Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
“Some of the big challenges that we face, both societal and scientific, are just not solvable by people sitting in their single-discipline silos – bringing those disciplines together in the long term is what provides the big, big breakthroughs.”
Kedar Pandya, Engineering Theme Leader, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research
There is no longer any such thing as a physics problem or an engineering problem. The scientific challenges of the future will only be tackled by teams with expertise in a range of disciplines.
The creation of a Science and Engineering Quarter at the University of Leeds will remove physical boundaries between scientific disciplines, bringing together physicists, chemists, materials scientists, engineers and computer scientists to address some of humanity’s greatest problems.
At its heart will be new homes for the Schools of Computing and Physics & Astronomy and our new Bragg Centre, named in honour of the Nobel Prizewinning father-and-son physicists whose work made Leeds pre-eminent in x-ray crystallography. The Bragg Centre will be a new home for science, technology and innovation and equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities where interdisciplinary research can truly thrive.
The Science and Engineering Quarter will be a significant investment in four distinct ways:
- Capital – The creation of a purpose-built home for research in engineering and the physical sciences will enable our computing and physics departments to move to the north-east side of campus, which is already home to engineering and chemistry.
- Equipment – The Bragg Centre will be equipped with the tools for a unique multidisciplinary research platform for the imaging and characterisation of materials and for the atom-by-atom growth of new functional materials.
- People – The development of a centre designed for greater collaboration and innovation will allow us to attract leading researchers who already enjoy a powerful international reputation. Its facilities will draw in postgraduate and early career researchers of the highest calibre, providing a strong team of academics to take this work forward.
- Education – The Science and Engineering Quarter will ensure that engineering and physical sciences students learn in first-class laboratories and specialised teaching spaces, with research embedded in the curriculum from undergraduate level. It will ensure that Leeds continues to attract high-quality students, who will learn in an environment that supports problem-driven learning.
The Science and Engineering Quarter will advance work in a number of areas where Leeds already has acknowledged strengths:
Leeds robotics is concentrated in a number of areas:
- Assistive technologies – enhancing people’s lives by replacing lost functions which they will never regain, for example lost limbs.
- Rehabilitation technologies – helping people recover lost function, for example stroke victims who have lost basic motor skills.
- Exploration – exploring inaccessible or dangerous places, for example inside sewer pipes or service tunnels where they can detect faults and conduct repairs.
- Surgery – using tiny robots inserted into the body to enable minimally-invasive diagnostics, surgical procedures and to administer drugs.
Our team is now leading research into the potential for robots to enable Leeds to become the first self-repairing city.
Leeds research is at the heart of a new technique to provide robot-guided colonoscopies.
Leeds has a long history for R&D across a broad range of Fluid Dynamics, which lies at the heart of disciplines from aerodynamics or manufacturing, through to weather forecasting and climate science. Our work to offer better forecasting techniques for Africa’s vulnerable agricultural communities has received significant support from the Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Ultrasound and Microbubbles
Ultrasound is best known as a scanning technique in pregnancy, but has numerous other medical applications, particularly when used in conjunction with microbubbles. Once injected into the bloodstream, these microscopic bubbles flow through the system and can be tracked by ultrasound, giving clinicians a clear picture of how blood is flowing through the body. The Science and Engineering Quarter is an opportunity to grow the facility and expertise at Leeds, and work towards new diagnostic techniques.
Soft Matter Physics
Soft Matter Physics is concerned with the study of colloids and polymers, membranes, proteins, foams and foodstuffs – and Leeds is a recognised centre of excellence in the field. Applications include materials for energy, IT and communications, digital technologies and pharmaceuticals. Research by Head of Physics and Astronomy Helen Gleeson is focussed on liquid crystals – a beautiful area of physics with practical applications, notably in liquid crystal displays. Future developments in this area include brighter and faster display devices and switchable contact lenses to correct near vision.
Terahertz waves can penetrate materials that block visible light. Leeds is a recognised leader in the field and at the forefront of work to create terahertz lasers which are powerful, compact and economically viable. With further development, this technology has a wide range of possible uses including monitoring pharmaceuticals, the remote sensing of explosives, the non-invasive detection of cancer and telecommunications.
Materials Characterisation Research uses microscopic analysis to examine materials at the atomic scale to understand their structure, properties and characteristics. The Bragg Centre will be a step-up in the University’s facilities, providing a clean room and microscopes capable of imaging down to a single atom and the shared facilities which support this highly inter-disciplinary field.
Piezoelectric technology converts physical forces into electricity. University spinout company Ionix has opened new horizons for the technology, creating sensors which can withstand pressure and vibrations and operate at up to 500 degrees C, opening new possibilities for these materials – in industrial plants, steam systems, cars and aeroplanes, oil and gas exploration sites and nuclear power.
Mechanical and Biological Engineering
With current research grants totalling £50m and an annual research spend of £10m, the Institute of Mechanical and Biological Engineering at Leeds (iMBE) is bigger than many entire Universities. With a focus on the research and development of practical medical engineering interventions – and a track record for turning this research into genuine real-world applications – the Institute is creating new therapies to replace damaged tissue and giving surgeons the tools they need for long-lasting orthopaedic reconstruction.
While essential to our future infrastructure, cement has a sizeable impact on the environment, contributing around five to eight per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Research in the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure is primarily interested in helping the construction industry become more sustainable through the intelligent use of building materials.
Condensed Matter Physics
As the use of computers continues to grow, storage has remained reliant on silicon, which uses large quantities of energy. Leeds research is focused on how data can be stored more efficiently and with less environmental impact. The challenge for the future is to create the next generation of low-energy computers, whether using room temperature superconductors – so far the stuff of science fiction – or to build something which operates more like the human brain.
Surfaces and their behaviour have an enormous impact on our surroundings, from energy loss due to friction (estimated at 3%-5% of all energy usage), through the degradation of performance due to wear or corrosion. Research at Leeds includes the development of self-healing materials, coatings that can respond to extreme working environments, and the development of environmentally-friendly additives to reduce or mitigate corrosion.
Making a World of Difference
CLICK ON THE LINKS AND VIDEOS BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN'S IMPACT ON SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
Super Resolution Microscopy
Professor Helen Gleeson
Helen Gleeson, Cavendish Professor of Physics at Leeds, discusses her own research in liquid crystals and soft matter. She explains some of the strengths in the School of Physics and the way colleagues are bringing their expertise into inter-disciplinary teams to address major challenges of health, security and technology.
A gift from Clive Summerhayes (Civil Engineering and Industrial Relations 1962) is supporting research to improve the outcome of patients undergoing orthopaedic operations. In this video he talks about the support - both practical and financial - which he now gives to the University, and what motivates him to give back.
Support from Duncan Moore (Biochemistry and Microbiology 1980) has established a clinical secondment scheme which allows postgraduates to join the Medical Technologies for Active Lives project - giving them hands-on experience at the forefront of research crossing the boundaries of medicine, biology and engineering. In this video, Duncan explains why he has chosen to support his old university.
Professor John Fisher
An overview of the work of the Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.