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Engineering meets Medicine!

by YPU Admin on October 27, 2016, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, Aneurysm, PhD, Research, simulation, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Ben and I'm a 2nd year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester.  I have always been interested in aeroplanes and space for as long as I can remember so studying Aerospace Engineering at University was an easy choice for me having studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A-Level.  I completed a four year integrated Master's at the University of Manchester in 2014 before beginning my PhD in 2015.  My research concerns the simulation of characteristics of blood flow through diseased arteries.  By modelling these characteristics we can begin to understand why these diseases, such as the growth of aneurysms, occur. 



In Depth

The main focus of my research is improving the criteria for when preventative surgery should take place for patients with an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA).  An aneurysm occurs when the artery begins to expand and swell, weakening the artery wall and can lead to a rupture.  Due to the amount of blood travelling through the aorta, 90% of patients who have a ruptured AAA die.  As a result, it seems sensible to perform the preventative surgery even if there is only a low risk of rupture.  However, AAAs mostly occur in men over the age of 65, for who surgery is more dangerous than the average person and shouldn't be taken lightly.  Therefore a compromise must be found between the two risks.

The current criteria for surgery is based upon the maximum diameter of the aneurysm, found using ultrasound similar to that used for pregnancy scans, is greater than 5.5cm for men and 5.0cm for women.  However, this isn't patient specific as it does not take into account the weight, height or family history of the patient.  My research, working with Wythenshawe Hospital and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester, is looking to improve this criteria by taking the images obtained from the ultrasound, building a 3D geometry from them and then simulating the blood flow through the aneurysm to assess the risk of rupture for the patient.  The aim is to have the entire process automated so that it can be done quickly by the doctor to give a very fast decision which will hopefully reduce the number of patients who have unnecessary surgery while also reducing the number who die from the aneurysm rupturing.  We have a lot of work to do before it becomes clinical practice but the results so far have been promising.

The research I have been working on during my PhD isn't what is normally associated with an Aerospace Engineer at first glance.  However, I am able to use a lot of the same theory I learnt during my first degree and apply it to a new application, showing the diversity of career available to an Engineer.

Going Further

For updates on my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @b_owen92

Or visit my website www.about.me/benowen

More information on Aerospace Engineering can be found at www.aerosociety.com

Or general engineering at www.theiet.org/

Here is a fun video of the type of projects you will be involved in if you study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZUHunTmMV8

 

Using computers to simulate the way that fluids move

by YPU Admin on September 23, 2016, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, Computers, Fluids, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Joe O'Connor and I am a second year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering here at Manchester. In 2009 I started my first degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. During this time I was able to take part in an exchange programme which allowed me to go and study at the University of California, Irvine for one year. Also as part of my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to work at Rolls-Royce for six months helping to design new aircraft engines. Upon completion of my Masters degree I then moved to Manchester to start my PhD research.

My research is focussed on the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics, or CFD for short. All this means is using computers to simulate the way that fluids move. At this point it is important to understand what exactly a fluid is. When we talk about fluids we usually think of liquids, however gasses are also fluids as well (gasses can flow!). This means the air we breathe, the water we drink, the blood going through our body, and the fuel in our cars are all fluids. Because fluids are literally everywhere it is very important to understand exactly the way fluids behave in certain situations – this allows us to design better aeroplanes, wind turbines, or even artificial hearts. The focus of my research is developing software which will allow us to do this in a better way than what we already are.

In Depth

Understanding the way that fluids (such as air) move is very important for a number of reasons – Formula 1 teams spend a lot of time and money doing this to make sure their cars are as aerodynamic as possible, as do aeroplane manufactures. However, the really difficult thing about this is that the equations that tell us how fluids move are very long and very complicated – and therefore very difficult to solve. In fact, to this day no one has actually ever been able to solve them exactly and that is why they are one of the 7 Millennium Prize Problems. What that means is that if you find out a way to solve them exactly then someone will give you one million dollars as a reward!

So if no one can actually solve these equations how can we use them to help us simulate the way that fluids move? This is where the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) comes in. In CFD we use some very clever mathematical tricks that let us get very very close to the right answer. There are a number of problems in doing it this way though. The first problem is that we don't always get very close to the right answer, in fact sometimes we can get completely the wrong answer (and we don't always know this because we don't know what the actual answer should be in the first place!). Another problem is that to use these mathematical tricks we need very very big computers – there are some people out there running simulations on computers so big they are the equivalent of one million laptops all plugged into each other - and even with these massive computers it can still take months to calculate the answer! The purpose of my research then is to develop new methods and mathematical tricks we can use that allow us to get more reliable results, in a shorter time frame, on smaller computers. This will then allow us to investigate the way that fluids move in more detail and improve the way we design cars, planes and anything else that involves fluids (pretty much everything!).

A typical day for me usually involves being sat at my desk writing code and testing out new ideas. Problem solving plays a large part in programming and software development and the feeling of finally solving that problem you've been stuck on for ages is great. Another great aspect of my research is that, as fluids are involved in nearly all engineering applications, I have the opportunity to work in a range of different industries – from automotive and aerospace engineering to biomedical engineering and biotechnology. There are also examples of researchers in my field who have won Oscars for the fluid models they have made for animated films!

Going Further

For further updates about my research activities please follow me on Twitter: @joconnor29

The link to the website of the people who will give one million dollars if you solve the fluid equations is here:

http://www.claymath.org/millennium-problems

For a really good introduction to computers and programming see the 2008 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures:

http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures/watch

http://www.rigb.org/christmaslectures08/

See these YouTube videos of CFD in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9abjlj0fI4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLXNkX8fYfA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3GQiBllgeY

 

Making robot airplanes

Introduction

My name is Bilal Kaddouh and I am currently in the third year of my PhD at the University of Manchester. I have completed my BEng (Hons) with distinction in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the American University of Beirut in 2010, and then decided to concentrate on Robotics and Control, hence I did a MSc (Hons) in Robotics Engineering at King’s College London where I graduated with distinction in 2011. I am currently a Doctorate Candidate at the University of Manchester in the field of Aerospace Engineering. My main research area is concerned with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), in particular system and mission management, resources allocation, collaborative control and efficient planning.

I have worked for a year with Cummins Power Generation as a project application engineer which gave me an insight to real life work problems as well as a practical experience in applying my engineering knowledge to solve those problems. I was also responsible for delivering technical training to distributors all over Europe and the Middle East, this gave me a practical experience in teaching and conveying knowledge to students. 

Through my research I aim to design a method for efficiently managing multi UAV resources in the civil airspace under temporal and dynamic constraints. In simple words, given a set of required tasks that needs to be completed within a certain time window, I am creating a system of rules which allows a group of UAVs to decide what each UAV is going to be doing at each point in time so that all the required tasks are completed in the most efficient way while the UAVs are flying in a safe condition all the time.


In Depth

What is a UAV?

UAVs are airplanes without a pilot onboard. Their computational capabilities vary from simple remotely piloted airplanes to highly sophisticated autonomous flying platforms. They are essentially flying robots, and the aim of my research is to let the robots decide what to do to efficiently achieve various goals. UAVs can carry different sensors onboard, like cameras, infrared sensors, CO2 sensors, laser scanners, radars and so on. Due to current advancement in electronics UAVs possess an increasing level of computational power onboard for performing real time processing and decision making.

Why multiple UAVs?

UAVs are being used in various civilian applications such as remote sensing, aerial photography, crop health monitoring, emergency response, firefighting, atmospheric studies and many more. Many applications in the civilian world involve multiple teams working on the ground together in real time to accomplish a certain mission such as disaster management and relief, large event management security protection and crowd control, emergency services, firefighting ... A Multi User Multi UAV system is important for real time data gathering, in particular for live aerial imagery. When talking about a multi user application we are not considering single task multi users we are focusing on multi task multi users which gives users different task options to choose from.

Currently all commercial UAV operations models are built around one user flying one UAV. People are now slowly introducing UAVs into various applications for the added value it brings to any operation. Current trend of research has been focusing on moving from multiple operators managing one UAV to one operator managing many UAVs and therefore we find contributions in the operator situational awareness systems, in task allocation systems and in real time data processing. We will probably get to a point where UAVs are allowed to fly autonomous missions under certain rules and regulations enforced by the appropriate aviation authority. When we get to that stage, systems allowing one user to control multiple UAVs would be desirable.

What is the problem?

As a UAV operator, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made in terms of what sensors to install and how to plan and execute the required mission safely and efficiently. The problem gets complicated when multiple versatile UAVs are to be used especially when deciding on which ones to use and what factors to consider and so on. Therefore, the workload faced by the operator is overwhelming. With the flexibility and diversity available in a multi UAV system, it becomes impossible for an operator to take all those decisions in a timely manner and in an efficient way. Computerized automatic resource management systems are designed to answer those questions.

What is my approach?

The future

Technology is developing fast and many advancements are not yet accessible to the public. Effective management systems of multiple UAVs will allow this cutting-edge technology to be utilized by everyone. Instead of having to own and learn how to control a UAV yourself and having limited resources on your particular machine, soon you will be able to benefit from the numerous services of a UAV simply by using an app on your mobile phone or by visiting a website. The key for succeeding in a UAV resource sharing system is an efficient resource allocation system, and that’s where my research comes in.


Going Further

For more information about UoM UAV Research Group: http://uavs.mace.manchester.ac.uk/

For more information about aerospace system group: http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/aerospace-engineering/specialisms/aerospace-systems/

For more information about studying aerospace: http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/aerospace-engineering/meng-aerospace-engineering-4years/

Some ted talks about UAVs:

https://www.ted.com/talks/andreas_raptopoulos_no_roads_there_s_a_drone_for_that

http://www.ted.com/talks/raffaello_d_andrea_the_astounding_athletic_power_of_quadcopters?language=en

A video indicating the simplicity and important usages of UAVs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9n0TRpcIw8


 

Engineering: the practical application of science to real world problems

by YPU Admin on March 21, 2014, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, PhD, and Research

Introduction

My name is Craig Morrison and I am a 2nd year PhD student in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. My research is linked to the nuclear industry, using computers to try and simulate what happens to materials in the extreme environment in a nuclear reactor.


In Depth

I enjoyed STEM subjects throughout school and studied for A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Geography. I considered applying to study Physics at university but was unsure of the jobs on offer after graduation. I was advised that for those who are curious about science and maths but still have an eye for practical problems, maybe stemming from a childhood love of Lego or Meccano, studying engineering can be a good alternative to a pure science at university. So I decided engineering was for me and went to the University of Sheffield to study for a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

For those who don’t know, engineering is the practical application of science to real world problems. Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying; ‘Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been’. Essentially the science taught at school and university explores the world around us, developing equations and theories to explain why things behave the way they do. Engineering takes the principles developed by scientists and uses them to design and create the man-made world we live in.

Engineers are tasked with solving a wide range of problems, often with significant time, resource and financial constraints. New challenges evolve with the world around us ensuring that the learning and self-improvement never stops. How do we supply food, water and clean energy to a global population that is expected to hit 9 billion by 2040? Where will these people live? How do we combat the effects of global warming? These issues make for scary reading, but provide the fuel from which engineers thrive.

Different branches of engineering exist to cope with the different problems encountered in everyday life. The house you live in and the bridges you drive over were designed by civil engineers. The car or train you travel in were designed by a mechanical engineer to get you there quickly and safely whilst using as little fuel as possible. Aerospace engineers create the planes which fly over huge distances to take you go on holiday. And that’s not mentioning electrical/electronic, materials, manufacturing, bio-engineering or the multiple other engineering disciplines fields that have emerged.

In many engineering industries a skills shortage is imminent as large chunks of the workforce approach retirement age ensuring engineering graduates and apprentices are in high demand. Furthermore, the team working, communication and problem solving skills are sought by other industries as well – business, accounting and finance in particular – a reassuring thought for those interested in the subject but unsure as to whether engineering is their preferred long term career choice. 

Going Further

As a general rule, to study an engineering based course at University will require an A level in Maths alongside a science depending on the branch which you wish to study, e.g. Physics will be needed for Mechanical engineering, chemistry for Chemical engineering, biology for Bioengineering.

Make no mistake an engineering degree can be difficult and challenging but in terms of employability and job satisfaction it remains one of the best degrees you can study. There is also a fun side with societies where students can design and build a racing car (formula student), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV society) or experience piloting and aircraft design (Flight Simulator Society). Whether you want to design rollercoasters, become an astronaut or improve our future by solving some of the biggest issues faced by the world today, an engineering degree could be your first step to an exciting, varied and satisfying career.

Find out more about engineering at the University of Manchester here:  http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/

You can find out more about engineering in general and the careers on offer here: http://www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/

You can find out more about student societies in MACE here: http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/study/student-experience/studentsocieties/