The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Professor John K Atkinson BSc PhD

Professor of Engineering Science

Professor John K Atkinson's photo
Related links

John K Atkinson is Professor of Engineering Science within the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.

John began his career in 1970 as a Merchant Navy Radio and Electronics Officer, initially with the ocean going fleet and later in the offshore oil industry. In 1981 he graduated from the University of Essex with a first class honours degree in Computer Engineering. He was subsequently employed as a Senior Electronics Engineer working on pattern recognition systems for speech, vision and handwritten computer input with Quest Automation Research Limited (a high tech company that was rapidly acquired by the GEC Group) prior to taking up an appointment as a Lecturer at the University of Southampton in the then Department of Electronics. He is currently a Professor of Engineering Science in the Mechatronics Research Group of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.

John’s research interests include thick film technology, electronic instrumentation and sensors. In particular he has been working in the field of thick film (screen printed) sensor arrays for use in environmental monitoring for many years and during that time has supervised a large number of PhD students to successful completion as well as publishing widely in scientific journals and conferences. Current projects on the development of sensors for water quality and soil monitoring are described under the research tab of this profile.

John is also very active in the teaching of undergraduate and masters students on several courses including Electronics for Mechanical Engineers and Acousticians, Advanced Sensors and Signal Processing, and supervision of individual and group projects. He is also the Programme Leader for the MSc course in Advanced Mechanical Engineering Systems teaching extensively on the course and in particular the most popular theme of Mechatronics. John is responsible for the academic liaison between the Faculty of Engineering and Environment at the University of Southampton UK campus and the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) where he is also a member of ‘flying faculty’ teaching on first and second year modules at USMC.

John has been an active consultant to industry since 1982, undertaking a wide range of projects for a variety of clients ranging from small businesses to large multi-national corporations. He has also been a named inventor on numerous patents, filed both in the UK and abroad. He has been an active committee member for various scientific and commercial organisations, including BSI standards committees, and has been involved in the organisation and chairing of many major international conferences.

He is currently editor in chief of the scientific journal Microelectronics International.

Image

Research

Publications

Teaching

Contact

Research interests

John’s research concerns the use of thick film technology (screen printing) to produce low cost, rugged and miniature sensors that can be used to measure chemical and physical properties of our environment. This includes using arrays of sensors to determine properties such as the pH, oxygen content and conductivity of water and soil so that the quality of the environment can be monitored.

Screen printing is a widely used technique for depositing layers on many different materials and the same process that is used in printing t-shirts, cups and plates etc. With the right equipment and materials it can also be used to fabricate sensors and electronic devices in large batches to significantly reduce their cost of manufacture.

Thick film technology can also be used to produce low cost, rugged electronic instrumentation circuits and systems that can be used with these sensor arrays for monitoring the environment in remote locations, for example throughout a water catchment area such as rivers, ditches, agricultural field run off etc. Alternatively they can be buried in the ground to monitor soil nutrient levels or for example in railway embankments to determine the stability of the soil.

Research projects

Working with the UK Environment Agency on water quality
This project has the eventual goal of developing water quality sensors for deployment across entire water catchment areas. Our long term target is the monitoring of nutrient levels (e.g. phosphates and nitrates) at all levels - rivers, streams, ditches, field run-off etc. The project is also in collaboration with two UK companies, instrumentation specialists C-Cubed Ltd and thick film materials specialists Gwent Electronic Materials.

FUSE (Floodplain Underground Sensor) Network
- UK Natural Environmental Research Council funded Project
This is a UK NERC funded project involving a very broad spectrum of partners including Botanists, Geologists, Soil, Computer and Engineering Scientists plus end users. The project’s main aim is to correlate the data obtained from a wireless network of buried soil sensors with satellite images and botanical sampling of meadow vegetation in order to improve the scientific modelling of our ecological environment and how it relates to climate change. The study is based on a site of Special Scientific Interest in the Oxford (Thames) floodplain that is being used for the location of field trials. The FUSE consortium includes the Universities of Southampton, Reading, London Imperial and the Open University, the British Geological Society, Natural England and the UK Environment Agency.

Working with Network Rail to determine embankment stability
A project is currently underway to establish whether there is a connection between soil quality measurements made with low cost (screen printed) sensor arrays and the stability of railway embankments. The project aims to evaluate the use of thick film sensors for monitoring soil porosity and conductivity and investigate whether these measurements can then be used for the determination of rail embankment stability. A major aim of the project is to develop rugged low cost sensor arrays that are cheap enough to be used for deployment in large numbers along rail embankments and other soil structures to give early an indication of possible instability. This will also involve the development of low cost electronic instrumentation that is sufficiently robust to survive unattended for long periods of time in what can be a very harsh environment.

Example of thick film sensor array for water quality monitoring
Thick film sensor
Typical use of sensor array in water quality monitoring probe
Sensor array
Laboratory Experimental Setup for Soil monitoring
Experimental Setup
FUSE Project Field Trials Site
FUSE project

Research group

Mechatronics Engineering Group

Research project(s)

Working with the UK Environment Agency on water quality monitoring

This project has the eventual goal of developing water quality sensors for deployment across entire water catchment areas.

FUSE (Floodplain Underground Sensor) Network - UK Natural Environmental Research Council funded Project

Working with Network Rail to develop sensors to determine embankment stability

A project is currently underway to establish whether there is a connection between soil quality measurements made with low cost (screen printed) sensor arrays and the stability of railway embankments.

Articles

Book Chapter

Conferences

Thesis

Module titleModule codeDisciplineRole
Electronics, Drives and Control FEEG2004 Mechanical Engineering Tutor
Sensors and Signal Processing for Condition Monitoring SESG6027
Engineering Sciences Tutor
Introduction to Advanced Mechanical Engineering Science SESM6025
MSc AMES
Tutor
Electrical Systems (USMC) FEEG1004
Mechanical Engineering Tutor
Professor John K Atkinson
Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number:13/4103

Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Google+ Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×