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.
This research within the Unit was in collaboration with TT Electronics
plc. to develop a novel low-ohmic thin film resistor for precision current
measurement in power management applications. TT Electronics plc. is an
international company with 6,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of
over £500 million to multinational clients such as BMW, Daimler and BAE
Systems. Since 2008 the benefits of this research to TT Electronics plc.
A device developed for spintronics research at the University of Oxford
has been adapted as the basis for robust, high-performance position or
composition sensors to detect many different materials including metals,
plastics, ceramics and fluids. These sensors are capable of making
contactless measurements in very hostile environments. A spin-out company
was formed in 2004 to exploit and apply this technology to a wide range of
technical and engineering problems and has achieved over £2.5m revenue.
These sensors form the key elements of products that have been
successfully deployed in automotive and other transport applications.
Benefits to end users include ease of use, speed and the cost savings.
Research in the Mechanical Engineering Department has led to a series of
experimental techniques for measuring the fundamental properties of
lubricants in a scientific manner. These include measurement of the
thickness, structure and properties of fluid and solid lubricating films,
as well as the friction, fatigue and wear behaviour of lubricated
Measuring instruments based upon these techniques have been
commercialised by a spin-out company, PCS Instruments, which has now
become the largest supplier of Tribology test equipment in the world. Over
the period 2008-13 it had a turnover of £39.8M (£7.63M in 2012-13). The
research has changed the way in which lubricants and lubricant additives
are developed, with PCS test rigs in use in all the major lubricant and
additive companies, as well as many University tribology research and
National Standards laboratories. The techniques have enabled the
development by industry of a new generation of high-efficiency lubricants
for automotive applications.