All Research Themes

All Research Themes at the School of Engineering.
  • Environmental engineering is focused on developing sustainable processes to improve the natural and built environment for all living beings.

    We are interested in the design of Civil and Environmental Engineering systems for people - systems that provide vital services such as water, sanitation and wastewater management.

    Environmental Engineering Laboratories at the School of Engineering

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  • The University of Edinburgh established research in the field of Fire Safety Engineering in the early 1970s and today has the largest group of postgraduate researchers and academics specialising on fire science and fire safety engineering research in Europe.

    We are a world-class research fire centre with 40 research members from more than 18 different nationalities.

    Teaching and research in fire safety at Edinburgh

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  • The Granular Mechanics and Industrial Infrastructure Group conducts fundamental research on the mechanics of granular materials and their interaction with industrial infrastructure, with broad applications in silo design, bulk solids handling, paste rheology, fluidisation and natural hazard mitigation.

    About the Group

    The research group has diverse research expertise and themes studying granular materials from particle to full-industrial scales, from dry to multiphase systems; and has been developing novel discrete and continuum theories and numerical methods and experimental techniques to enable such research.

    Pilot Silo Facility

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  • Research within this theme focuses on developing non-destructive testing, infrastructure sensing and monitoring methodologies and on evaluating and adapting promising new sensor technologies for tomorrow's smart infrastructure designs.

    We conduct interdisciplinary research into continuous monitoring, on-site assessment and safe operation of civil engineering structures and systems in order to ascertain the real behaviour and devise optimal maintenance strategies to increase useful life and reduce life-cycle cost.

    Modal analysis based on vibration measurement.

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  • The multi-award winning Edinburgh Railway Group is focused on undertaking world leading research and delivering solutions to the international railway industry.

    The railway research has ranged from NDT/radar assessment of masonry arch railway bridges, through geophysical identification of abandoned mineshafts, condition monitoring of fouling of railway ballast and concrete slab track using GPR (radar) and impulse response through to numerical modelling of ground borne vibrations from high speed trains using the University of Edinburgh's supercomputer a

    Ground borne vibrations modelling

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  • Structural Engineering is about employing scientific principles and methodologies tempered by engineering pragmatism and judgement to conceive, analyse, design, construct, maintain, rehabilitate and decommission civil infrastructure components and systems, ensuring the safety of users and occupants over their design life, especially during times of extreme demand (fire, blast, earthquake, i

    Quantification of structural resistance (capacity), or capacity of a structure under a broad range of loading conditions (structural demands) is a challenging problem, given the diversity of construction materials, structural systems and loading patterns a structure may have to experience over its lifetime.

    Composite image

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  • Communications systems are fundamental to our lives and underpin the internet which is becoming increasingly ubiquitous.

    Our programme of research tackles both theoretical and fundamental communications problems as well as more practical issues of implementing and improving communications systems. Our work addresses a wide range of technologies including wireline, radio frequency and optical communications systems, as well as improving communications interfaces.

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  • Signal processing can be found in almost all modern technology. The algorithms underpinning mobile communications, medical imaging, image rendering for games and many other technologies were all developed within the global signal and image processing research community

    Our programme of research delivers world leading research in signal and image processing from fundamental theoretical and algorithmic work through to its translation to specific audio, video, radar/sonar, and medical imaging applications.

    Syntheitc Aperture Radar (SAR) image using fast back projection

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  • Tomography is the method that underlies medical scanners, which are mostly large, fixed installations, e.g. for X-ray CT scanning and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Fundamentally, the portability and adaptability of any tomography system depends on the nature of the measurement process that it exploits, and it turns out that many tomography systems are "agile" in these respects

    Research into Agile Tomography by ERPE Academics applies the tomographic method to many different problems by extending the technology of the method using:

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  • The technologies comprising the full Carbon Capture and Storage chain have the potential to significantly reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and help tackle climate change as Europe and the rest of the world moves towards a low-carbon future

    Rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to a present day value of 365 ppm has led to increasing ocean acidification and may be contributing to climate change and a rising of global temperatures.

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  • Materials Design and Characterisation

    Research Aims

    Materials science and engineering research for applications such as renewable energy devices, separation technology, biomedical devices.

    Composite Materials

    Materials Synthesis

    Snow and Ice Research

    Snow and Ice Research

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  • Our research combines fundamental physical understanding with advanced numerical methods to design better products and processes. Key to this research are techniques for modelling at each appropriate scale, and for scale-bridging so that the properties of molecules and large-scale processes can be linked and optimised.


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  • Superconductivity is broadly recognised for its contribution to solving key research and societal challenges in Energy and Healthcare sectors. This theme includes research into the synthesis, characterisation and understanding of superconducting materials, as well as the design, modelling and testing of superconducting devices.

    Superconductors that carry electricity with no resistance can be used to develop superefficient devices, such as power cables and electric machines. These devices will greatly support the reform of energy system by diversifying supply and weaning the world away from fossil fuels, providing opportunities for secure, affordable and low-carbon energy.

    Magnetic levitation of superconductor

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  • This research theme focuses on improvement of internal combustion (IC) engine efficiency and minimization of emissions via basic research on the fundamentals that control combustion in engine cylinders.

    New high-efficiency combustion modes, together with downsized engines for lower vehicle fuel consumption (and for electric vehicles), present many fundamental challenges to the motor industry.

  • This theme focusses on converting energy from one form into electrical energy using electrical machines and power electronics.

    The design of novel machines is an integral part of this research theme which concentrates on power take off systems in renewable energy converters, such as direct drive wave, wind and tidal current systems.

     20kW "C-GEN" permanent magnet generator

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  • The Energy Policy, Economics and Innovation theme addresses the economic and policy aspects of energy systems, combining together expertise on applied economics, innovation theory, energy system organisations and institutions, and the wider policy and regulatory context of energy.

    A thorough analysis of energy systems requires not only a good understanding of the physical networks and technologies that they are composed of, but also of the energy markets and policy environments in which they operate.

    The energy trilemma

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  • The aim of the group is to develop cost-competitive technologies for electricity and thermal energy storage. The work ranges from the development of the storage technologies to their integration into the wider energy system.

    Due to the increase in intermittent renewable energy in the electricity grid, energy storage systems are necessary to balance the mismatch between energy supply and demand and to enable the substitution of fossil fuels.

    Adiabatic Compressed Air Energy Storage (ACAES)

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  • Understanding the interactions between energy generation and climate is crucial to providing a resilient and secure energy supply in the future.

    Climate change could affect many aspects of energy generation and distribution, by changing weather patterns and variability. The scale of these impacts must be quantified and understood in order to minimise risk under future scenarios.

    Scotland's Wave Resource (Scottish Executive Matching Study, 2006)

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  • Research in Naval Architecture focuses on the mitigation of the carbon footprint of marine transport and on the performance improvement of racing yachts.

    The carbon emissions of the current merchant fleet account for more than 3% of the global emissions and are expected to increase by a factor of 3 by 2050. There is an urgent need to develop novel flow control mechanisms to decrease the hull resistance and novel wind-assisted propulsion systems to decrease the oil fuel consumption.

    Unmanned multihull with Flettner rotors for the mitigation of global warming

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  • This research theme focusses on offshore renewable energy research and development ranging from resource assessment and prediction, to converter design, optimisation and control.

    Renewable resources covered include wave, tidal and offshore wind. Further details of research within this theme can be found on the website for SuperGen Marine Energy Research. A further, closely-related research area is coastal engineering.

    Salter Duck wave energy converter test rig

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  • Privatisation and deregulation of the electricity industry together with increasing penetrations of renewable and gas-fired generation have created a variety of technical and economic issues that must be addressed. These issues are separated into 5 research areas.

    The UK is aiming to increase the penetration of renewable energy significantly. Many schemes will be connected to distribution networks which were not designed to accept distributed generation.

    Transmission Tower

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  • The materials and structures research theme encompasses the development of novel materials and their integration with electronics to make smart sensors and systems.

    On-going research includes the development and optimisation of silicon carbide microsystems for operation in harsh environments. 

    Figure 1 Graphene resonators released by XeF2 etch and integrated with contact electrodes

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  • Photonic materials, displays, light sources, and other systems and devices, engineered to provide the manipulation of light from micro- and nano-structured materials.

    In this research theme light-emitting and light-modulating materials are developed and integrated with silicon microelectronics to form new high-performance optical systems.  Examples include:

    Liquid Crystal Laser

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  • The integration of novel materials and devices with electronics to sense a range of physical properties such as heat, light, sound, radiation or chemical signatures such as pathogens or gases.  This also includes integrating sensors with CMOS to increase their functionality (More than Moore) which involves both design and technology development.

    Examples include:

    450 micron focal plane unit fro SCUBA-2 micromachined at the SMC

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  • Our vision is to treat platform silicon IC technology as a commodity element of the system with the value added part being the bespoke post-processing and the associated IP.

    The term Smart Microsystem refers to micro and nano-scale devices that combine electronic integrated circuits with additional, non-electronic components on a single substrate; thereby providing additional functionality. Such microsystems can be sub-divided into a myriad of application groups, including chemical, biological, optical, mechanical, electromagnetic and fluidic.

    Electroplated Permalloy on an SU-8 mould fabricated at the SMC. This technology is required for the integration of magnetic components on CMOS

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  • The design of energy efficient embedded communication centric devices for internet –of-thing as well as emerging smart and wearable mobile devices

    This research theme addresses the design of new generation of emerging smart and mobile devices that target are energy critical applications. Examples are next generation smart phones, wearable devices, as well as other type of smart, embedded, wireless devices that make up future internet of things networks.

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  • Bioengineering is a highly interdisciplinary research area that forges connections between Engineering, Physical Sciences, Biology and Medicine

    The aim is to research and develop innovative diagnostic, therapeutic and real-time monitoring biomedical devices and technologies.

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  • This research theme focuses on improvement of internal combustion (IC) engine efficiency and minimization of emissions via basic research on the fundamentals that control combustion in engine cylinders.

    New high-efficiency combustion modes, together with downsized engines for lower vehicle fuel consumption (and for electric vehicles), present many fundamental challenges to the motor industry.

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