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Research Theme: Sensors

Research Theme: Sensors

Leading the way across a range of the latest technologies.

Our research focuses on the design and development of:

  • novel sensors
  • sensor arrays
  • non-destructive testing and evaluation
  • structural health monitoring
  • Internet of Things
  • autonomous systems

We use analytical, numerical modelling and simulation, and experimental approaches. Our research is invaluable to a variety of systems engineering applications, such as:

  • railways
  • pipelines
  • aerospace
  • offshore
  • medicine, including non-invasive diagnostics and healthcare
Sensors: dials and cables

We train the future generation of scientists and experts around the world. We work with our students, research associates, and international visiting scholars. Our trained scientists and engineers have a solid background of non-destructive and structural health monitoring. They are participating in the widespread digitisation of manufacturing brought in by Industry 4.0.

We have a strong track record in the electromagnetic NDT&E community. We have published over 300 papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.

We have established cooperation with industry partners. These include global names such as Airbus, British Steel, and General Electronics. Our academic partners across the world include:

  • USA: MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Excellence Center, Iowa State University, Michigan State University
  • UK: University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Manchester, University of Warwick
  • France: Università di Nantes
  • Germany: Fraunhofer IKTS
  • Italy: University of Perugia (Italy)
  • China: University of Electronic Science and Technology
  • Japan: Tohoku University
  • leading universities in India

We have received funding from many organisations including:

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • UK-China-BRI Partnership
  • EU FP7
  • EU Horizon 2020
  • Innovate UK
  • National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)
Sensors: diagram

Non-destructive Testing

We have extensive experience in the field of electromagnetic non-destructive testing and evaluation. We have developed new inspection methods and novel feature extraction techniques. We work across all aspects of electromagnetic NDE. We investigate defect detection and characterisation. We develop techniques to quantify macro- and micro-structural changes in components of railways, pipelines, aerospace, offshore wind turbine blades.

We recognise the urgent need for fast, accurate, practical and non-destructive inspection requirements from our industry partners. These include global names like Airbus, British Steel, and General Electronics.

Sensors: Non-destructive testing and evaluation - rail track RCF characterisation

We are a pioneer among NDT research labs in the digital age. We develop accurate, effective, efficient analytical and numerical models. We investigate multi-physics phenomena with multiple parameters and complexities. We use complex non-destructive testing evaluation conditions.

We apply state-of-the-art NDT & E techniques. These include:

  • pulsed eddy current
  • eddy current pulsed thermography
  • microwave near and far field inspection for material characterisation
  • structural integrity
  • defect (crack, fatigue, corrosion, delamination) detection and identification
  • stress and lifecycle assessment for safety-critical components and systems in the areas of defence, energy, transport, aerospace, oil and gas, and infrastructure
Non-destructive evaluation and testing: CFRP impact damage characterisation

Health Monitoring

We are developing the next generation of Structural Heath Monitoring system using RFID sensors. Our research in Advanced Sensors explores the scientific basis for RFID sensors. We study supporting infrastructure technology for measurement of physical quantities. This involves the fields of:

  • advanced chip/chip-less RFID sensors
  • printable and flexible sensors
  • integration of advanced sensors with wireless sensor networks and Internet of Things
  • robotic instrumentation or robot assistant instrumentation
  • integration of RFID sensors in harsh environments such as oil and gas pipelines
Structural health monitoring - meta-surface RFID sensor design

Ultrasound

We are developing a very inexpensive technology for medical ultrasound scanning. We are drawing upon many years of innovation in sonar signal processing.

We are creating a product with similar hardware complexity to commonly used Doppler heart rate monitors. Our product has a target price of around £200, if sold in large quantities. This would enable the use of ultrasound imaging in applications or regions of the world where it is currently cost prohibitive.

We have investigated a variety of approaches. We have now developed the most promising into prototype units. We have evaluated the prototypes on phantoms. They are now being evaluated for various clinical applications.

Low-cost Ultrasound imaging - laboratory testing

An overview of the technology

Our design philosophy uses the minimum possible hardware in the scanning head. It connects to any available PC or mobile device (via USB or Wifi) to perform signal/image processing and display. This helps us to achieve a very low component cost.

We have used a single transducer element. This is because multichannel phased array transducers would far exceed the target cost. We have applied several innovative approaches from sonar signal processing. This has minimised the cost of electronic circuitry. It has produced high-resolution images from a single fixed focus transducer.

Low cost ultrasound imaging - clinical trials

The transducer is scanned back and forth across the skin, either by a motorised mechanism or freehand, to gather echo data. The processing software then estimates the motion of the transducer. It performs the focusing operations to generate an image up to 4 times per second.

In the current prototypes, the ultrasound frequency and beam parameters are close to convex array scanners typically used for obstetrics and general abdominal imaging. The parameters could be adapted to suit other applications.

The only significant limitation is that the frame rates may not be high enough to image dynamic organs such as the heart effectively.

We are currently turning this technology into commercial products. Our PhD students are working on advances in signal processing. This research will improve image resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, geometric accuracy and ease of use by less skilled operators.

The technology undoubtedly has other applications in healthcare and beyond. We will also explore as many of these as possible.

Internet of Things

We develop cutting-edge autonomous, intelligent systems.

Our research leads to revolutionary IoT solutions in condition and structural health monitoring. We are at the forefront of sensing, communication and information processing.

We design low cost and low power consumption sensors. We build spectrally efficient, robust and secure communications networks. We develop novel approaches to radio frequency identification (RFID) based passive sensing networks and compressed sensing.

We explore non-linear defect feature extraction and autonomous multi-sensor multi-modality information fusion. Our research in industrial system architecture enables cloud-based computing and artificial intelligence-aided decision-making.

We design ways to assess the location, size, and microstructure of defects in structures and form further decision makings. We do this by applying non-linear system identification and analysis-based signal processing.

We develop self-powering electromagnetic sensor networks. The new RFID and PEC sensing based technology with power management use these networks.

We are building cloud-based software architectures. These provide innovative solutions to compressed sensing, robust communication and data management.

We work with cross-disciplinary research teams in Newcastle, Sheffield and York Universities. We collaborate with strategic industrial partners.

Sensors: IoT based InnoWagon project