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Engineering and the EnvironmentOur research

Research Group: Electro-Mechanical Engineering

Currently Active: 

Head of Group: Professor Suleiman Sharkh The research interests of the Electro-Mechanical Research Group (EMRG) cover the application of transducers, measurement systems and control systems to a broad range of activities.

Group Overview

We are engaged in cutting-edge fundamental and applied research underpinning Electro-Mechanical technologies. Our activities are organised around four research themes, covering a wide spectrum of applications in the areas of control systems, energy conversion and management, instrumentation and sensors and microfluidics. Our strategy is to maintain a balanced portfolio of projects on a broad range of research topics, and to promote commercial exploitation of research results. We also feed our research into the undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes including the Advanced Mechanical Engineering Systems (AEMS) Mechatronics MSc.

Key achievements

  • The award of the inaugural International James A Lindner Prize to the Sound Archive Project: The prize recognises contributions to research in the field of technology for the preservation of moving images and recorded sound and is awarded jointly by SEAPAVAA (South-East Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association), AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) and IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives).
  • The award of the Engineer Innovation and Technology Award (Energy Sector) to the Rim Driven Marine Thruster.

Research themes

Our activities are organised around four research themes:

Control and Identification

Staff: Dr Dina Shona Laila, Dr Mohamed M Torbati, Dr Zhan Shu

Energy Conversion

Staff: Professor Suleiman M Sharkh, Dr Mohamed M Torbati

Instrumentation and Sensors

Staff: Professor John W McBride; Dr John K Atkinson

Microfluidics and MEMS

Staff: Professor Martyn Hill, Dr Rosie Boltryk, Dr Xize Niu

Contact us

Engineering Sciences Unit
Engineering and the Environment
Building 5 (Eustice)University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
Southampton SO17 1BJ


Senior Administrative Officer: Sue Berger
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2871
Administrative Officer: Katherine Day
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2841
Administrative Officer: Gwyneth Skiller
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 5568





Thick Film Unit

The term "thick film" refers to the fact that these sensors are fabricated using screen printing techniques that were originally developed for the production of thick film hybrid circuits that employed screen printed interconnections and passive components (such as resistors and capacitors) with surface mounted integrated circuits (chips).

The devices are typically built up in layers by printing the active materials of the sensors onto a variety of different support media (substrates).  Most commonly ceramic but increasingly steel, plastics and other materials are used.

The screen printing process forces ink (or paste) through a pre-patterned mesh or stencil (the screen) onto the substrate.  The thickness of the deposited layer is controlled by the printer and the properties of the ink define the function of the layer


Thick film hybrid circuits

These devices are made here in the Thick Film Unit and are 4 to 20 mA transmitters incorporating an instrumentation amplifier.  They are typically used in instrumentation applications in the process industries where low level sensor signals are converted to a current for transmission to a control centre.  A current of 4 mA corresponds to the sensor minimum value and 20 mA to the sensor maximum output value.


Physical sensors

These miniature pressure sensors are designed to fit inside the automatic gearbox of a car.  It consists of 4 interconnected thick film strain gauges printed onto a steel pressure sensing diaphragm that screws onto a threaded pipe.  The device is extremely rugged, as it does not use any adhesive or wires to connect the strain gauges to the diaphragm.  By measuring the pressure of the hydraulic fluid inside the gearbox, the car's on-board computer system can decide when best to change gear.


Sensor arrays

Thick film technology is a particularly good medium for fabricating arrays of sensors on a common substrate.  For example, a water quality sensor can consist of 13 thick film layers that make up 5 separate solid state sensors for detecting the dissolved oxygen concentration, temperature, pH, redox potential (a measure of ionic activity) and conductivity of the water.  The complete array is only 35mm in diameter and would easily fit into a matchbox. 


Chemical sensors

Using thick film chemical sensor technology the group developed a series of rugged miniaturized pH sensors for use in controlling the viscosity of printing ink.  They were funded as part of a European Commission project aimed at producing disposable sensors that would survive in the harsh environment of a printing works.  Modern printing inks are water based, as opposed to solvent based, and have to have ammonia added to them to keep them workable.  The thick film pH sensors were developed to enable the dosing of the ink to be controlled more precisely.  Thick film is an excellent means for mass producing disposable sensors as many such devices can be printed at the same time making them very cost effective to manufacture.

Postgraduate opportunities




Research Staff

Staff MemberPrimary Position
Mohammad AbusaraVisiting academic
John K AtkinsonProfessor of Engineering Science
Giuseppe CannellaResearch student with the Electro-Mechanical research group
Dario CarugoResearch Fellow
Chamaporn ChianrabutraResearch student
Kevin James CrossVisitor
Andrew CrudenProfessor of Energy Technology
James DonoghueResearch Student
Michael Peter DownPostgraduate research student
Aleksander J DubasKTP Senior Research Associate
Sam J FishlockPostgraduate research student
Michael GedgeResearch student
Michael GedgeResearch student
Monika Glanc-GostkiewiczVisitng academic
Peter Glynne-JonesLecturer (EPSRC Fellow)
ChinTeng GohPostgraduate research student
Sammer-ul HassanPostgraduate research student
Mehdi HendijanizadehResearch Fellow in Electromechanical Engineer
Martyn HillProfessor of Electromechanical Systems
Babar HussainVisiting researcher fellow
Mohsin JamilVisiting research fellow
Mahdi KiaeeResearch Fellow in Energy Technology
Dina Shona LailaLecturer
Junjun LeiThird-year PhD research student
Adam P LewisPost-Doctoral Research Fellow
Joseph J LiftonLecturer in Mechanical Engineering
John W McBrideProfessor of Electro-Mechanical Engineering
Shayan Motamedi FakhrPostgraduate Research Students
Adrian NightingaleResearch Fellow in Droplet Microfluidics and Point-of-care Diagnostics
Xize NiuAssociate Professor
Georgios OrfanoudakisKTP Research Associate
Suan Hui PuAssistant Professor
Suleiman M SharkhProfessor of Power Electronics Machines and Drives
Dina Shona LailaLecturer
Zhan ShuLecturer
Zhen TianPostgraduate research student
Mohamed Moshrefi- TorbatiLecturer
Ling WangAssociate Professor in condition monitoring for tribological systems
Zijun ZhaoResearch Fellow

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