The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

About our research impact

The University of Southampton has reaffirmed its position as one of the UK’s top research universities following publication of the national Research Excellence Framework 2014, assessing the quality and impact of research across a wide range of disciplines.

Results of the REF show that 84% per cent of Southampton’s research activity is considered of internationally excellent or world-leading quality, placing the University once again amidst the top 20 leading research institutions in the country.

Southampton has also performed well in specific Units of Assessment in the REF with 91% of research activity in UoA 15 General Engineering specifically rated as internationally excellent or of world-leading quality.

Please visit the REF 2014 website for the University of Southampton’s complete results.

Below we feature examples of ways in which our research is changing the world for the better and impacting on the lives of people in the UK and around the globe.

Bubble acoustics
Bubble acoustics

Bubble acoustics

Pioneering research into bubble acoustics is developing exciting applications in several fields. Professor Tim Leighton and colleagues in the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) are discovering new ways of understanding the oceans, delivering drugs and medical procedures and even making cleaning systems work more efficiently.

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Cochlear implants
Cochlear implants

Cochlear implants for people with severe to profound deafness

Cochlear implants have been available in the UK for over 20 years and are the only successful treatment available for people with severe to profound deafness. They can transform lives by restoring an individual’s ability to hear and understand speech or help a deaf person hear for the first time. Pioneering research into the devices at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) has improved their performance and led to changes in health policy by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

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Researching into hand-arm vibration syndrome

Combating hand-arm vibration

Research at the University of Southampton has shed new light on a damaging condition suffered by workers who use hand-held power tools. Millions of workers in the UK and around the world are at risk of developing the hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Engineers and scientists in the Human Factors Research Unit within the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research work with experts in the Faculty of Medicine to learn more about this condition, to develop ways of diagnosing it, and to suggest how to work with power tools so as to control the risks.

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Producing more fuel efficient, longer lasting engines and aircraft at reduced cost
Decision Analysis and Support Tools for the Aerospace Industry

Decision Analysis and Support Tools for the Aerospace Industry

Research carried out at the University of Southampton has enabled major players in the aerospace industry, including Rolls-Royce, Airbus, and Boeing, to produce more fuel efficient, longer lasting engines and aircraft at reduced cost. Southampton engineers have provided the aerospace industry with modelling tools and software to assist the companies in investigating complex new designs quickly while managing product risk in a competitive market.

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Image of simulations
Knee replacement simulations

Design of a new total knee replacement

An estimated 1.3 million artificial knee joints are implanted annually around the world. Southampton researchers in bioengineering are working with one of the world’s leading manufacturers of total knee replacements to support them in developing new and better implants. They have developed advanced computer simulations for use in the early design phases which are helping to assess wear, taking account for differences in patients and surgical procedures.

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Dezineforce introduced a new concept to computing in 2007 – the idea that design engineers could remotely upload the tools they need to run complex simulations using massive amounts of computing power.
Complex simulations require massive amounts of computing power

Dezineforce

Cloud computing is now in common use for companies and individuals who want wide access to computing, data handling and storage at affordable prices.

Research at the University of Southampton created the concept as a way for design engineers in the aerospace, defence, energy, civil engineering, automotive and other industries to use massive amounts of computing power for complex and essential calculations without the expense of setting up their own systems. Its founders Professors Simon Cox, Andy Keane and Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt launched Dezineforce in 2007; it was sold to Microsoft in 2011.

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Fish screens for eels

Ecological engineering

Water from rivers is now widely used to generate sustainable energy and for other industrial purposes. However, rivers are also important habitats for fish. Over the years, many fisheries have been damaged by the building of dams, turbines and water extraction systems, as rivers are channelled along new water courses. Researchers at Southampton are examining new ways of engineering waterways and designing fisheries to protect habitats while continuing to allow river water to be used commercially.

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The use of the University’s RJ Mitchell wind tunnel supported British cycling and the development of Amy Williams’ sled ‘Arthur’.
Cutting-edge research from the University of Southampton’s Performance Sport Engineering Laboratory

Engineering excellence in performance sport

Cutting-edge research from the University of Southampton’s Performance Sport Engineering Laboratory (PSEL) has contributed to British success in winning gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Vancouver and London. Notably, it involved the use of the University’s RJ Mitchell wind tunnel to support British cycling and the development of Amy Williams’ sled ‘Arthur’.

The Laboratory’s academic expertise in fluid dynamics and instrumentation as well as its application to system design and equipment selection has supported UK Sport since 2005 building on its research in motor racing and high performance yachts from the 1980s onwards. It was for these contributions that PSEL was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2012.

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Tackling geotechnical engineering challenges in transport

Geotechnical transport infrastructure for the 21st century

The transport of people, goods, and utilities such as electricity, gas and water is essential to civilised life, and in turn depends on robust, reliable and affordable road, rail and distribution networks. Almost without exception, these networks are built on, in, or of the ground and therefore depend on geotechnical engineering expertise for their construction and maintenance. Research carried out by the Southampton Geomechanics Group (SGG) is creating results that are improving transport infrastructure in the UK and around the world.

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Research at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) has led to a sophisticated new understanding of a number of complex challenges in acoustics.
Tackling complex problems in acoustics

Identification and Active Control of Multiple Sources of Sound

Work at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) has led to a sophisticated new understanding of a number of complex challenges in acoustics known as multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) problems. The research findings have attracted major industry sponsors and resulted in valuable new innovations in home entertainment, construction, aviation and defence.

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Traffic signals

Intelligent traffic systems

As Britain’s roads get busier and busier, we need intelligent and sustainable solutions to keep traffic flowing swiftly and safely. Members of the University of Southampton’s Transportation Research Group (TRG) are investigating ways of improving how we get around our cities and exploring how to cut congestion on motorways and major trunk roads. Their expertise is also in demand around the world from transport planners who want to avoid gridlock in their communities.

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Professor Browne and Dr Alex Dickinson
Professor Browne and Dr Alex Dickinson

Joint venture: working in partnership to develop a unique hip replacement

Hip replacement operations transform lives. More than 85,000 are carried out every year in England and Wales, primarily to treat osteoarthritis, and most are very successful and give patients pain-free movement for well over ten years. However, younger, more active patients present a greater challenge. Engineers at the University of Southampton have worked closely with the orthopaedics industry and clinicians to come up with new implant solutions aimed to treat this patient group. Their research contributed directly to the development of two hip replacement products and more than 3,500 operations using the new hips have now been carried out.

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Image of landing gear
Research has transformed the way the aerospace companies tackle noise prediction and mitigation in the design of current and future aircraft

Leading the way in aircraft noise reduction

Research at the University of Southampton’s Airbus Noise Technology Centre (ANTC) and the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) in Gas Turbine Noise has given Airbus and Rolls-Royce tools to understand, predict and reduce noise pollution from commercial aircraft. This will help them make sure they are on track to meet the European Union’s stringent noise reduction targets, and maintain their competitive edge. This is also good news for the millions of people who live near our busiest airports.

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Environmental engineers have informed public understanding of the potential and limitations of micro-wind power
Micro-wind turbine

Micro-wind turbines

Ten years ago, small scale wind turbines in towns and cities were becoming popular as perceived sources of green energy by generating electricity at the point of use. However, research by specialist environmental engineers at the University of Southampton revealed these micro-wind devices were very inefficient and some actually consumed more power than they generated. Publication of their findings in 2009 attracted considerable media coverage and major DIY chain B&Q withdrew from selling domestic wind turbines altogether.

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Improving lives

Newborn hearing screening

If deafness can be diagnosed at birth, then the child can get educational support or hearing aids to help his or her development. Research at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) helped to evaluate a pioneering test that enables deafness to be detected in newborn babies. Since it has been adopted by the National Health Service, all newborn babies in the UK are routinely screened. The research at ISVR has contributed to the World Health Organisation’s recommendations in favour of universal newborn hearing screening.

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Space debris simulatlion

Space Debris in Geostationary Earth Orbit

The University of Southampton’s research into space debris has made a vital contribution to space policy by addressing an issue identified by the United Nations (UN) as having important implications for all humanity. It has played a key role in advising policymakers on how best to manage the orbital environment in a sustainable manner for generations to come and avoid the risk of satellites encountering debris in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO).

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The Rail dampers were tested in the ISVR laboratory.
Sustainable expansion of rail networks through noise reduction

Sustainable expansion of rail networks through noise reduction

Research by engineers at the University of Southampton into reducing railway noise has created an exciting new technology that is being used to expand rail networks in Europe and Australia while preserving the quality of life for people who live nearby.

Under a licence agreement with the University, Tata Steel has supplied patented rail dampers that have been fitted on track in 16 countries. These dampers have proved particularly crucial for a new rail line in Sydney.

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University of Southampton is the home of the national Centre of Advanced Tribology (nCATS)
Tribiology: saving costs of improving safety across industries

Tribology: saving costs and improving safety across industries

The UK economy loses £24billion every year because of problems with friction, wear and lubrication. That figure represents up to 1.6 percent of the country’s GDP. This field of engineering, known as Tribology, looks at ways of reducing this damage in transport, manufacturing, energy and life sciences. The University of Southampton is the home of the national Centre of Advanced Tribology (nCATS).

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Aerial view of Marylebone Road, London, receiving pollutant contamination from a source in a street.
Example of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) applied to urban meteorology

Turbulence Generation Method in Urban Environment and Wind Engineering Applications

Understanding how winds blow and how pollution moves around towns and cities is increasingly important to environmental engineers designing new urban spaces. It is also crucial in developing fast responses to the release of toxic materials whether through accidents or terrorism. This is all primarily a matter of applied fluid mechanics involving specialist field trials combined with appropriate wind tunnel and computational modelling.

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