A materials expert at the University of Nottingham has secured over £2.1m to develop new coatings for use in aerospace that could cut jet plane CO2 emissions

Dr Tanvir Hussain has received the five-year fellowship – funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – to find new modelling and processing techniques that will overhaul the design and manufacture of advanced ceramic materials for the next-generation of air and space travel. The long-term vision is to build a Centre of Excellence in Ceramic Coatings at the University.

Dr Hussain, from the Coatings and Surface Engineering Research group, explains, “Ceramics are an important group of materials and their processing into aerospace coatings and components requires specialist techniques. Current approaches for new materials discovery and production are wasteful, costly and energy inefficient.”

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced chemistry, Dr Hussain will influence the molecular architecture of ceramic materials to tailor their properties and to make them more durable and sustainable.

To facilitate widespread industrial uptake, the project aims to produce bespoke ceramic coatings designed and manufactured with thermal, electrical and environmental barrier properties that can be fine-tuned to their desired applications in aerospace.

This includes:

  • thermal barrier coatings to protect superalloys from high temperatures
  • environmental barrier coatings to protect ceramic composites from steam
  • electrolytes for fuel cells and solar cells in auxiliary power generation for electric aircraft
  • insulating coatings for electric motors for the electrification of aircrafts
  • corrosion and wear-resistant coatings for various critical components in aero-engines“The research will lead to the creation of products for the aerospace industry with improved properties, performances and reduced materials processing times; that can be manufactured in large volumes at a fraction of a cost of today’s methods,” adds Dr Hussain.According to current figures, flights produce 915 million tonnes of CO2 worldwide and aviation is responsible for 12 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transport sectors. The International Civil Aviation Organization has aspirational goals for reducing the climate impact of global aviation by improving fuel efficiency by two percent annually by 2050. Advanced ceramic coatings with bespoke functionalities are essential for this ambitious goal and any future electrification of aerospace propulsion.

    Jet engines increasingly operate at very high temperatures to improve thermodynamic efficiency and reduce pollutant emissions. However it’s an approach that can reduce the lifespan of the engine and its parts and lead to more maintenance checks and less flying time – both of which costs huge sums to airlines and engine manufacturers. Ceramics coatings are able to withstand searing heat, which makes then valuable in aero engine componentry.

    Ceramic coatings are already, for example, applied to air-cooled metallic (superalloys) turbine blades. The blades rotate 10,000 times per minute, reaching 1,300oC in operation — it is equivalent of taking an ice-cube from the freezer, placing in a hot oven, and expecting it not to melt. Without ceramic coatings, there can be no air travel or flight to Mars. Despite being typically as thin as human hair (1/5 of a millimetre), ceramic coatings have very low thermal conductivity, which allows for a drop of 200-300oC between the gas and the metal surface temperature, which enables blades to operate even in inhospitable environments.

    Similarly, ceramic material is widely used as a thermal barrier coating on rocket engine nozzles, however the chemistries and manufacturing methods involved date back to the 1960-70s and are not advanced enough to support commercial space travel. Guided by AI, Dr Hussain will develop new chemistries for ceramic coatings that make rocket engines more efficient and reusable – helping to make deep space travel accessible for humans.

    Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, Professor Dame Jessica Corner said, “This new EPSRC fellowship is a significant milestone in Nottingham’s ambition to be a recognised centre for excellence in advanced materials engineering. Through innovation, the research will support the post-pandemic recovery of the aerospace sector and positively impact the CO2 efficiency of flight and space exploration in future years.”

    The Propulsion Futures Beacon at the University has recently invested in three state-of-the-art automated coating booths and the UK’s only Suspension Plasma Spray (SPS) facility. This million pound investment in infrastructure will enable the researchers at Nottingham to develop brand new coatings for the aerospace sector.

    Project partners includes:

More information is available from Dr Tanvir Hussain on 0115 95 13795 or Tanvir.Hussain@nottingham.ac.uk or Emma Lowry, Media Relations Manager (Engineering) on 0115 84 67156 or Emma.Lowry@nottingham.ac.uk

Electric motor stator coil [/h2]

The University of Nottingham share of Driving the Electric Revolution funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will fund new equipment to support innovative manufacturing processes for advanced electrical machines and drives to deliver on the UK’s net zero ambitions

Driving the Electric Revolution award to boost electrification support for businesses at the University of Nottingham – University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is part of the 2ZERO consortium to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of regional electric aviation transport 

Electric commuter flight one step closer to take-off under new challenge award – University of Nottingham

Aerial drones could soon be delivering blood, organs and medical supplies in Scotland as part of a revolutionary UK-first trial involving researchers at the University of Strathclyde.


UK-ARC activities and ambitions were presented on Thursday 4th February at the virtual showcase – Aerospace Research: Achieving Net-Zero Emissions – hosted by the Institute for Aerospace Technology at the University of Nottingham.

This stimulating event highlighted research innovations at the IAT and many national and international collaborations with industry.

Helping to expand the value and breadth of these relationship is a key aim for the UK-ARC. Electrification was a major theme of presentations at the showcase, illustrating the IAT leadership in this critical technology area as the sector drives for a lower carbon footprint. That goal also underpins UK-ARC programme activity.

The strong IAT international linkages evident through academic and student research presentations showed the productive relationship with EU CleanSky and international alliances.

Roger Gardner, UK-ARC Network Manager, recognised the value of IAT participation in the consortium and emphasised UK-ARC intent to help expand these international research relationships to benefit UK industry and universities.

Here’s a copy of the IAT-UKARC Presentation 04-02-21 given by Roger Gardner on the UK-ARC.

Following the autumn 2020 EPSRC panel meeting funding was confirmed for the UK-ARC network. The UK-ARC has now appointed a Network Manager, Roger Gardner to build its work and profile. Roger has experience working in aviation and aerospace research in academia, research organisations and industry and brings a background of familiarity with the UK-ARC membership, the research challenges and many of the stakeholders.

Roger said of his appointment ‘It is a privilege and pleasure to be helping this stellar group of aerospace universities to influence and support the UK research agenda for the benefit of industry. The UK-ARC can add real value by linking the many capabilities across its membership and providing a much simpler route for industry to secure the intellectual research horsepower it needs to bring innovation to market. Leveraging international connections, targeting research programmes to strategic need and strengthening the academic voice in national aviation discussions are key challenges for the network to grapple with going forward. I look forward to working across our wide community to achieve these aims.’

As it develops, the UK-ARC Network aims to become the coordinating voice of the academic research base to assist the UK Aerospace and Aviation industry: a portal to the wealth of research capability to innovate and to support UK ambitions to drive forward the emerging technologies that will shape a sustainable future for aviation.

Whatever the growth trajectory of aviation may be after the Coronavirus, the environmental drive to exploit electrification technology, new sustainable fuels and new aircraft concepts will tax industry and academic researchers globally. Add to that the rise of drone services, urban/rural air mobility and new sub-regional aircraft incorporating increasing degrees of electrification and autonomy, there is need for collaboration and clarity of vision as never before.

The UK-ARC network, facilitated by the network grant, will strengthen connectivity, co-creation of research delivered by UK-ARC members and partnering across a wide range of challenges. Beyond the core domain of aerospace technology design, test and demonstration, UK-ARC members work with Airlines, airports, fuel companies and air traffic service providers. The breadth of UK-ARC partners brings a holistic view to address system-level solutions that accelerate industrial product development.

The support from EPSRC enables the UK-ARC Network to:

  • support UK strategy development by refining and communications the academic view of research potential and priority. Clusters of excellence around a number of timely research themes (Alternative energy sources, More energy-efficient aircraft , Optimised flight operations and future airspace management, More sustainable manufacturing, Optimising ground operations, More sustainable through-life engineering services) are being developed. This will result in strategically aligned, high quality research proposals that will have a positive and significant impact on the sector’s environmental and industrial ambitions;
  • strengthen and expand research partnerships between UK-ARC, the Aerospace Technology Institute and other relevant national and international institutions;
  • launch a new international researcher placements programme between UK-ARC and international aerospace research bodies to create an international network of researchers. Early career researchers will be the catalysts for developing the networks and so establish long lasting cross institutional international relationships

Read more about the grant proposal and approval here https://gow.epsrc.ukri.org/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/V009354/1

UK-ARC member Swansea University and Faradair Aerospace are to expand their relationship with the British company’s commitment to bring back large-scale aircraft production to the UK and deliver 300 home-designed, sustainable aircraft for regional air mobility and special missions by 2030.

The enhanced collaboration will see the University’s Bay Campus become a training ground for engineers and interns as Faradair develops new technologies for use on its clean-sheet Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA).

Neil Cloughley, Founder and CEO of Faradair, said. “Swansea has been part of this programme for four years now and we are delighted to reinforce our position in making Swansea a long-term partner of this world-leading aviation initiative, and thus Wales, a long-term partner in BEHA’s success. We plan to have 30 engineers based at the Bay Campus working on BEHA developments by the end of 2021 and there will be opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students also.”

Dr Ben Evans, Associate Professor in Aerospace Engineering at Swansea University, said: “The partnership we have established, providing aerodynamic design support to Faradair for their BEHA aircraft, is an exciting opportunity for Swansea University. It will allow us to use our world-leading aerodynamic modelling, high performance computing and design optimisation technologies on an aircraft set to transform the world of civil aviation.”

“The BEHA will be a clean and quiet aircraft for the 21st century that could have a major impact to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation whilst better connecting smaller, regional airfields across the UK and beyond. It also provides Swansea University’s students with an amazing chance to work alongside an innovative company and great graduate employment opportunities,” he added.

The partnering with Swansea University follows Faradair’s announcement in December that it had attracted a strong consortium of global partners for the BEHA*, an aircraft specifically designed for low cost, quiet, environmentally friendly flight – qualities that enable it to deliver Air Mobility as a Service (AMaaS) for all.

In line with UK Government ambitions for sustainable air transport, the British-designed and built BEHA will emerge in hybrid electric/ turbine configuration, but engineered for evolution into a fully electric net zero commercial aircraft when power generation technology delivers the power density levels required for an 18-seat utility aircraft.

The ambition is to deliver an initial portfolio of 300 Faradair-owned BEHAs between year 2026 and 2030. Of these, 150 aircraft will be built in firefighting configuration, 75 as quick change (QC, passenger to cargo) aircraft, deployed at general aviation airfields globally, and 50 as pure freighters. The final 25 aircraft will be demonstrated in non-civilian government roles, including logistics, border and fisheries patrol, and drug interdiction.

Talks are now advancing at pace with investors and aircraft finance organisations to enable the full programme of development to scale up and meet the target objectives.

Meanwhile, Faradair is building its executive and engineering team, and expects to make further announcements early in 2021.

Original article posted here.

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), with support from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), has launched the FlyZero project to determine the concept for a new low carbon aircraft to be introduced within a decade.

This work is a national effort that aims to define concepts to give the UK a lead in low-carbon aviation. It will inspire a number of larger research programmes providing academics with the opportunity to make a mark and bolster university innovation.

The UK Aerospace Research Consortium (UK-ARC) is the focus for academic engagement but there will be engagement beyond the 11 UK-ARC aerospace research-intensive universities.

The ATI are looking for academics to participate in the project and opened a secondment recruitment process in September to draw expertise into the core team (expected to be up to 100 people) to work through many conceptual aspects of the challenge.

Leading academics in relevant fields of expertise are encouraged to apply for these 12 month full-time posts.

The FlyZero project has also identified the need for an Academic Coordinator and this post will be advertised during September on the ATI FlyZero website.

Whilst the main concept development work will be undertaken within the FlyZero core team, it has been recognised that promising technologies are likely to need deep technology team analysis within separate academic teams along the lines of those previously stood up by DARPA in the US.

FlyZero represents an exciting opportunity for academia as this is lower TRL work where expertise within UK-ARC universities could have a real impact and spur new multi-year projects.

For more information about the project and the secondment roles please visit their website https://www.ati.org.uk/flyzero/ or contact Dr Adrian Cole via email A.C.Cole@cranfield.ac.uk.

Members of the UK Aerospace Research Consortium (UK-ARC) representing the UK’s leading aerospace research universities were pleased to support the Farnborough International Airshow Connect (“Virtual Farnborough”) programme.

During the five day event the members took part in a series of technical presentations, careers events and panel sessions showcasing the universities as being a key part of the UK’s aerospace research capability.

Some of the events during the week included;

  • “Aircraft Cabin of the Future” – a 360 VR video by Dr Tom Budd (Cranfield University)
  • “Careers in Digital Aviation” – Panel Session hosted by Prof Graham Braithwaite (Cranfield University) and including representatives from Boeing and Blue Bear Systems Research
  • “Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter Panel Session –  How do we maintain the focus on diversity and inclusion as the industry recovers from COVID-19”

In addition to the above events UK-ARC members provided a full range of materials through the Farnborough website including; Technical insights, PhD research “snap shots” plus a variety of downloadable information.

UK-ARC continues to strive to serve the UK aerospace industry through world-leading research expertise and research infrastructure.  UK-ARC member universities also make a vital contribution to the aerospace skills supply chain by developing and supporting aerospace engineers key to the future of the UK’s aerospace sector.

The UK Aerospace Research Consortium brings together leading UK universities, acting collectively to facilitate high-level, strategic engagement with the UK aerospace sector on transformational aerospace research and coordinated access to the best of the UK research base. The UK-ARC members are:

The UK-ARC recently surveyed its members to assess the breadth and depth of multidisciplinary expertise and research activity which could be brought to bear to ensure a bio-safe flight environment should a future pandemic occur at some point in the future.

Nearly 60 areas of relevant expertise and research activity were identified such as the development of anti-viral surfaces using a myriad of strategies; sensor development for virus detection; advanced computational modelling, data analytics and artificial intelligence to track the spread of pathogens; new techniques for passenger tracking and monitoring safe distances; future bio-safe cabin concepts; rapid disinfection strategies, cyber and hardware security and agile, and rapid manufacturing strategies for sudden high demand PPE and medical equipment provision.

By adopting a whole system approach to this challenge, other areas of expertise offered by the consortium include policy development for workforce protection and safe operating practices, labour laws, mitigation strategies for workplace stress, mental health, and behavioural science.

For further details please contact enquiries@ukarc.ac.uk