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Economic impacts of computer controlled polishing and metrology of ultra-precision surfaces

Summary of the impact

A unique UK national capability for large optics manufacture and associated technologies has been exploited. This case study describes the benefits realised from research into high precision surface-removal processes plus metrology, applied to large area functional surfaces producing precisions down to nanometres. Research into metrology for optical manufacturing, into increasing the dynamic range of a CNC polishing machine and into the issues associated with scaling up from prototype to commercial mass production of large off-axis aspheric mirror-segments for future extremely large telescopes has made a significant contribution to the progress of the ESO European Extremely Large Telescope project and has brought commercial benefits to Zeeko Ltd.

Submitting Institution

Glynd┼Ár University

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Other Physical Sciences
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing
Engineering: Manufacturing Engineering

Advanced Radiometer Instrumentation for Earth Observation

Summary of the impact

Research on Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) structures has led to major advances in the design and manufacture of the world's most advanced payload instrumentation for use in Earth observation satellites. This technology has provided the core element of the radiometer instrumentation needed for more accurate global weather forecasts and better understanding of climate change. The advances described have made it possible to combine all of the different functions of the MetOP-SG radiometer into one instrument, thereby halving the footprint of the satellite payload resulting in a [text removed for publication] cost saving.

Submitting Institution

Queen's University Belfast

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Astronomical and Space Sciences, Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics
Technology: Communications Technologies

P11 - Metamaterials and transformation optics: commercial, communication and defence impacts

Summary of the impact

Metamaterials deliver electromagnetic properties not available in natural materials. Transformation optics replaces the ray picture of Snell's law with the field lines of Maxwell's equations and is an exact description of classical optics. These powerful concepts, originally developed by Prof John Pendry, have engendered massive interest in the electromagnetic community encompassing radio frequency (RF) through to optical applications. His advice is sought by numerous companies and these concepts are now filtering through into products. In the last 5 years there has been great involvement of industry and particularly of the defence establishment in the USA who run several multi mullion dollar programs on metamaterials based at DARPA, WPAFB and Sandia. A company, KYMETA, was formed in 2012 to market this technology with $12M of investment funding, and is developing a laptop-sized antenna that gives instant Internet hotspot access anywhere in the world, with an ultimate application allowing cheap and fast Internet connections for the everyday consumer. In the UK, BAE Systems is using metamaterials for several applications including compact, directional antennas.

Submitting Institution

Imperial College London

Unit of Assessment

Physics

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics, Optical Physics
Engineering: Materials Engineering

Ultra-precision machining: improved competitiveness of UK manufacturing

Summary of the impact

Cranfield's research into ultra-precision machining and production science has led to new production machines, and to commercial availability of advanced optical surfaces, at a level of accuracy previously impossible. Cranfield's industrial clients have won contracts for advanced surface production worth >£5 million in under five years. Cranfield made:

  • more mirror surfaces of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope than any other organisation;
  • the exceptionally accurate surfaces that are redefining the value of the kelvin through determination of the Boltzmann constant for the National Physical Laboratory.

Submitting Institution

Cranfield University

Unit of Assessment

Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Other Physical Sciences
Engineering: Manufacturing Engineering, Materials Engineering

Infrared Optical Filters for Atmospheric Remote-Sensing and Astronomy

Summary of the impact

Thin-film optical filter research at the University of Reading is a unique and enabling technology that permits astronomers and meteorologists to gather data leading to increased understanding of atmospheric and astrophysical phenomena. Infrared filters are the key optical components in many satellite telescopes for Earth observation, planetary research probes and infrared astronomy. They form the eyes of the instrument to separate light into wavebands in order to measure temperature, gas composition, water vapour, dust clouds and aerosols. This data is used to generate accurate atmospheric and environmental circulation models for global climate studies, and measure properties of the universe for stellar and planetary formation theories.

Submitting Institution

University of Reading

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Optical Physics, Other Physical Sciences
Engineering: Materials Engineering

Modern global telecom systems powered by technology from the University of Glasgow

Summary of the impact

Today's global telecom systems are powered by technology developed at the University of Glasgow. This technology has been utilised, endorsed and developed by a series of internationally successful companies, facilitating multimillion pound investment from across Europe and the USA for the companies.

Gemfire Europe acquired the University of Glasgow IP and technology and between 2008 and 2012 launched a range of `green' products with reduced power consumption. The company's revenues reached $12m annually and in 2013, Gemfire was one of the world's top five planar lightwave circuit companies. Gemfire was bought by Kaiam, one of the world's market-leading optical networking companies in April 2013, stimulating further innovation and investment in the production of high-speed components for the global data networking market.

Submitting Institution

University of Glasgow

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Optical Physics
Engineering: Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Technology: Communications Technologies

The National Ion Beam Facility at the service of UK industry

Summary of the impact

The Surrey Ion Beam Centre (based at the University of Surrey) pioneered the field of ion beam applications and is regarded as world leading, having initiated a significant number of high profile research activities for which it received recognition through the Queen's Anniversary prize in 2002. It works actively with industry, developing bespoke processes and services, particularly for the photonics industry, ultimately generating millions of pounds for the UK economy. It also serves as a European Centre for doctoral training.

Submitting Institution

University of Surrey

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics, Other Physical Sciences
Technology: Communications Technologies

Supporting e2v Ltd. in developing capability as a supplier for major space science missions

Summary of the impact

Research conducted within the Department of Space and Climate Physics at UCL has had a significant impact upon e2v Ltd., a manufacturer of charge-coupled devices (CCDs). Through working collaboratively with e2v, UCL has helped the company to secure major contracts and business [text removed for publication]. This includes two contracts for the supply of CCDs for the European Space Agency (ESA) missions Gaia (€20 million) and Euclid (€10 million). Furthermore, the symbiotic relationship has contributed to the establishment of e2v as Europe's leading supplier of high-quality CCDs for space science applications and has underpinned an improved understanding of device design and optimisation within the company.

Submitting Institution

University College London

Unit of Assessment

Physics

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics
Technology: Communications Technologies

Ultra-precision Micro Milling for High Value Manufacturing

Summary of the impact

The UltraMill machine was developed at Brunel University in 2008, in collaboration with Ultra Precision Motion (UPM) Ltd, to help support UK and European manufacturing SMEs in high value manufacturing sectors, particularly in ultra-precision and micro manufacturing. The machine has a novel design and the sub-systems and machine elements have a number of technological innovations. Two international patents have been granted to protect the IP within the machine. A surface roughness of 4-6 nm was micro-milled on non-ferrous metal components by the UltraMill in 2008, which at the time was the finest engineering surface achieved by ultra-precision micro-milling in the world.

A licence agreement was signed with ITP Group (UK) in 2012 for the commercial production of the UltraMill. This was ITP's first entry into the high-precision milling market. ITP realigned their production systems to begin manufacturing the UltraMill in late 2012 and have manufactured 3 machines to date.

Contour Fine Tooling, which leads the worldwide market in the field of diamond cutting tools, was inspired by the UltraMill, and developed the first diamond micro-milling tool in the world. The UltraMill was used to test the tool's capabilities and feasibility; the new tool has since been successfully sold. It is now being used to manufacture a number of high-value products. In particular it is used by Apple to produce the bevelled edges of the iPhone 5S. Apple currently manufactures 150,000 iPhone 5S units per day.

Submitting Institution

Brunel University

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Engineering: Manufacturing Engineering, Materials Engineering

Enabling space companies to deliver contracts and supporting growth of the space sector

Summary of the impact

UCL's research and development programme in space science and engineering enabled it to complete four major contracts with European and Canadian space companies between 2009 and 2011. These contracts were for the supply of equipment that will fly on European and Indian space missions, and for support of the ground testing of those space missions. The fact that these contracts were won by UCL in a competitive environment against low-cost industrial providers demonstrates that customers value the capability that UCL possesses. By acting as a specialist provider within the UK space sector supply chain, UCL enabled the prime contractors European Astrium Aerospace and Canadian Routes AstroEngineering Ltd. to deliver substantial commercial contracts with space agencies. Its provision of specialist input into these major contracts enabled UCL to also directly support the growth of the commercial space sector.

Submitting Institution

University College London

Unit of Assessment

Physics

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics, Other Physical Sciences
Technology: Communications Technologies

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