Sophisticated coding schemes for transmission, detection and recognition of electronic data are used extensively in modern communications systems. Despite increased usage over recent years, the vast potential for ultrasonic systems is virtually untapped. Although mechanical wave generation, propagation and detection has constraints, this situation is surprising, since the natural world of creatures such as bats and dolphins provides a very clear demonstration of the advantages of ultrasonic coded waveforms, for applications ranging from imaging through to materials characterisation. A major drawback is the lack of suitable transducer devices that will operate over the frequency band necessary for robust code implementation. It is proposed to use the Platform Grant to enable a fundamental and broad reaching investigation into the design of new coded sequences, transducers and constituent materials, allied with the concept of electronic system and transducer design to maximise signal to noise ratio over extremely wide bandwidths. Central to the approach will be the creation of new transducer and array structures allowing maximal exploitation of the rich data stream associated with novel, broadband coded excitations that are tailored for specific applications. Techniques for monitoring and hence optimising the processing coded sequences for the intended usage and propagation environment will be investigated in parallel with the transducer and electronic system design. Linear and non-linear applications covering imaging, ranging and data communication in gaseous, liquid and solid media will be addressed, thereby maximising potential uptake of any new technology that may emerge from the programme. An integrated approach, spanning mathematical analysis, transducer devices, instrumentation and electronics system design, aligned to the specific application, is proposed, with the overall strategy to establish a world leading centre of excellence in coded ultrasound, creating the foundation for a series of new areas of research and applications, capable of spanning the next 15 years. If successful, the strategic platform will place the UK at the international forefront in an area of technology that will impinge significantly on almost every application of ultrasound. Through a programme of international and national collaboration, involving leading groups, the infrastructure will be established to realise this vision and, through appropriate career development of younger researchers, will ensure sustainability.
This Platform Grant (PG) has provided opportunities to develop core technology advances across Ultrasonic Transduction, Biologically Inspired Acoustic Systems, Industrial Process Control and Non-Destructive Evaluation research themes. This has been measured through 4 metrics: publications, new research initiatives, new international partnerships and career development.
As the PG evolved, new research opportunities arose as a consequence of changes to the academic team. Overall, the focus of this work was the development of new wideband transduction techniques, which are essential for the exploitation of coded excitation schemes. An integrated approach, spanning mathematical analysis, transducer devices, instrumentation and signal processing, aligned to the specific application, was adopted. Interestingly, natural phenomena were central to the development of this theme, with bat echolocation, insect auditory systems and fractal designs explored in terms of enhancing transducer bandwidth performance.
The investigator team were successful in using the PG support to escalate the number of PG related funded projects under the CUE portfolio. Grants totalling £7.4M (of which direct CUE funding is ~£3.8M) were secured from EPSRC, BBSRC, EU, TSB, Royal Society and industry. Importantly, a large number of these grants are collaborative with both academic and industrial partners. Moreover, there are three Fellowship applications currently submitted, with EPSRC and RAE and a collaborative EPSRC proposal under review, all on work directly attributable to the PG (>£1M in total).
Through the PG programme a number of new collaborative initiatives have been developed. This is particularly important from an international perspective to enhance the visibility and promote the technical quality of UK research. Importantly, the original proposed collaboration with the University of Southern California is now supporting robotic surgery research at Strathclyde, including a student exchange agreement and an invited presentation at the Ultrasonic Transducer Engineering Conference in 2013. Moreover, a number of new international endeavours have been fostered through the PG project including: industrial collaboration with POSCO (Korea), BP (USA/UK); partner in EU FP7 project; exchange visits with universities of Krakow, Los Alamos, Fraunhoffer Inst, UC Berkeley, Toronto, Paris, Inst. Acoustics Madrid; project partnership within health service (Singapore KKWC Hospital); and hosting an international conference in bioacoustics (ISV 2013).
In summary, the PG programme has been the catalyst for an expansion of research capability and international engagement for the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering. Importantly, the 3 original co-investigators and recognised researcher all were promoted during the PG and 4 RAs have found positions in industry and academia. It is clear that the legacy of new grant initiatives and active partnerships will provide sustainability in the short/medium term and optimism for strategic growth of CUE in the future.