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Institute of Sound and Vibration Research

Research themes

Our research spans engineering, transport and healthcare. Find out more about the areas in which we specialise.

Bubble acoustics

We are using bubbles to transform medicine, develop ultrasonic cleaning and learn more about whales and dolphins.

Our innovative research into bubble acoustics is developing exciting applications in several fields. Professor Tim Leighton and his team treat ‘noise’, such as the sound of bubbles, as a source of information about the natural world. Likewise, they treat ‘sound’ as a way to change the world by inducing chemical reactions, or changing human tissue. The applications of this technology include:

  • understanding the oceans
  • delivering drugs and medical procedures
  • improving ultrasonic diagnostic tools
  • making cleaning systems work more efficiently


Our research covers ranges from the development of tests to identify hearing loss to the development of cochlear implants.

In the UK, ten million people experience hearing loss. If deafness can be diagnosed at birth, then a child can get educational support or hearing aids to help his or her development. We have helped to develop and evaluate a 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. 

Of the people with hearing loss, 200,000 adults and children with severe or profound deafness may be helped by cochlear implants. While the operations are usually very successful, we believe it is important to continue research into implant technology to improve their sound quality and to learn more about their effectiveness.

Combating hand-arm vibration

Our research 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). We have worked to learn more about this condition for more than 40 years, together with the Human Factors Research Unit and experts in the Faculty of Medicine. We aim to develop ways of diagnosing the condition and to identify ways of controlling the risk when working with power tools.


We work with both the rail and aerospace industries to reduce noise pollution from transport. 

Our engineers have developed new technology to add dampers to rail tracks to cut noise vibration. We have also developed theoretical models to predict more accurately levels of noise caused by the rolling of steel wheels on steel rails.

Understanding, predicting and reducing noise pollution from commercial aircraft is important for ensuring the aerospace industry maintains its competitive edge and meets noise reduction targets. We combine our research with the Aircraft Noise Technology Centre (ANTC) to provide the largest centre of aero-acoustic expertise in the UK. 

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