Pioneering interdisciplinary research Pioneering interdisciplinary research

Engineers at UEA work on a wide variety of cutting-edge topics, bringing various disciplines together to tackle important issues across the engineering sciences. We have particular expertise in low-carbon energy, modelling and materials, working collaboratively with the university's exceptional Schools of Computing and Environmental Sciences.

Engineering is part of the School of Mathematics, which is ranked 7th in the UK for the quality of its research output (REF 2014) - an enormous accolade for a flourishing School, and testament to the great work we do.

Our primary research themes are:

  1. Functional Materials

    1. Graphene and Nanostructured Materials

    2. High-Resolution Drop-on-Demand Printing Technology

    3. Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics and Energy Buildings

    4. Electrospray Deposition of Functional Materials

  2. Modelling and Simulation in Engineering Systems

    1. Optimisation-driven design

    2. Energy-efficient structures

    3. Low-speed Impact Analysis

  3. Low Carbon & Renewable Energy Systems

    1. Energy from biomass and waste

    2. Intelligent energy buildings

    3. Carbon recyling and carbon capture

    4. PV Degradation and diagnostics

Below are some example research topics that our academics are currently working on. For more information, follow the links to the academics' personal pages.

Electrospray deposition technology and high resolution printing

Dr. Matthew Alexander is carrying out cutting-edge research on novel electrospray deposition technology that has an extraordinary range of potential applications.

The electrospray high resolution deposition technology involves printing miniscule amounts of liquid with unprecedented accuracy due to a highly controlled jetting technique that is operated using electric voltage waveform and without the need for physical pumps or actuation mechanism.  As a result, single drops of fluid ink can be released that are less than ten microns in dimension, with the potential to print dots of close to a single micron diameter, with extremely high precision. This equates to more than a ten-fold increase in printing resolution when compared to current inkjet printing capability, with the added advantage of lower costs and complexity (in comparison with conventional inkjet) and greater versatility in terms of the liquids it is possible to print with.

Simple in principle, the technology presents a number of engineering challenges when introduced to different possible contexts and Dr. Alexander and his team are working on proof-of-concept prototypes that demonstrate the technology’s efficacy for super high-resolution printing for broad ranging applications.

Lead academic: Dr Matthew Alexander

Structural analysis and design optimisation

Dr Dianzi Liu has 10 years of research experience in the field of structural dynamics and composites mechanics, he has research experience related to complex modelling, numerical analysis for engineering systems, and design optimisation in academia.

His research interests fall into the following aspects: Simulation driven design, Multi-disciplinary Multi-scale analysis, Innovative lightweight structures (including energy efficient structures, composite or functional structures) associated with experimental validations, and applications of various optimisation techniques and methods (e.g., Genetic Algorithm, Genetic Programming, Metamodels, Multipoint Approximation Method, Design of Experiments, Topology, Shape, or Size Optimization) in mechanical, aerospace, materials and energy engineering to improve structural integrity and sustainability as well as reduce their environmental impact, experimental and manufacturing costs.

Dr Liu has additional research interest in Engineering Optimisation and Design of Experimental technique. This involves minimising the number of experimental tests or data required to gain the maximum information in, for example, identification of engineering systems or parameter estimations. Dr Liu's work in these areas will be further applied to cutting-edge research in mechanical, aerospace and energy engineering.

Lead academic: Dr Dianzi Liu

Graphene and nanostructured materials

Dr Sonia Melendi-Espina has expertise in the field of chemistry and engineering of coal and carbon-derived materials. Her research interests are focused on the development, scale-up and processing of functionalised carbon nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, nanofibres and graphenes, with an emphasis on energy storage, such as batteries and supercapacitors.

Other potential applications of these materials that are of her interest involve chemical engineering and environmental processes, including catalysis, separation membranes, adsorbents, and composite materials. In this regard, carbon materials demonstrate great potential for addressing some of the main challenges in this field.

Lead academic: Dr. Sonia Melendi-Espina

Solar energy, photovoltaic systems and intelligent energy buildings

Dr Eleni Kaplani has research experience in photovoltaic degradation mechanisms, rate of ageing, and diagnostic techniques, with a main focus in crystalline silicon photovoltaics. Non-destructive testing and monitoring is possible through various techniques including I-V characterisation, IR thermography, UV illumination, Electroluminescence, Image Processing, etc. PV performance under various outdoor conditions and PV temperature prediction is a related area of great interest and importance for the prediction of PV power output. BIPV systems present a further challenge exhibiting higher PV temperatures and, thus, greater power losses. Within the scope of improving PV performance, Dr Kaplani is further carrying out novel research in the application of nanocoatings with antireflective and self-cleaning properties on PV glass, showing significant gains for large solar radiation incidence angles and lower amounts of accumulated dust minimizing optical losses.

Dr Kaplani has further research interests in the application of coatings with Spectral Selective Properties in building structural elements and mainly windows, whereby the coated glass allows visible light to enter the building but blocks a large amount of IR radiation flowing in or out, thus sustaining cooler indoor temperatures in the summer and warmer interior in the winter, reducing heating and cooling loads and leading to more energy efficient buildings. Intelligent Energy Buildings with integrated RES pose a future challenge with dynamic load management based on predictive weather controls, RES power generation and consumption profiles.

Lead academic: Dr. Eleni Kaplani