — structural health monitoring — is to provide a means for industry to optimise management of their assets by allowing them to diagnose potential problems in operation at as early a stage as possible,’ said Worden. ‘This will have overwhelming benefits in terms of both cost of ownership and safety of operation. The aerospace industry alone could save potentially millions of pounds from more effective maintenance and asset management strategies.’

Dr Simon Neild, from Bristol University, has been awarded a five-year EPSRC fellowship worth around £760,000 to develop a computer validation program to analyse the behaviour of mechanical structures, focusing on the aerospace and wind energy sectors.

Neild said: ‘Currently, design tools used by design engineers and engineering consultants in the manufacturing process can’t measure how structures behave under extreme conditions in terms of vibration, comfort, noise and fatigue life. The more flexible structures become, the more difficult they are to model. To account for this, designers employ multiple design cycles and may be forced to make structures heavier or stiffer than necessary — this is more costly in terms of materials and less fuel efficient.

‘I hope that my work will help high-end manufacturing in the UK and make it even more competitive internationally.’

Finally, Dr Jean-Francois Mercure, from Cambridge University, has been awarded around £230,000 to produce a computational modelling system that can be used by government to shape energy policy and will provide new data for climate change scientists.