Engineering and the Environment

Research Group: Electro-Mechanical Engineering

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.

Currently Active: Yes

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 2781

    Administrative Officer: Jo Laryea

    Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 5568

    Email: engsci@soton.ac.uk

     

Control and Identification

Control and Identification

Instrumentation and Sensors

Instrumentation and Sensors

Microfluidics and MEMS

Microfluidics and MEMS

What's related

Publications

Selected publications associated with this group from the University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints):

Article

Rai, Ranjana , Boccaccini , Aldo R. , Knowles, Jonathan C. , Mordon, Nicola , Salih, Vehid , Locke, Ian C. , Moshrefi-Torbati, M., Keshavarz, Tajalli and Roy, Ipsita (2011) The homopolymer, poly(3-hydroxyoctanoate), P(3HO), as a matrix material for soft tissue engineering. [in special issue: Contributions from the 5th International Conference on Times of Polymers (TOP) and Composites, Ischia, Italy, June 20-23, 2010] Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 122, (6), 3606-3617. (doi:10.1002/app.34772).
Moshrefi-Torbati, M. and Swingler, J. (2011) Reliability of printed circuit boards containing lead-free solder in aggressive environments. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics, 22, (4), 400-411. (doi:10.1007/s10854-010-0150-7).
Courtney, C.R.P., Ong, C.-K., Drinkwater, B.W., Wilcox, P.D., Demore, C., Cochran, S., Glynne-Jones, P. and Hill, M. (2010) Manipulation of microparticles using phase-controllable ultrasonic standing wave. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128, (4), EL195-EL199 . (doi:10.1121/1.3479976). (PMID:20968325).
Courtney, C.R.P., Ong, C.-K., Drinkwater, B.W., Wilcox, P.D., Demore, C., Cochran, S., Glynne-Jones, P. and Hill, M. (2010) Manipulation of microparticles using phase-controllable ultrasonic standing waves. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128, (4), EL195. (doi:10.1121/1.3479976). (PMID:20968325).

Conference or Workshop Item

Kokaew, Voropath, Moshrefi-Torbati, M. and Abu-Sharkh, S.M. (2011) Simulation of a solar powered air compressor. At 10th International Conference on Environment and Electrical Engineering , Rome, IT, 08 - 11 May 2011. 5pp.
Abu-sara, M. A. and Sharkh, S. M. (2010) Design of a robust digital current controller for a grid connected interleaved inverter. In, ISIE 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Industrial Electronics, Bari, Italy, 04 - 07 Jul 2010. 6pp. (In Press).
Demore, C., Glynne-Jones, P., Qiu, Y., Ye, C., Hill, M. and Cochran, S. (2010) Transducer arrays for ultrasonic particle manipulation. In, IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium (IUS), San Diego Country Estates, US, 11 - 14 Oct 2010.

Staff

Members of staff associated with this group:

Facilities

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