Today’s National Engineering Day celebrates how engineers make a difference in the world and shape our future.
Staff and students at Canterbury Christ Church University are no exception. Their current research work on sustainable solutions to repurpose electric vehicle (EV) batteries, improve powder processing techniques to support the pharmaceutical industry and find an environmentally friendly way to manufacture nanomaterials shows how engineers are tackling the big challenges of our time.
Mohammed Al-Alawi is a PhD research student in the School of Engineering, Technology and Design. He feels inspired by engineering and the opportunity to produce environmentally friendly solutions that could potentially reduce carbon emissions and limit the effects of climate change.
Mohammed explained: “Each engineer has a unique experience, a story filled with passion, enthusiasm and a ton of challenges. Each engineering field is immersed with opportunities to make a difference to the community. Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree I realised I could contribute to solving global issues with the effective use of engineering, and encouragement from my tutors and peers.”
Mohammed is currently researching sustainable solutions to repurpose spent EV batteries into second-life applications, with the aim to achieve a circular economy and mitigate vast resource use of battery materials.
“After seven to nine years of EV operation, the battery-package becomes unable to perform as expected and it reduces the range of the vehicle. When it reaches below 80% of its capacity, it normally requires replacement with a new battery. The substantial number of current and predicted EVs in use and the necessity of battery deinstallation after years of operation puts forward several risks and opportunities. Through my research I am looking to give retired EV batteries a second life by utilising them as stationary storage systems for renewable technologies.”
Azza Mahmoud is a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering for the School of Engineering, Technology and Design. While studying physics and materials science for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, she became increasingly interested in research topics that can have a direct impact on real-life industrial applications and everyday life, specifically powder technology.
The focus of her is research is on the flow behaviour of powders, which is of great importance to many different industries including pharmaceuticals, food, agriculture, paints, plastics and 3D printing.
Azza explained: “In the course of our daily lives, we consume tablets and capsules, expecting them to contain exactly what they are supposed to, and to perform exactly as they are supposed to. However, powder material can experience various stress conditions and deformation in processing due to compression or shear stress.
“In other words, a pharmaceutical product must be engineered under the right conditions, not just filled with the right amount of compound. Ingredient properties, processing conditions, and equipment performance can all significantly affect the quality of the final product. My research focuses on understanding powder flow behaviour under low consolidation stresses, which is essential for reliable processes in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Dr Georgina Zimbitas, is also a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering. Her Bachelor degree was in Chemistry and her PhD in Surface Science. Her work in experimental and modelling has covered a wide range of subject matters, from surface/interface science to properties of soft materials and viscous liquids, and to nanoparticle production.
Her research always includes industrial collaborations and is aimed at towards up-scaling, improvement and/or production of new effective products.
“Sustainability has been a strong focus of mine for the past few years. Via manufacture, maintenance, recycling, and waste reduction, engineering and science can not only have a positive impact on people’s lives but are also vital to achieving net zero and ensuring a healthy environment for future generations,” said Georgina.
“In one of my recent research endeavours, as part of the SynBIM project, we incorporated an environmentally friendly, synthetic biology-inspired approach to potentially enable large scale manufacturing of nanomaterials.
“Use of nanomaterials can be found across a broad range of industries and research fields including carbon capture, high-density data storage, magnetic drug delivery and biomedical applications. However, production is costly and extremely hazardous to the environment, which is why there is an urgent need to shift towards “green” nanoparticle production that results in the same quality of product but with less of an effect on the environment.
“Working closely with industry we focused on developing manufacturing conditions so that we can predict outcomes, and thus reduce waste and cut production time and costs, leading to a cheaper and more consistent product while also protecting the environment.”