Spotlight special: Innovation by the Bay

Materials World magazine
26 Aug 2015

Swansea University will cement its place as a world-leading research institution with a new engineering precinct.

This month, after 95 years at Swansea University’s Singleton Campus, the entire College of Engineering will be relocating to its new home in the engineering quarter at the Science and Innovation Bay Campus.

The Engineering Manufacturing Centre (EMC) will enhance the opportunities to collaborate with current and prospective industry partners, working together on R&D projects to solve particular industrial problems, and to develop new and improved products and processes.

As well as featuring the latest laboratories and equipment, the EMC will be home to various leading and globally renowned projects and teams.

Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings (SPECIFIC)

SPECIFIC is an academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University, with Tata Steel, NSG Pilkington and BASF as strategic partners. SPECIFIC develops advanced functional coatings to create buildings that act as power stations, with the aim of addressing the challenge of low-carbon electricity and heat by enabling buildings to generate, store and release their own energy, in one system, using only the energy from the sun.

Research areas and technology include:

Generation – building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are factory applied to the roof sheeting, generating electricity from solar energy. A solar air collector on south-facing walls supplies heat by drawing warm air into the building.

Storage – electricity generated by the photovoltaics is stored in batteries. Warm air from the Solar Air Collector can be stored from day-to-night and summer-to-winter in a tank supplying the heating system.

Release – energy generated by the building is released throughout via heating, lighting, electrical equipment and water use.

These technologies are designed to be integrated into roofing and building materials, either during construction or retrospectively for existing buildings.

Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC)

WCPC is led by Professor Tim Claypole and Professor David Gethin and views printing as an advanced manufacturing process, operating in any field where materials need to be additively patterned or coated. It has a pilot scale open access printing and ink manufacturing facility, complimented by comprehensive analytical laboratories.

The research team aims to apply a fundamental understanding of printing and coating processes to improve existing processes and develop new applications. It covers all aspects of colour printing and supports the large worldwide printing industry, including packaging. 

The WCPC’s broad remit also covers those applications where functional materials are being deposited including printed electronics and photonics, printed bio sensors, point of care health, wearables and biomaterials. It is also leading the development of new concepts and materials for 3D printing.

Advanced Imaging of Materials Centre (AIM)

AIM is an integrated scientific imaging facility that provides imaging and analytical capabilities across several length scales, from Angstroms to centimetres. AIM is also linked to large-scale private and publically funded facilities that can extend this capability (in both directions) to picometers and meters.

AIM will provide a fully-coupled micro/nano-analysis workflow via a state-of-the-art advanced correlative imaging (combining different data sets across length scales) with capability in transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), ion beam nanofabrication, Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS), and micro and nano X-ray computed tomography (microCT). 

These capabilities could be applied to research and R&D collaborations in diverse fields across materials science, bioengineering, civil engineering, nanoscience, regenerative medicine, life sciences, medicine, earth sciences, archaeology, heritage, biomechanics, anatomy, climate science, manufacturing, energy harvesting, geology, pathology, and ecology.

Aim is able to complement multiscale modelling of materials, allowing direct feedback between experimental observations and simulations. This presents significant opportunities for the optimisation of such simulations to improve materials understanding over a broad range of applications.

Materials and Manufacturing Advanced Characterisation Centre (MACH)

MACH will be based in the new Manufacturing Pilot line facility in the EMC, and aims to provide applied R&D for a variety of alloy applications and manufacturing processes. The core fundamental capabilities revolve around two concepts – high throughput materials characterisation and combinatorial synthesis at high temperature, which together allow for rapid alloy prototyping.

One of the main objectives of MACH is to increase the industrial impact of its research by extending the alloy prototyping capabilities from grams to kilograms, using larger pilot-scale equipment to accelerate the transfer of new alloys through industry led R&D programs. 

The MACH Centre also undertakes a variety of academic research, funded by EPSRC, NRN and EU projects, developing new materials using combinatorial synthesis and high throughput, in areas such as high entropy alloys, bulk metallic glasses, thermoelectric materials and metallic powders for additive manufacturing.

MACH uses and develops advanced computational models at multiple length scales and with a variety of physics (e.g. hot rolling/coiling, selective laser melting) to enhance the understanding of the effects of processing on properties and performance, backed-up with experimental data obtained using the EMC’s characterisation equipment.

Key stats

Research facilities and equipment for Materials Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electronics, Electrical and Communications Engineering

Over 10,500m2 of floor space

Accommodation for 60 staff

Accommodation for at least 275 researchers

The new facilities at the EMC

Materials research laboratories, including polymers and composites, X-ray microtomography and a state-of-the-art electron optics suite

Heavy structures, geomechanics and fluids laboratories with extensive testing equipment

Charpy impact tester

Bench top injection moulding machine

Optical microscope system for industrial samples

Environmental control/vacuum furnace

Automated metallographic sample preparation system

Research grade binocular metallurgic microscope

Bench furnace with 1,500°C capability

FTIR machine

Electropolish and electroetch system

Hot mounting press for conductive sample set

Image capture analysis sysytems for optical microscopes

The latest in Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) equipment in the form of a Renishaw AM250 laser melting machine