Professor Steve Dixon


steve dixon

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Job title: Director of the Centre for Industrial Ultrasonics
Division: Department of Physics and School of Engineering
Organisation: University of Warwick
Tags: Fellowship: Established Career Fellowship, University of Warwick
Related theme: Energy Engineering Manufacturing the future


Steve Dixon has been working in ultrasonics research for over 25 years, and has worked on collaborative R&D projects with over 50 different industrial partners. He established the Centre for Industrial Ultrasonics in 2011 in order to make it easier for industry and particularly SMEs to engage with University research.

My Fellowship

The Fellowship has enabled me to lead a research team working on the design, construction and characterisation of high frequency, flexural ultrasonic transducers (HiFFUTs). HiFUTTs are extremely efficient, industrially robust, low power and low cost devices, capable of operating in the 50kHz - 1Mhz frequency range, and have potential applications in non-destructive testing / evaluation, ultrasonic imaging, ultrasonic measurement of flow, range finding and even into low and high power medical applications.

Flexural transducers (or uni-morphs) operate through the action of the bending / flexing of a piezoelectric material that is attached to a passive material - the humble ultrasonic parking sensor is an example of flexural transducers, working at frequencies below 50 kHz. HiFUTTs are not subject to the same impedance mismatch mechanism as bulk piezoelectric elements: their efficiency as detectors or generators depends on their ability to bend in either generating ultrasound (like an electrostatic speaker) or in detecting ultrasound (like a capacitive microphone or ear drum).

We can design a HiFUTT to have a completely sealed outer metal casing, making the device tough and relatively inexpensive to produce. The active membrane of the transducer is more easily deformed in either generation or detection than a bulk transducer and this is what makes the flexural transducer a highly efficient generator or detector in fluids. During the Fellowship, we will research the design and application of HiFUTTs together with our industrial partners, and we will have some working application examples during the latter stages of the Fellowship.

Motivation to Apply

I launched my independent research career proper when as a postdoc, I was lucky enough to land an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship in 1999. From my early career experience, I understood why and how a Fellowship can really catapult a new research idea and an individual forward, and what a fantastic opportunity a Fellowship can provide. Having had responsive mode grants, I knew what could be achieved in that framework and timeframe. The Established Career Fellowship was the best and probably the only way that I could develop this field in the way that I think is required.

Career benefits of Fellowship

The Fellowship is going to enable me to develop a new research area and impact, that otherwise would have been greatly limited and would have taken significantly longer to achieve. It also gives me the chance to put something back into the research community in academia and industry from some of the activities I have planned during the Fellowship. Outreach has always been a key interest for our group, and the Fellowship enhances our ability to engage and hopefully inspire some of the next generation of potential researchers and research leaders.

Advice for future applicants

The question that any applicant or reviewer needs to address is why is a Fellowship the most effective way to fund and develop a new research idea. No-one should embark upon an application without a good and honest answer to this. If you really feel passionate about something, be it the scientific idea, or outreach or providing some form of leadership, you should really have demonstrated some aspect of that before applying for a Fellowship. A Fellowship is a great privilege and a responsibility, so the selection procedure will be and should be tough, so prepare for knock-backs, but the opportunity is fantastic.