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The University of Southampton

Southampton student wins BAE Systems ICASE award

Published: 17 July 2020
Charlie House
Charlie House

A postgraduate researcher from the University of Southampton has been presented BAE Systems’ annual ICASE award for his innovative engineering approach to reduce underwater noise and protect marine wildlife.

Final year PhD student from Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), Charlie House, was selected the overall winner for his research using an active noise cancellation technique known as ‘acoustic cloaking’ to stop objects from reflecting sound.

The project aims to cut down noise from large ships, which in turn would minimise impact on underwater ecosystems.

Charlie won through from a number of high quality UK research projects funded through the Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science and Technology (ICASE).

“I’m delighted to receive this year’s BAE Systems ICASE award,” Charlie says. “I’ve been following the research of the other shortlisted candidates and they’re all doing really interesting work, so it is very humbling for the judging panel to recognise me.”

When sound waves hit an object, they bounce back in a different direction – just like echoes in a cave. Underwater, these bouncing sound waves can exacerbate marine noise created by ships, potentially affecting marine wildlife. Charlie is using microphones to measure reflected sound waves and loudspeakers to cancel them out, similar to the technology used in noise cancelling headphones.

“We decided that the best way to approach the challenge was to use computational simulations to better understand the physics, before designing an experiment to investigate control methods,” Charlie explains.

“Underwater drones are being considered to measure the noise created by ships, but the acoustic scattering from these machines can often lead to inaccurate measurements. Using a system like the one we’ve developed, these drones could be acoustically cloaked to improve measurements and reduce the impact on the oceanic environment.”

Professor Philip Nelson, Interim Dean of Faculty, Engineering and Physical Sciences, says: “It is very gratifying to see such tangible real-world impact being generated from the long-term relationship between the ISVR and BAE Systems. I have been associated with ISVR for most of my career and I am proud to see the advances that continue to be achieved by this thriving research community and its many industrial collaborators. I would like to congratulate Charlie for this well-deserved recognition and hope this experience can be a springboard to a dynamic research career.”

ICASE projects are run by the EPSRC, with several funded each year at strategically partnered universities by BAE Systems.

Dave Short, BAE Systems Technology Director said: “We work closely with the country’s best universities, funding and mentoring students in research at the very cutting edge of technology. As well as helping give the UK’s Armed Forces a competitive edge, much of this research has applications in the commercial sector - Charlie’s excellent acoustic research could help reduce the impact of ship noise on marine life. I congratulate him on winning.”

Charlie is part of the Intelligent Structures for Low Noise Environments Prosperity Partnership funded by industry and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

“The concept for the project, the partnership with BAE Systems, and all of the results and findings from my PhD would not have been possible without the support and guidance from my PhD supervisors Dr Jordan Cheer and Professor Steve Daley,” Charlie says. “They both work incredibly hard to help all of the researchers at the Centre for Research in Active Control, and they’re helping us to produce high quality, industrially focussed, research.”

Expertise and mentoring from BAE Systems has provided Charlie with access to full-scale ships to test his research and invited him to STEM events to help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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