Systems Analysis - from the nanoscale to the global

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Two major research grants were announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). One will push the frontiers of systems research to understand how best to plan, design and invest in modern, sustainable and resilient infrastructure services. The other will aim to gain previously unachieved design capabilities through modelling flow dynamics at the nanoscale.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: These programme grants will firstly help maintain the UK's position as a world leader in the field of infrastructure design that takes account of the growing interconnectedness of real and virtual infrastructure at local, national and international scales. Secondly they will boost our scientific knowledge of how flow occurs at the nanoscale so we can model systems more accurately and apply this knowledge to technical innovations.

The programmes are:

Nano-Engineered Flow Technologies: Simulation for Design across Scale and Phase - led by Professor Duncan Lockerby, University of Warwick EP/N016602/1 - brings together researchers from Warwick and Edinburgh Universities, Daresbury Laboratory, and industry to investigate how nano‐scale engineering flow systems can help respond to global health, transportation, energy and climate challenges over the next 40 years. The programme will account for 25 years' worth of researcher time with an additional eight doctoral scholarships, and is strongly supported by nine external partners ranging from large multinational companies to SMEs.

The team will deliver new design techniques for flow systems at the nanoscale - a critical area of research to enable the development of visionary technologies. To develop these technologies safely, it is essential to get the fluids engineering right. Standard flow system design tools do not work at the nanoscale, so industry has no way of exploring and optimising possible new technologies. This programme bridges that gap, so that the non‐intuitive flow physics can be exploited to engineer technologies beyond any currently conceived.

For example, improving the fuel efficiency of marine and air transport is a strategic priority for governments and companies around the world, and would reduce the emissions that lead to climate change. Also, cooling high-performance electronics is a major factor in the design of the next generation of supercomputers. Two of the visionary applications this research programme will tackle are evaporative coolers that can transfer heat from high-power electronics at a rate equivalent to cooling the surface of the sun, and smart nano-structured coatings that enable ships to slip through the water using less fuel.

A video summary of this project can be found at the end of this page.

MISTRAL: Multi-scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics - led by Professor Jim Hall, University of Oxford EP/N017064/1 - which builds on previous EPSRC investment in the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), a consortium of seven UK universities, led by Oxford, which has developed unique capability in infrastructure systems analysis, modelling and decision making. ITRC's vision is for infrastructure decisions to be guided by systems analysis. When this vision is realised, decision makers will have access to, and visualisation of, information that tells them how all infrastructure systems are performing. They will have models that help to pinpoint vulnerabilities and quantify the risks of failure. They will be able to perform 'what-if' analysis of proposed investments and explore the effects of future uncertainties, such as population growth, new technologies and climate change.

Five years ago, proposing theory, methodology and network models that stretched from the household to the globe, and from the UK to different national contexts would not have been credible. Now the opportunity for multi-scale modelling is coming into sight, and ITRC, perhaps uniquely, has the capacity and ambition to take on that challenge in the MISTRAL programme.

Notes to editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via UK Research and Innovation.

Reference: PN 11-16

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: EPSRC Press Office
Telephone: 01793 444404

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