Without engineers our world would be a completely different place. Aircraft, communications, computers, electronics, energy, infrastructure, petroleum, robotics, satellites, structures and materials, sustainability, vehicles – the list of areas you could be involved in as an engineering student is endless.

Engineering Disciplines

What we're researching

Pioneering nanoscale carbon structures

Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, is part of a team of researchers to have produced unique carbon nanostructures with a mirrored spiral pair whose formation mechanism unfolded at the atomic scale.

Using a pioneering method that may lead the way to the formation of more complex nano-networks, the researchers succeeded in creating nanoscale carbon structures that resemble tiny twirled moustaches.

The results – achieved as part of an international team of academics from Surrey, the University of Vienna and IFW Dresden – were published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal published by the Nature publishing group.

STRaND-1: first ever smartphone in space launches

It’s official: your humble smartphone is so powerful it could conceivably control a space satellite.

The Google Nexus One is currently going where no smartphone has gone before, as part of a mission launched by Surrey Space Centre (SSC) in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SITL).

Apart from being fitted with new software, the phone at the heart of the six-month STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) project is unmodified. The idea is to test whether the technologies it’s equipped with – from cameras to computer processors – can withstand tough space conditions and collect data.

STRaND-1, a project largely developed by Surrey space engineers in their spare time, launched from Sriharikota, India on February 25th 2013. If successful, the team hope to test the smartphone’s ability to completely control the satellite’s in-orbit operations.

Let’s dance…the way to better mobility in old age

Developing ballet skills could help older people negotiate their environments more safely. 

Dr Aliah Shaheen, Lecturer in Human Movement Science within the Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences, is working on an inter-disciplinary project to understand the biomechanical techniques associated with ballet – and whether they can improve stability in old age.

For biomedical engineers like Dr Shaheen, understanding how the human body moves in different situations plays an important part in developing effective methods to assist the elderly with movement.

The MILES-funded project will ultimately contribute to our understanding of the effects of ageing on mobility.

The Internet of Things is here

We’re hurtling towards a future where everything’s connected. Not just the things you’d expect like smartphones and tablets – this is a future where everyday objects will interact with the virtual world. It’s known as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). And it’s already here (well, almost).

Professor Klaus Moessner and colleagues in the Institute for Communication Systems (formerly the Centre for Communication Systems Research, CCSR) are working on projects that will help IoT realise its potential. As well as testing methods for overcoming sensor failures, they are looking at mechanisms that allow the functions of everyday objects to be virtually understood and acted on to make things happen in the real world.

The Internet of Things could revolutionise every aspect of modern life, making services and environments ever smarter and more sustainable.

Water, water everywhere?

If you’re lucky enough to have access to clean water on tap, you’d be forgiven for underestimating just how much of a pressing issue water availability really is. In fact, water shortages are sweeping the globe. Areas around the world – from the Middle East to Malta – are already ‘water scarce’. And by 2025, water crises could grip two-thirds of the earth’s population.

Manipulated Osmosis (MO) technology represents a straightforward, low-cost means of making sea water drinkable. Developed by Professor Adel Sharif and his team in the Centre for Osmosis Research and Application, it takes advantage of natural osmosis to produce clean water through membrane filtering. 

The research has made it possible to commercialise the technology through Modern Water PLC. Desalination plants set up in Oman have already brought energy savings of 30% compared with alternative approaches.

In 2011, the team won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for their contribution to safe, affordable water on a global scale. This tops an already impressive list of award wins that includes the 2005 Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation in Science and Technology.

Next generation solar cells soak up the sun

With a global energy crisis looming, it’s imperative we find new, greener energy sources.

Researchers in the Advanced Technology Institute, led by Professor Ravi Silva, are working on a brand new multi-million pound European Union project to develop the next generation of ultra-energy absorbent solar cells.

Every day our planet basks in the warm glow of the sun’s rays. Yet effectively harvesting solar energy is tricky, with current methods proving to be too expensive to convert adequate levels of solar energy into electricity.

The researchers are developing new, cost-effective manufacturing techniques, using cells with plasmonic surfaces (organic materials infused with nanoparticles) that soak up 10-50 times more energy than today’s solar cells. The production process could significantly reduce the cost of green energy.

Lifting the lid on global sanitation

Toilets. They’re rarely deemed an appropriate topic for discussion in polite society. But, such are the serious health implications associated with inadequate sanitation in developing countries, the need for research has never been more vital.

First launched in 2011 after receiving SPLASH funding, 3KSAN is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional project, co-ordinated by Dr Steve Pedley from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Dr Katrina Charles from the Centre for Environmental Strategy. Drawing on a range of research methodologies, the project assesses barriers to the acceptance and provision of sanitation in ramshackle ‘slum’ settlements found on the outskirts of cities in Kenya (Kisumu), Uganda (Kampala) and Rwanda (Kigali).

Current findings suggest that blockages can develop in the chain of sanitation provision for various reasons – cost being only one factor. The work focuses on three key areas: regulation, demand and market adaptation.

The aim? Development of a best-practice framework that would guide implementation of future sanitation projects around the world.

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