School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


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Optical Engineering Research Group

The Optical Engineering Group is multi-disciplinary and active in all areas of optics and laser technology across a range of mechanical engineering applications. From high power laser applications, manufacture of components, through to high precision non-contact measurement of dynamic movements, the Optical Engineering Group uses optics and lasers to solve major engineering problems.

The success of the Group can be measured by the innovative techniques, developments and equipment supplied to the engineering community that has advanced the gathering and understanding of new engineering data. Techniques such as Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometry (EPSI), Laser Vibrometry and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) have grown from laboratory based research techniques into proven industrial technologies which are now used on a worldwide basis.

In recognition of its pioneering work the Group was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2001 for applications of laser technology.

3D Scanning

Measurement of object shape by projected fringe technique. A patented scanner developed under EPSRC funding (GR/T25040/01) measures up to 4 million independent coordinates in just a few seconds and is currently integral to the EPSRC funded project “The light controlled factory” (EP/K018124/1) – a collaborative venture with The University of Bath, UCL and industrial partners the aerospace, automotive and nuclear energy sectors.

Quantitative Optical Tomography

Depth-resolved measurement of strain fields within composite materials using Wavelength Scanning Interferometry. This EPSRC-funded project (EP/F02861X/1) introduces novel tomographic methods to quantify the spatial variations in stiffness in glass-fibre reinforced composites resulting from fatigue and impact damage.

Single Shot Shape Measurement

This project introduces a novel method to measure surface shape in a single shot using hyperspectral interferometry. This patented technique can measure surface profiles of small components with a resolution of a few tens of nanometres and is now being developed as part of Royal Society funded Industrial Fellowship supported by Renishaw plc.

Optical Diagnostics for Oil-Ignition-Gas-Injection Engines

This research collaboration with The Hardstaff Group Ltd. has resulted in a commercial Oil-Ignition-Gas-Injection system (OIGI®) which substitutes natural gas for the majority of Diesel oil in heavy goods vehicles. Using optical diagnostics OIGI® was redesigned, increasing average substitution rates from 45% to 60%. This continuing work is supported by a purpose built test facility funded by East Midlands Development Agency (via its Transport iNet) and won the prestigious Lord Stafford Award for Innovation for Sustainability in 2010.

Spray Analysis for Selective Catalytic Reduction

A new optical diagnostics facility has been established as part of an ETI funded to develop selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for NOx reduction in heavy duty vehicles using new, high efficiency HDV engines. A collaborative project with Caterpillar and Johnson-Matthey applies high-speed stereo particle image velocimetry, phase Doppler anemometry and FTIR spectroscopy to further the understanding of urea atomisation and mixing in high temperature exhaust flows.

Optical Diagnostics for Environmental Modelling

In collaboration with Sheffield, Durham and Liverpool Universities a NERC project DRAEM “Dynamics of Runoff and Erosion Modelling.” (NERC NE/F021763/1) investigates soil erosion by rain impaction and overland flow that leads to accelerated loss of food-producing lands and threatens global food security. Multi-camera, high-speed particle tracking technology is used to monitor particle transport processes during splash and runoff erosion.

Optical Instruments for Meteorology

Collaborative projects with Campbell Scientific Ltd. have resulted in the commercialisation of 2 optical instruments for meteorological applications. The patented Campbell PWS100 is a present weather sensor that classifies and counts hydrometeors (rain, sleet, snow etc.) as well as estimating visibility. The Campbell CS135 is a Lidar Ceilometer for measuring cloud base, height and levels. Currently instrumentation based on IR imaging is being investigated for the classification of cloud type.

Traceable Optical Metrology

An on-going project with the National Physical Laboratory and Taylor Hobson Ltd. concerns calibration of coherence scanning interferometers. This work has led to methods to measure the transfer characteristics of these and related instruments and ways to correct for optical aberrations. Advanced optical methods that exploit this work are currently integral to the EU funded IND-59 Microparts Project led by the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Germany.

Group Academic staff

The work of the Group is further supported by:

  • Phil Sutton, Visiting Professor in Signal Processing and Director, Corporate Research, at the MoD;
  • Richard Leach, Visiting Professor and Principal Research Scientist Engineering Measurement Division National Physical Laboratory;
  • Dr John O’Hagan, Visiting Research Fellow and Group Leader, Laser and Optical Radiation Dosimetry Group, Public Health England.