Category Archives: Autumn 2015

Jonathan Hinks on MIAMI

‌Developing a new generation of nuclear reactors

A multi-million pound award will enable the construction of an advanced new facility at the University of Huddersfield. The centre for the investigation and development of nuclear materials will ensure the safety of the new generation of reactors to be built in the UK and internationally. It also means that scientists at the University will continue to play an important part in the development of space technology.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced a grant of £3.5 million to the research group headed by the University of Huddersfield’s Professor Stephen Donnelly who developed the existing facility named MIAMI – standing for Microscope and Ion Accelerator for Materials Investigations.

Unique in the UK, and one of only two such facilities in Europe, it is a combined electron microscope and ion beam accelerator. It uses ion bombardment as a safe, non-radioactive means of simulating the effects of radiation damage on materials.

MIAMI-2

‌MIAMI is well established – especially as a tool for researching the materials that are best for withstanding irradiation in nuclear reactors. But now Professor Donnelly and his team have won the funding to construct MIAMI-2 opening up even greater research possibilities.

It will be an advanced electron microscope interfaced with dual ion-beams, meaning that it can simultaneously simulate two key aspects of neutron bombardment: the damage on the atomic structure of materials and the internal changes caused by the build-up of gases – principally helium and hydrogen. This accumulation of gas bubbles can severely weaken materials by creating a “honeycomb” effect.

“With our existing MIAMI, we can investigate these two issues sequentially,” explained Professor Donnelly. “But that isn’t the same as what neutrons are doing simultaneously. So MIAMI-2, with its second beam line, will mean that we are more completely simulating the conditions in nuclear reactors.”

“The new machine will also be much more versatile than the original MIAMI facility and have enhanced analytical capabilities,” continued Professor Donnelly, who anticipates that MIAMI-2 will lead to an even greater number of research collaborations with scientists from around the world.

MIAMI 2

Space age

Nuclear science is likely to continue as the main area of investigation, but other fields of interest will continue to be developed, including nanotechnology and space research.

“Any vehicle, or anything sent anywhere into space – whether into earth orbit or interstellar space – is being bombarded by energetic particles. So there are significant applications for MIAMI-2 in that area,” said Professor Donnelly.

The existing MIAMI facility will continue to be used for research and also for training purposes, but MIAMI-2 will be constructed in Spring 2016 and be fully operational soon after that. The award of £3.5 million is to pay for the manufacture of the equipment and the grant application was ranked second out of more than 180 that were considered by an EPSRC panel.

Professor Donnelly and his team have consolidated their leading position in nuclear materials and nanomaterial research by winning a succession of EPSRC awards, including recent grants of £1 million and £400,000 which have led to the appointment of three new Research Fellows at the University.

Image from the testing

Developing the freight train of the future

The University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is a research centre in the field of railway engineering and risk.

Members of the Institute together with partners from across Europe have recently completed the EU funded project: SUSTRAIL. The main aim of this project was to support the European Commission in its target to shift 30% of road freight over 300km to other modes of transport such as rail or water.

The SUSTRAIL project was the winner of the Best Original Design category at the Rail Exec ‘Most Interesting’ Awards in November 2015.

Improving performance and reducing environmental impact

One of the key objectives of the SUSTRAIL project was to develop a prototype freight train of the future. The work started by identifying the key areas where recent and imminent developments could lead to improved performance of railway vehicles resulting in: reduced system maintenance and operating costs for vehicle and track, reduced environmental impact, greater sustainability and efficiency.

The SUSTRAIL Freight Bogie

The University of Huddersfield led the development of a freight vehicle bogie designed to allow higher running speed and lower track forces. Working with 12 other international industry and academic partners the SUSTRAIL freight bogie was designed to include a number of significant innovations in the running gear, wheelsets, braking system, bogie structure and the adoption of condition monitoring.

Most of the innovations selected are based on proven technology which reduces the commercial and operational risks and increases the potential reliability and overall chances of success.

Following extensive market research and analysis an outline performance specification was set for the vehicle. As a result of initial computer simulations it was decided that additional inter-axle linkages would be needed so further work was carried out which demonstrated that lateral stiffness between the wheelsets was required to provide stable running at the required design speed.

In order to meet the higher speed requirements the SUSTRAIL vehicle has an advanced electronic braking system which provides brake control and wheel-slide protection. This includes an independent and reliable power supply for the controller with axle generators and battery packs.

A new axle coating has also been used on the SUSTRAIL wheelsets. The coating provides improved corrosion resistance compared with traditional coatings and resists impact at a wide range of temperatures (-40°C to 150°C).

Innovative design

The SUSTRAIL vehicle is capable of running at up to 140km per hour with reduced track forces compared with conventional freight bogies. The main innovations are:

  • Novel running gear using components based on the widely used Y25 suspension which means that it can be maintained using established techniques, equipment and staff
  • Disk brakes and an electronic braking system to ensure safe operation at the higher operating speeds
  • Wheelsets with impact resistant coatings which will reduce inspection costs
  • On-board condition monitoring to allow longer maintenance intervals
  • Noise reduction elements to meet anticipated legislation
  • Modern lightweight structural design.

The design of the SUSTRAIL freight bogie has been patented and a prototype has been manufactured and is currently being tested.

Brand Manager finance 1

Exploring the use of credit scoring in developing nations

A person’s credit score can have a major impact on their lives, whether it’s getting a mortgage, a credit card or a loan. Recent banking crises in the developed world have brought the importance of financial risk management and ethics to the fore. Research by Professor Hussein Abdou at the University of Huddersfield is exploring how such challenges faced by developed countries can be utilised to prevent such crises occurring in developing countries.

By exploring the potential use of credit risk management, credit scoring and credit rating modelling techniques in developing countries this research has revealed the potential economic benefits for banks, governments and individuals.

Such changes to current banking practices would require a significant investment for developing countries, including extensive training for credit officers.  However, once this initial investment has been made the long term benefits have the potential to far outweigh the initial costs.

Cultural differences

Extensive research was carried out in the Egyptian banking market and data gathered on the credit scoring practices of over 60 Egyptian banks.

This research revealed that for credit scoring to be truly effective, human judgement has to be used in conjunction with credit scoring processes. Whereas banks in developed nations, such as the US, UK and Europe, have moved away from using human judgement and now predominantly use credit scoring techniques when deciding who to lend money to, banking practices in developing nations often differ considerably.

With a strong emphasis on developing customer relationships and building trust between credit officers and customers, the human element is considered to be more important in developing countries.  In some of these countries they also use credit scoring software which has been designed by developed nations.  This software does not always take into account cultural differences, including everything from the use of postal codes which are not used in all countries to the importance placed on personal reputation in Muslim countries such as Egypt. Therefore the use of such software by developing countries is questioned.

Sharing best practice

Professor Abdou’s research into the use of sophisticated non-parametric modelling techniques can be applied in a range of fields including banking, insurance/reinsurance, marketing, medicine, psychology and transportation, to highlight the importance of human contact and customer knowledge based decision-making.

The findings of this research have been utilised by researchers, banks, including Egyptian banks, and other institutions. US software company, ScortoTM, who develop decision making and risk evaluation solutions, has consulted Professor Abdou and used his research to inform the design and development of their credit scoring software.

By developing a broad range of contacts, including colleagues at the University of Huddersfield with experience in banking and students from other developing countries, it has been possible to create a network of international contacts.  This has enabled the research to be extended to other developing countries, including India, Cameroon and Vietnam, with a view to preventing the type of banking crises experienced in more developed countries.

 

pills

Providing optimal care for mental health service users

Research carried out by the University of Huddersfield and partners is helping to ensure that mental health service users receive the optimal outcomes from the medication they are prescribed. The research focuses on three key areas: skills and knowledge acquisition for mental health nurses, safety and the implementation of best practice.

An example of this approach is the administration of medicines. Mental health nurses (MHNs) have to deal with complex issues including the interaction of one drug with another, the existing physical health of the service user and managing any possible adverse reactions to medicines. The outcomes of this research aim to provide MHNs with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide optimal care.

The Medicines with Respect Project

In partnership with the South West Yorkshire NHS Trust, the University of Huddersfield has further developed a guide to best practice for use by mental health nurses locally. The Medicines with Respect Project addressed the crucial role that the administration of medicines has on the wellbeing of service users. This competency framework assesses the MHNs’ performance when administering drugs in terms of their knowledge, skill and involvement of the service user. Focus groups held with nurses revealed that the competency framework was well received and prompted further suggestions for improvement, including the rigorous assessment of nurses administering medicines.

Holistic approach

Future research developed in partnership with Swansea University will look at the prevention of adverse drug reactions for service users who are prescribed medication. Nurses are encouraged to take a holistic approach to mental and physical health, considering the therapeutic outcomes and managing the risks.

Brand manager medication image

A balancing act

It is recognised that the outcomes of this research need to be manageable in the day to day working practices of mental health nurses. Lack of resources in the NHS is a topical issue and any additional demands need to be adapted to help both the nurses and the service users.

Implementation

Future research implementation will continue to look at working across contexts in primary and secondary healthcare and networking with a wide range of stakeholders including nursing and pharmacy colleagues with an increased emphasis on the involvement of service users. Involving service users will help to find out more about their experiences and how they feel about the potential risks and benefits of the medication available.