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The University of Southampton

Pioneering engineering partnership to reduce noise pollution and protect marine wildlife

Published: 12 September 2019
Dolphins swimming in the sea
The new materials will help reduce noise pollution that can cut the life-expectancy of fish.

A ground-breaking new partnership has been announced that will see the University of Southampton join with BAE Systems, the University of Nottingham and Lloyd’s Register to create new materials that will not make noise underwater, reducing its harmful impact on marine wildlife.

The project is one of four new Prosperity Partnerships announced by UK Science Minister, Chris Skidmore. Industry partners, including BAE Systems, are jointly investing £17.5m in addition to a £12 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investment delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The Prosperity Partnerships are being created in support of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy to increase investment in research and development to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. They are aimed at ensuring that UK universities and businesses are at the forefront of introducing new products to market that will tackle some of the biggest challenges of our generation.

Southampton is continuing its long-standing and beneficial corporate relationships with BAE Systems and Lloyd’s Register through this new Prosperity Partnership focused on developing ‘Intelligent Structures’. Noise pollution can cut the life-expectancy of fish, dolphins and other marine life, while also affecting human health.

These new materials will help to reduce ambient noise in the maritime sector and seek to exploit and could lead to exploiting the technology to address societal noise in general, which is also pervasive and problematic in workplace and home environments.

'Intelligent Structures’ integrate elements such as novel sensors, morphing materials, energy scavenging and storage, printed electronics, data storage, computing and communications, not only as discrete embedded devices but also printed, using additive manufacturing techniques.

Grouped together, these Intelligent Structures deliver behaviour and performance which aims to improve energy efficiency and fault tolerance, while reducing noise and vibration.

Steve Daley, Professor of Industrial Active Control at the University of Southampton, said: “We’ve seen that increasing international trade is leading to an explosion in the amount of shipping worldwide, which in turn is increasing the levels of noise pollution in our oceans.

This is exacerbated by the large scale of the vessels used with low frequency acoustic radiation from vibrating structures propagating over long distances. The elevated noise and its detrimental impact on sea-life is a significant environmental concern. Moreover, the power needed to propel such large container vessels is also leading to significant internal habitability issues with associated health and safety concerns.

“By partnering with BAE Systems, we aim to deliver intelligent, energy efficient low noise structures and machines to improve the environment and enhance security and safety across a range of applications.”

Also working closely with Lloyd's Register and the EPSRC Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the University of Nottingham, the partnership brings together world leading expertise in maritime noise and vibration mitigation technologies.

Steve Harris, Head of External Partnerships and Brokering, BAE Systems, said: “The Prosperity Partnership offers us the chance to explore new and low TRL technology with Southampton University, one of our five strategic university partners, building on our existing relationship with the internationally leading team at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.

“As an R&D intensive business driven by technological innovation, we know great things will come out of this partnership and are delighted at its announcement by the EPSRC.”

Mark Spearing, President & Vice-Chancellor (Interim) at the University, added: “This project builds on our existing strategic partnership and aligned research endeavour with BAE Systems. We also look forward to working with Lloyd’s Register and the University of Nottingham, who will be bringing their expertise and know-how to help advance this field.

“I am particularly encouraged by the wider environmental benefit of this research in reducing undesirable ambient noise from the marine environment, which is of adverse effect to marine life. I will be eagerly looking out for the emerging outcomes and associated impact from this research.”

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