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Science and Technology Facilities Council
Country: United Kingdom
7 Projects, page 1 of 2
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H004106/1
    Funder Contribution: 18,829 GBP

    Our Aim This project aims to develop and design a new satellite mission. This new mission concept will be a spaceborne multispectral canopy lidar (called SpeCL, 'speckle') that can measure the vertical profile of a forest and simultaneously determine the spectral characteristics of that profile. Since lidars can provide highly detailed 3D information on the structure of forest they have great potential in reducing the uncertainties in the terrestrial carbon cycle and of supporting the accurate mapping of land cover. The primary scientific objective of the SpeCL mission would be to determine the global distribution of above ground biomass in the world's forests using an appropriate sampling strategy, and to reduce uncertainties in the calculations of carbon stocks and fluxes associated with the terrestrial biosphere. Why is this important? Greenhouse gases associated with forestry (deforestation and degradation) accounts for roughly 17% of global emissions, more than the entire global transport network. A recent report to the Prime Minister (the 2008 Eliasch Review on Financing Global Forests) predicts that without action, the global economic cost of climate change caused by deforestation alone could reach $1 trillion a year by 2100. Most emissions of carbon from land-use change are currently from the tropics as a result of deforestation, which releases the carbon stored in biomass and soils to the atmosphere (as CO2) as organic matter is burned or decays. The regular monitoring and assessment of land cover change is therefore essential to understand the extent and impact of natural and anthropogenic changes Furthermore, analysis of the global carbon cycle shows that the annual emissions of carbon are larger than the annual accumulations of carbon in the atmosphere and oceans, suggesting a terrestrial sink for carbon in addition to that attributable to changes in land use. Remarkably, this as yet unexplained residual sink seems to have increased over the last decades in proportion to total carbon emissions, implying that carbon feedbacks are offsetting each other. This balance is unlikely to persist. The SpeCL mission is an opportunity to constrain both the net emissions of carbon from land-use/land-use change, and the residual terrestrial sink. Any further delay in understanding the carbon budget may have serious long term consequences if we leave too little time to respond. How will we do it? Edinburgh has pioneered the development of the world's first Multi Spectral Canopy Lidar (patent number 0808340.4). Using seedcorn funding from CEOI, we built the first 4-wavelength lidar, demonstrated its use in the lab and modelled the seasonal response. An airborne MSCL (A-MSCL) instrument has been designed and proposed to NERC on July 1st. In anticipation of future mission opportunities (and the long lead time required), there exists an imminent need for determining the feasibility and technical readiness of a spaceborne MSCL. In the first instance we will create a concept for the high cost, but low risk option of a traditional small satellite configuration with a cost ceiling of £100M. We will then aim to develop this concept to an ultra-low cost (<£5M), rapid deployment (within 3 years) micro-satellite platform using off-the-shelf components and where appropriate, 'proved' technologies. To this end we will consider the highly novel, high risk, but very low cost option of using a modular CubeSat platform.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/K03197X/1
    Funder Contribution: 9,452,620 GBP

    This project is all about multi-disciplinary collaboration - and capitalisation in a clinical setting of the many new vistas and opportunities that will arise. As such this research programme brings together a group of world class scientists (physicists, chemists, engineers and computer experts) and clinicians to design, make and test a cutting-edge bedside technology platform which will help doctors in the intensive care unit (ICU) make rapid and accurate diagnoses that would inform therapy and ensure patients get the right treatment, quickly. While we are developing our technology platform with a focus on ICU, it will also be applicable to a wide range of other healthcare situations. ICU patients suffer high death and disability rates and are responsible for a disproportionate financial burden on the health service. Potentially fatal lung complications are a common problem in ventilated ICU patients and doctors caring for these patients in the ICU face many challenges, often needing to make snap decisions without the information necessary to properly inform those decisions. The technology platform developed in this programme will provide doctors with important information on the state of ICU patients and whether they have infections, inflammation or scarring in their lungs. Currently there are no methods to do this accurately. This information will aid them in making decisions about treatment. A new approach to rapidly diagnose lung complications in ICU would enable doctors to target the correct drugs to the appropriate patients and to withdraw drugs with confidence, with resultant improvement in patient outcomes and major cost efficiencies - thus revolutionising ICU care. Using advanced fibre optic technology and micro-electronics and new sensor arrays our ground-breaking solution is to create a novel fibre-based probe that can readily be passed into the gas exchanging areas of the lung and blood vessels of ICU patients. The probe will house a variety of special optical fibres, some of which allow clinicians to "view" inside the lung while others will be modified with sensors that can measure important parameters such as oxygen concentration and acidity in both blood and lung. In addition the fibre will deliver tiny amounts (microdoses) of 'smart reagents' that fluorescently detect specific bacteria and other agents that can damage the lung. When integrated together these signals will provide highly specific information about the degree or type of lung damage and the potential causative 'bug' if an infection is suspected. Because of the large amount of information generated and in order to make it easily interpreted by doctors, computing experts will convert these signals into easy-to-understand disease readouts for our clinicians. Work on the different elements needed to create this technology platform will be undertaken by groups of chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists and biologists working at Bath, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh universities. Crucially, this programme will bring these scientific disciplines together in a "hub" where they will work side-by-side, promoting integration of purpose and to ensure that advances are rapidly translated into the clinical setting. This interdisciplinary hub will also provide a fertile training base for new PhD students who will learn the cross-disciplinary skills that will equip them to meet the challenges of translating the current 'revolution' in physical sciences into benefit for UK healthcare. In summary this project will generate; 1) a new cohort of scientists trained in physical and biological science that have a full appreciation of clinical translational and commercialisation pathways and who are equipped to meet the challenges of converting advances in basic science into healthcare benefit and; 2) a cutting-edge bedside technology platform which will help doctors in the ICU make rapid and accurate diagnoses.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/N002547/1
    Funder Contribution: 539,278 GBP

    This proposal aims to transition today's highest precision laser technology -- optical frequency combs -- from the lab to the factory, establishing the technique of dual-comb distance metrology as an enabling technology for manufacturing the next generation of precision-engineered products, whose functionality relies on micro-/ nanoscale accuracy. Optical techniques form the basis of critical industrial distance metrology, but face compromises between accuracy, precision and dynamic range. Time-of-flight methods give mm accuracy over an extended range, while interferometric trackers achieve nm precision but with no absolute positional accuracy. By developing novel dual-comb metrology techniques, this project will bridge the gap between precision and extended-range accuracy, providing traceable nm precision, with almost unlimited extended-range operation. For manufacturing industry, comb metrology therefore addresses the important problem of how to verifiably fabricate macro-scale objects with nano-/micro-precision. Building on Heriot-Watt's frequency-comb expertise, we will develop Ti:sapphire and Er:fibre dual combs, with the aim of demonstrating nm-precision controlled-environment metrology using Ti:sapphire, and micron-precision free-space ranging using eye-safe Er:fibre. Besides their novel applications in precision metrology, by implementing new efficient and compact diode-pumping schemes our research will extend laser comb technology in a way that makes these systems suitable for deployment in a wide range of environments outside the research lab, for example as modules in a precision quantum navigation system. Our project integrates key academic and industrial partners who will contribute resources and expertise in lasers (Chromacity), precision micro-optics (Powerphotonic), industrial metrology and manufacturing (Renishaw), ultra-precision metrology (EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision and CDT in Ultra Precision) and applications in large optics for astronomy (STFC UK Astronomy Technology Centre). The commitment of our partners is evidenced by >£300K of support, including £145K of cash which will be used primarily to support two EPSRC EngD and PhD students recruited to the project. The project aligns closely with the EPSRC's Manufacturing the Future challenge theme and the ICT Photonics for Future Systems priority, as well as the EPSRC's training agenda, by engaging EngD and PhD researchers from the CDT in Applied Photonics and the CDT in Ultra Precision. More generally, the project will support the UK's high-precision manufacturing and metrology communities, with potential academic and industrial benefits. By the end of the project we expect to have demonstrated and evaluated dual-comb distance metrology in a variety of practical manufacturing contexts (machine calibration, in-process control, finished-product inspection), and to be in a position to translate the technology into our industrial and academic partners.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: ST/L002140/1
    Funder Contribution: 228,377 GBP

    The astronomy community faces a critical problem in how to provide perpetual online calibration of new ultra-high-resolution spectrographs, which play a central role in answering today's "big questions" such as the discovery of extra-solar Earth-like planets, and the variation of "fundamental" constants. Since around 2007, the photonics community has been working with astronomers to provide a solution, in the form of an ultra-stable laser calibration source producing a "comb" of thousands of regularly spaced optical frequencies. Techniques pioneered by Nobel laureates Hall and Haensch showed how such a comb could be stabilised, allowing the constituent comb lines to be frozen in frequency to precisions approaching one part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (actually a level rather more accurate than is needed in many astronomy contexts). HIRES and ESPRESSO are proposed high-resolution spectrographs at the E-ELT and VLT, respectively, whose underpinning science cases include the search for Earth-like exo-planets, primordial nucleosynthesis and the possible variation of fundamental constants. Both instruments demand exceptional radial velocity accuracy and stability, (up to 2 cm/s for HIRES), which can only be realized by embedding perpetual online calibration in the form of a broadband laser frequency comb. No laser frequency comb technology fully offering the necessary wavelength coverage and mode spacing has yet been demonstrated. Furthermore, the current techniques used to obtain the necessary wavelength coverage and mode spacings introduce artifacts which corrupt the calibration results when deployed on a spectrograph. Consequently research is needed to explore the feasibility of alternative laser frequency comb concepts which could meet the needs of the ESPRESSO and HIRES projects. Building on unique laser frequency comb expertise at HWU, and working with stakeholders in the HIRES and ESPRESSO instruments, this project will evaluate several new concepts for broadband laser frequency comb architectures based around optical parametric oscillators, and addressing the essential calibration-source criteria for stability, uniformity, accuracy and comb-line spacing. Engagement in the project by our principal industrial partner, Laser Quantum Ltd., will support the project with Ti:sapphire pump lasers of high repetition rate, and with vital technical know-how. A further exploitation route is provided via the new Heriot-Watt spin out company Chromacity Ltd., formed to commercialise Heriot-Watt's femtosecond OPO technology. Outcomes from the project will take the form of a technical assessment summarizing the suitability of the candidate comb architectures, and a demonstrator of the most promising system.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I007407/1
    Funder Contribution: 584,193 GBP

    Lake systems play a fundamental role in storing and providing freshwater and food, in supporting recreation and in protecting species diversity. However, the stability of these ecosystem services can be undermined by the increased demands society makes upon these systems and changes in atmospheric composition and lake water balance that arise through a societal-mediated changing climate. To safeguard against such loss of functioning there is in place legally-binding national and European directives that set stringent targets for water quality and biodiversity. Meeting these targets requires a detailed understanding of lake processes that in turn requires measurements at an appropriate temporal scale. Traditional monitoring, of at best weekly-fortnightly intervals, is sufficient to record seasonal change but cannot resolve the processes driving many aspects of lake function. To resolve these processes we need to 'hear every note in the full symphony of lake functioning', with such resolution only viable through semi-continuous measurement of parameters that are key reflectors of lake functioning. We are fortunate that deployed in eleven lakes across the UK, of different size, altitude, latitude and nutrient status, are basic systems automated to make such measurements, Automatic Water Quality Monitoring Stations (AWQMS). However at present, most buoys are restricted to a meteorological station and temperature measurements. A few have other probes to measure water quality, but these are subject to biofouling which could compromise the data. At present, the data are mainly downloaded by telemetry to the host-site via a range of procedures. Thus we are not utilising advances in data-logger-, computer- and sensor-technology to measure automatically at high frequency and 'hear the full symphony'. We propose to change this by installing stable, state-of-the-art sensor technology, with mechanical devices to minimise biofouling. Further, we will maximise the value of generating this high frequency data by linking together the lakes in a sensor network to deliver quality-controlled data onto the internet for analysis by project partners, the wider scientific community and the general public. Such infrastructure investment needs to reflect the need for high quality measurement from science-driven agendas. We will demonstrate such a network supports these agendas through the following projects: DST1: Real-time forecasting of lake behaviour: We will incorporate the real-time data available from the sensor network into a forecast system for lake phytoplankton behaviour and, in particular, to provide warning for the onset of phytoplankton blooms. DST2: The effect of meteorology on the fate of carbon within lakes: We will track pool and flux variability of dissolved carbon dioxide over daily to seasonal time scales. By relating these measurements to meteorological and within-lake physico-chemical measurements within and between sites we are better equipped to define critical controls on the lake carbon cycle. DST3: The level of regional coherence in sub-seasonal timescales: Lakes can show a regionally coherent response e.g. strong links exist between air and surface water temperature; large-scale weather patterns such as the position of north wall of the Gulf Stream have also been shown to influence directly the regional coherence of lakes. Use of high resolution data to examine coherence in lake temperatures has just begun but as yet no-one has investigated coherence of biological, chemical or wider physical variables on these short time-scales, an approach which is viable through this network. In summary, this sensor network of AWQMSs, offering detail of observation through high resolution data generation and the new instrumentation will demonstrate not only the value of observing the environment remotely and in detail, but the benefit from integration systems to offer real advances in environmental science.

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