Developing ultrafast laser-based imaging and spectroscopy for industrial applications.

Lead Research Organisation: STFC - Laboratories
Department Name: Central Laser Facility (CLF)

Abstract

My research concentrates on developing technology to offer compact, reliable, robust laser products to be employed by
industrial end-users on their own sites to characterise complex 3D objects, helping to bridge the gap between industry and
academic research. There are two main areas of research that are of interest, surface analysis and time-resolved
tomographic mapping of the internal structures. Lasers can offer an industrial solution to both of these problems. In
partnership with the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult and Johnson Matthey plc I will conduct research at the CLF
and undertake knowledge transfer placements with them to define what issues they face and design specific laser-based
solutions around the problems that I find with a view to translation of the technology into industrial environments.

Planned Impact

The impact of this research is far reaching with implications in modern medicine, bio-imaging, energy and advanced
manufacturing. The UK holds a leading position in high value manufacturing and a core goal of the Industrial Strategy is to
capitalise on the excellent R&D output of the academic community to ensure a competitive edge for UK industry. Future
technologies need to meet the ever-expanding demand of a highly technological society while at the same time minimising
the environmental impact of increased productivity. The worldwide transition to cleaner energy sources presents rapidly
growing commercial opportunities and innovation-led research is essential for the UK to maintain a prime position in these
markets.

Developing new battery technologies is a vital component of the strategy because of the requirement for energy storage,
particularly for electric vehicles and intermittent renewable energy sources. Alternative manufacturing techniques can also
lessen environmental impact through additive manufacturing (AM) and the use of composite materials by minimising waste
material from the production process and reducing the weight of products such as aircraft leading to higher fuel efficiency.
Better understanding of the very fast transitions in photo-induced processes in order to develop new photovoltaics is also
crucial to maximise the efficiency of solar cells and photo-catalysts. Improved image contrast in low-Z materials is crucial
for polymer-based AM parts, carbon-fibre composites and graphite battery electrodes. Laser-driven sources also have
huge potential in the field of healthcare technologies enabling high throughout phenotyping for studies of genetic function
and enhanced imaging for soft tissue radiotherapy that suffers from poor contrast with conventional x-ray sources.

The innovative science carried out at the CLF is developing sources to provide for industry advanced methods of
vibrational spectroscopy, element specific x-ray absorption spectroscopy and phase enhanced x-ray microCT. Laserplasma
electron accelerators achieving multi-GeV level energies in cm-scale structures are revolutionizing our ideas of how
to deliver extreme brightness x-ray beams for material inspection. The huge reduction in size and cost offered by this
technology compared to synchrotrons will give many users access to unparalleled non-destructive evaluation capability that
has never been possible before.

My ISCF fellowship will allow us to greatly strengthen the collaboration with our industrial partners Johnson Matthey plc and
the institutes within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Knowledge exchange with these companies will allow me to
gain better insight into existing industrial practices and allow them to understand how our new technologies can address
the imaging challenges they face. The key manufacturing groups targeted in this project who will immediately benefit are in
the sectors of advanced battery manufacture and additive and composite manufacturing. By widely publicizing my work I
hope to encourage other industry groups to follow the example of these industry leaders and engage with the UK research
community to our mutual advantage.

This work is all underpinned by a background of fundamental laser physics, a scientific area in which the UK is a world
leader. Increased collaboration with industry will enable commercialization of this technology leading to cost reduction and
increased reliability. As well as allowing for the transition of this fundamental work into industry to keep UK plc at the cutting
edge of technological advances, it is hugely beneficial to the academic community who rely on access to advanced lasers
for their research programs.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description EPSRC electoral college
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Johnson Matthey (JM) 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution There have been a number of exchanges of ideas. I have helped JM to understand how ultrafast laser systems could be used by them and had a number of meetings where we plan and apply for future experiments at national facilities.
Collaborator Contribution By working with JM we have defined an area where ultrafast laser systems could be used to solve some of there problems and begin to think in detail about the types of experiments and what sort of samples would be used in these experiments.
Impact The outputs are on-going as this is the start of the collaboration, the output has been: - Several planning meetings of experiments - Talk at JM presenting my research and looking for partnership going forward
Start Year 2018
 
Description Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) 
Organisation Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Working with MTC has had a number of benefits which include communicating my research to a number of potential users and exploring where this technology can make the biggest impact.
Collaborator Contribution By working with MTC we have defined a challenge they are facing. MTC have provided a well characterised sample that is to be tackled with the laser-based technique as was the aim of this fellowship.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2018
 
Description Warwick Manfacturing Group (WMG) 
Organisation University of Warwick
Department Warwick Manufacturing Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have been to WMG on a number of occasions and worked with there industrial inspection group to communicate how ultrafast lasers could be useful to them and what new areas of research that can be accessed with these techniques.
Collaborator Contribution By working with WMG we have defined a package of work which will help to demonstrate how laser driven sources can be useful to the industrial inspection community and have begun to design experiments around the samples that they will provide.
Impact No output yet
Start Year 2018
 
Description JM workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Gave a presentation to an Industrial collaborator at there annual workshop on work done at STFC facilities. Presented the scientific content of the fellowship and how this could apply to them. Generated a meeting of collaborators and work towards beam time at the CLF.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018