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Research Group: Mechatronics Engineering Group

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Head of Group: Professor John McBride. The research interests of the Mechatronics Research Group (MRG) cover Electric Machines, Power Electronics, Microfluidics, Ultrasonics, Thick-film sensors, Electric contacts and Control systems

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 Engineer Innovation and Technology Award (Energy Sector) for the development of Rim Driven Marine Thruster - now produced commercially by TSL Technology Ltd..

Research themes

Our activities are organised around four research themes:

Control and Identification

Staff: 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; Professor John K Atkinson

Microfluidics and MEMS

Staff: Professor Martyn HillDr Xize Niu, Dr Peter Glynne-Jones, Dr Dario Carugo

Contact us

Mechanical Engineering Department
School of Engineering
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: Heather Marshall
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 5568
Administrative Officer: Fiona Haigh
Tel: +44 (0)23 80597082


Email: mecheng@soton.ac.uk

 

 

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.  Enquiries to: Prof John Atkinson: j.a.atkinson@soton.ac.uk

 

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.

 

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