School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


31 May 2019

Research story of the month (May 2019)

Vibrations research

How often do we experience vibration? Over the last weekend my washing machine has vibrated at the start of the spin-cycle, the car vibrated as I turned the ignition and my lawnmower was constantly vibrating as I cut the grass. Vibration is a major engineering challenge being tackled by Professor Stephanos Theodossiades and his research team in the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Stephanos’s vibration research is focused on the automotive industry, with the ultimate goal of eliminating it from powertrains – or that system of parts that delivers power from the engine (or electric motor) to the wheels.

The current challenge is to minimise vibration in multi-fuel systems, particularly as the vehicle’s propulsion changes from one power source to another. I have a hybrid car, which runs on both petrol and electricity. Ideally the driver and passengers will not be able to tell when one power source shifts to another but to do this there are complex vibration challenges that need to be addressed.

One further area of research is rotating structures, such as a drive-shaft, which turns at tens of thousands of times a minute. One of the test rigs in Professor Theodossiades’ laboratory can turn at over 20,000 times a minute: that is over 300 times a second! This is not unusual and is not just confined to transport. Imagine the vibration pattern that could be generated in something turning as rapidly as that and the wear and tear on the engine components if it can’t be sorted out. 

On the other hand, energy harvesters developed in the laboratory can use small amounts of this vibration energy to power sensors installed in propulsion systems, towards real-time analytics and ultimately, the internet of things.

Next time you experience vibration you can be assured that it is an engineering problem where Loughborough staff are seeking a solution.