Institute of Integrated Information Systems
This institute supports a wide range of enabling technologies for robotics, including communication systems, signal processing, sensor networks, ultrasonics, embedded systems, power electronics and electric drives.
This includes mobility diversity algorithms and RF energy harvesting. There are many applications in which a mobile robot, with limited energy resources (e.g. battery powered), must perform some task (e.g. environmental sensing) and then transmit data back to a base station. However, the robot will often experience small-scale fading of the wireless communication channel, and so it must seek a position (from which to transmit) that has a high wireless channel gain – thus minimising the amount of (electrical) energy needed to send the data. This will also deplete the robots stored energy resources through the (mechanical) energy expended in the process of searching for the best location to transmit from. The research involves developing mathematical algorithms based on “mobility diversity” that optimise the robot’s trajectory so as to minimise the overall energy (mechanical plus electrical) consumption. A demonstrator test bed using iRobot Create platform is being developed to apply these techniques along with intelligent radio frequency energy harvesting.
Ultrasound is used in many applications, including medical imaging, therapeutic ultrasound, non-destructive evaluation, industrial process monitoring, etc. Work at Leeds is extending the capability of medical ultrasound systems with a number of innovative approaches
The microbubble acoustic trap has potential to assist in applications such as therapeutic drug delivery or theranostics, and for particle filtering: Particles such as encapsulated microbubbles (1 – 10 µm diameter) can be “trapped” using a focused ultrasonic beam, generated using a linear array transducer in conjunction with the University of Leeds UARP (Ultrasound Array Research Platform) system. Particle trapping is achieved by creating a pressure null or low pressure region at the focal point of the ultrasonic beam.
The project “Sound bullets for enhanced biomedical ultrasound systems” in collaboration with David Hutchins (Warwick) and Nader Saffari (UCL) is studying a new type of acoustic signal that can be generated via non-linear effects in chains of particles, which act as a kind of waveguide. These are based on the propagation of solitary waves, and this study is looking at their use in biomedical ultrasound, which could lead to a step change in performance, with applications in such areas as ultrasound-enhanced drug delivery, High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU) for the treatment of tumours, and harmonic imaging. In particular, the project “Nano-bombs for breast cancer diagnosis and therapy” is investigating photoacoustics to realise a unique combination of liposomes, nanoparticles, light and sound for non-invasive breast cancer treatment.
Structural health monitoring
The main purpose of structural health monitoring (SHM) is to detect defects or damage at an early stage in a totally non-invasive manner. A popular technique within SHM is the use of guided waves, which are a class of mechanical waves that propagate in structures, structural elements or waveguides that have characteristic dimensions comparable to the wave’s wavelength. Guided waves are acknowledged as the most promising and versatile SHM technology.
Localisation and wireless sensor networks
This research is investigating improved positioning systems for wireless devices, particularly the analysis and improvement of localisation techniques using time of arrival and received signal strength. The group is studying energy efficiency and quality of service in WSNs using optimal routing algorithms: investigating geographic routing performance under various network distributions and erroneous localisation, and techniques for developing reliable, efficient location based routing protocols under realistic assumptions.
Nuclear sludge transport and separation processes
An important collaboration has been formed between the University of Leeds, Sellafield Ltd and MMI Engineering, as part of a £12 million R & D call into developing the civil nuclear supply chain by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. Fundamentally, this project seeks to reduce the costs associated with sludge separation and increase process efficiency (thus reducing operational timelines) by developing two integrated characterization tools: 1) A predictive modelling framework; and, 2) An innovative and flexible in situ measurement technology.
Instrumentation for pipeline inspection
The magnetostriction and stress-magnetization of steel have long been known, but as yet only partially understood and exploited. Understanding the magnetic properties of steel, when subjected to earth’s field, is becoming a key requirement in order to demonstrate that the magnetic field due to a stress concentration regime is of a predictable and repeatable pattern, and will aid the interpretation of complex magnetic fields from steel structures under stress. The aim of this research program is to locate, measure and characterize stress in carbon steel infrastructure due to corrosion through the passive monitoring and analysis of remote magnetic fields. The project has developed and experimental verified finite element model for the prediction of magnetic fields due to stress concentration due to corrosion in steel structures with complex geometries.
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Institute of Microwaves and Photonics
This institute has well-equipped laboratories, which creates an exceptional range of opportunities for research on communications and sensing for medical, industrial inspection and exploration robotics.
This includes 10 network analysers (up to 1.1 THz) 2 probe stations and a wide range of general purpose test equipment. In addition to the main clean room facility, there is a dedicated microwave circuit and LTCC prototyping facility which has been successfully used to demonstrate the laser prototyping of 3D components up to 100 GHz. The group is home to the High Frequency Communications and Sensing Test Bed for the National Facility for Innovative Robotics System. This allows Gigabit/s testing of transmitters, receivers and individual subsystems to 110 GHz. The test bed is integrated into the Roger Pollard High Frequency Measurements Laboratory, which is sponsored by Keysight Technologies, and also houses a suite of vector network analysers that permit the precision characterisation of devices, components and materials at frequencies from 9kHz to 1.1 THz.
Ultra-wideband communications in the millimetre-wave bands (e.g. the 57-63 GHz unlicensed band) provides the bandwidth needed for precise positioning of robots to allow coordination of movement and sharing of data (relaying and aggregation of imaging and sensing information). The group is investigating advanced new techniques for integrating microwave and millimetre-wave systems onto a single substrate so that ultra-compact, low DC power systems with a high degree of functionality and reconfigurability can be realised. These are required for a range of functions, including wireless charging and inductively-coupled powering of miniature sensors and actuators, microwave-based surgical tools, ultrawideband radar sensors and miniature electronically-steered antennas.
This area includes modelling and design of multilayer circuit techniques, such as reconfigurable filters, antennas and substrate integrated waveguides in low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) technology. LTCC systems integration and micro-machined components are studied at Leeds using laser-based prototyping. The fabrication of hollow waveguide and microfluidic structures in LTCC has attracted widespread interest. With this technology in hand, a wide range of millimetre-wave communications and sensing applications are being developed, including sensors for healthcare applications and exploration robotics.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)
Research in this area includes developing micromanipulators capable of hybrid circuit assembly at the micro-scale for realising 300 GHz+ circuit prototypes – at these frequencies, the devices are often less than a few 10’s of um in size and accurate placement and bonding requires novel approaches to overcome the many problems, which include electrostatic forces which are larger than gravity – leading to difficult to place “sticky” parts. Research activities in high-frequency MEMS at Leeds range from radio frequency (RF) to millimetre waves, and THz for various applications in e.g. high-performance wireless communication and, medical and biomedical systems.
Terahertz sensing and imaging
The terahertz (THz) frequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum spans the frequency range between the mid-infrared and the millimetre/microwave (300GHz–30THz). In the past decade or so, THz science and technology has advanced considerably, with both optical bench-based systems and solid state THz lasers (quantum cascade lasers, QCLs) now routinely available. Leeds is world-leading in the development of new THz systems and the use of THz techniques in a broad spectrum of imaging and analysis applications, including on-chip, guided-wave, THz sensors for biological systems such as DNA and proteins and broadband THz spectroscopy for detecting a range of materials, including narcotics and explosives.
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Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Biological Systems
This institute is pioneering an integrative and broadly-based study of intelligent systems building on our internationally recognised research streams on learning in video analysis, corpus-based language studies, qualitative reasoning about space and time, and investigations into computational mechanisms in biological cells and organisms.
The research ranges from fundamental work through to applied studies in collaboration with many industrial and public organisations, and interdisciplinary research with, for example, psychology and neuroscience.
The research activities are organised in the following themes:
Computer Vision, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, and Natural Language Processing.
Applied Computing in Biology, Medicine and Health
Cognitive neuroscience, Genomics, High-throughput microscopy, Neuroscience, Surgical training, Systems biology and bioinformatics, and Virtual pathology.
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Institute for Computational and Systems Science
This institute is developing fundamental principles and practical methods for problems that are computationally challenging and/or require unusual kinds of computing resource. The work spans fundamental work on algorithms and their complexity, high-performance numerical methods in scientific computing, architectures for highly distributed fault-tolerant grid computing, web technologies for collaborative computing, and interface and programming technologies for visual computing.
The current research activities are organised in the following themes:
Algorithms and Complexity
Graph theory, combinatorics and optimisation, computational complexity, logic and proof complexity, and optimisation in transport scheduling.
Distributed Systems and Services
Physical and human factors of distributed systems, and applying this systems engineering knowledge in the aerospace, automotive, data centre and other domains.
Computational Science and Engineering
Numerical algorithms for the computational solution of partial differential equations (PDEs), parallel computing, Big Data in scientific and information visualization, and navigation in virtual reality.
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Institute for Materials Research
This institute conducts research into functional materials for sensing and actuation. This involves the metrology, characterisation and synthesis of high temperature, high strain piezoelectric, and magneto electric multiferroic ceramics. Each area involves developing novel materials and employing complex electrical and optical characterisation techniques, including resonance, interferometry and microscopy; as well as advanced crystallographic techniques, including neutron, synchrotron, X-ray and electron diffraction, in order to tune the properties to fit engineering applications.
Current projects include the commercialisation of piezoelectric materials for extreme environments, and the European Metrology Research Programme, METCO (Metrology of Electro-Thermal Coupling) project, aimed at standardising the measurement of piezoelectric and electrothermal materials at high temperatures. Particularly the area of electro-mechanical energy conversion within extreme environments is of interest, where piezoelectric materials can offer micro to nano scale devices. These systems would be able to simultaneously offer sensing, actuation and harvesting opportunities for robotic systems.
For further information contact:
Dr Tim Stevenson
t: +44 (0) 113 343 2540
Professor Ian Robertson
Head of the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Programme Manager for the Mechatronics and Robotics degree programmes. He holds the University of Leeds Centenary Chair in Microwave and Millimetre-Wave Circuits. He has published over 400 papers in the area of microwave engineering and was elected Fellow of the IEEE in 2012 in recognition of his contributions to MMIC design and millimetre-wave system-in-package technology. These technologies have now become a core part of the wireless communications revolution and he is now applying “system-in-a-package” techniques to the design of miniature robots – particularly in the area of high frequency communications and sensing for applications such as exploration robotics and industrial sensing.
t: +44 (0) 113 343 7076
Dr Steve Freear
Head of the ultrasound group specialising in biomedical ultrasonics. He is Editor-in-Chief for the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, Research expertise includes system integration, multi-channel electronics and signal processing to address beam forming, signal coding, efficient power control and scalability. Over the last 12 months 5 patents have been submitted in these areas. The group has received > £1m in industrial research contracts and has performed 3 successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects.
t: +44 (0) 113 343 2076
Professor Netta Cohen
Professor of Complex Systems in the School of Computing and holder of an EPSRC Leadership Fellowship. Her interdisciplinary work on the neural control of behaviour in simple invertebrates combines biomechanics, systems and computational neuroscience and biorobotics.
t: +44 (0) 113 343 6789
Professor Anthony Cohn
Previously President of IJCAI, and currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of the AI and the Spatial Cognition and Computation journals, a founding Fellow of ECCAI, and a Fellow of the BCS, the IET, AISB and AAAI has published widely in the area of knowledge representation and reasoning particularly in spatio-temporal reasoning, and is internationally known for his pioneering work on qualitative spatial reasoning.
t: +44 (0) 113 343 5482
Professor Jie Xu