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Loughborough University news

The latest study and research news from Loughborough University

June 2011

May 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011


Security advances are the answer to record low crime figures

Technology – not changes to the criminal mindset – has had the greatest impact on halving UK crime rates over the last 15 years.

And a marked reduction in ‘debut crimes’ could be key in reducing the number of violent and more serious offences, according to research conducted by Loughborough University Professor of Criminology Graham Farrell and colleagues at University College London and Nottingham Trent University.

Statistics from the British Crime Survey show crime has more than halved since the mid-1990s, representing around 10 million fewer crimes and 6.5 million fewer victims. Burglary has fallen 63%, theft of personal property 50%, vehicle-related theft by 72% and violence by 50%. Similar falls in crime have occurred across Europe, North America, Australia and other industrialised countries.

Professor Farrell and colleagues considered 21 existing explanations for the rapid decline in crime, including imprisonment of offenders, better policing, demographic changes, increased abortion rates and strong economies, but concluded there is little compelling evidence to support these theories.

Instead, they argue improvements in the quantity and quality of security have played the biggest part, in particular for vehicle related theft where the automotive industry has invested heavily in advanced security systems.

‘Our research explored the role of targets and the environment rather than focussing solely on offenders as many previous studies had done,’ explained Professor Farrell.

‘It is the nature and vulnerability of targets, not the nature of potential criminals that has changed. For example, evidence suggests car theft fell due to better central locking and immobilisers. As a result joyriding is now largely a thing of the past.’

The research team believes this approach can be developed to explain the fall in other crime types, and could be important in helping develop security policy for new technologies such as mobile phones, electronics and the internet, where related crimes are on the increase.

The fact crime has continued to fall during the economic recession also supports Farrell’s hypothesis.

‘The main cause of crime seems to be opportunity and this remains true even in a recession,’ added Professor Farrell.

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Loughborough University to explore energy-saving technology of the future

Hi-tech ways to cut domestic energy bills will be explored by experts at Loughborough University, as part of a £1.9m research project.

The LEEDR (Low Effort Energy Demand Reduction) project will draw together experts in social science, computer science, systems engineering, user interface and design technology at the University.

They have teamed up with communications company O2, energy company E.ON and energy monitoring experts AlertMe to investigate how and why we use energy in the home – and to explore innovative ways to reduce our consumption.

Project leader Dr Richard Buswell said: ‘This is a very interesting project because it is such a fast-changing, evolving area.

‘The need to reduce energy consumption is one which will increasingly impact on our domestic lives. This project aims to uncover innovative, technology-based solutions to the challenge of reducing energy use.

‘At the same time, we will attempt to look into the future – to predict the impact of these solutions on the way we live our lives in the coming decades.

‘It will have a strong user-centred focus – that means that we will place importance on measuring people’s response to possible solutions. There is little point in proposing a new energy-saving device, for example, if, for some reason, no-one wants to use it.’

The three-and-a-half-year project has been awarded a £1.4m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The project will enlist the help of 20 volunteer households, whose energy consumption and domestic practices will be examined by the academic team using a variety of methodologies.

Loughborough University has a world-leading reputation for research into the interactions between people, buildings and energy.

The University has established the interdisciplinary Sustainability Research School to help its academic departments work together to tackle the global challenges in this and similar fields.

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Radiator control system could slash domestic fuel bills

A new radiator control system, developed by Loughborough University’s computer scientists, could one day reduce a family’s domestic energy use by 40 per cent.

The invention, which reached the finals of a national innovation competition, would enable homeowners to adjust their radiators remotely.

The innovation was selected as one of 23 innovation future zone finalists in a competition organised by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) as part of the Ecobuild 2011 event.

Professor Shuang-Hua Yang, principal investigator of the project from Loughborough’s Department of Computer Science, said: ‘This innovation aims to reduce domestic energy use for every family home in the UK by 40%.

‘Not only will this be better for the environment by reducing carbon emission at home, it will also help homeowners to significantly reduce their energy bills.’

The innovation features novel wireless communication, intelligent control algorithm and energy scavenging technology.

The wireless radiator control could be retrofitted and linked into an existing wireless network – enabling homeowners to control their domestic radiators from a laptop or computer at work.

The free-standing control could also be set to operate independently, adjusting the radiator’s temperature in response to heat sensors in a room.

Radiators are one of several home appliances which could be remotely controlled with the indeedNET home automation system, which would enable people to adjust lighting, heating, security systems and cameras in their homes.

The innovation came from two consecutive projects funded by the Department for Trade and Industry and the Carbon Connections respectively.

Academics are discussing potential collaboration with industrial partners and receiving support from Loughborough University’s Enterprise Office.

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New car technology to save dozens of lives

New safety systems being fitted to British cars are set to save thousands of pedestrian injuries and dozens of lives each year thanks to new testing procedures developed with the help of Loughborough University experts.

The ‘giant step forward’ for pedestrian safety is the culmination of years of intensive research undertaken and commissioned by Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) systems incorporate a raft of cutting edge initiatives tested by Thatcham, and utilise a variety of technologies to automatically stop a car before it hits a pedestrian, including radar, camera and lasers.

Researchers in the Loughborough Design School analysed Department for Transport data, having previously accompanied emergency services to record real life data at the scene of hundreds of accidents across the country, in order to identify typical traffic accident scenarios over a period of ten years.

This ground-breaking research has identified for the first time the most common crash situations, which have been used to define test procedures that will allow the new systems to be rated.

Lead researcher James Lenard explains how his decision to use cluster analysis on the data has provided industry with strong and convincing results.

‘By using a novel form of analysis on two sets of data we have been able to provide Thatcham with objective and reproducible accident scenarios on which they can develop AEB protocols.

‘Our methods discovered remarkable parallels between the national accident database and field findings which means we can be confident in the scenarios we have identified.

‘As a researcher it’s very satisfying to work on a project like this where three stakeholders of road safety – government, academia and industry, work together. To see your work applied on a project that will ultimately contribute to reducing casualty numbers is very pleasing.’

Test results show that once incorporated into all production models more than 650 serious injuries and 64 fatalities will be prevented in Britain each year.

A total of more than 2,700 pedestrian casualties will be prevented in Britain each year.

Ninety two per cent of pedestrian collisions occur at speeds of 30mph or under – within the performance limits of most new safety systems.

Some of the AEB systems will also make a massive impact by preventing over 160,000 painful and debilitating whiplash injuries caused each year by the most common crash – the rear end shunt.

Sixteen thousand of these whiplash injuries are rated as serious with 1,600 causing permanent disability or impairment.

A total of more than 270,000 crashes will be either prevented or mitigated once the systems are ubiquitous across the fleet.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research Manager Crash said: ‘These systems are set to make a massive impact on the number and severity of accidents on British roads and beyond.

‘I believe that in time they will prove as or more effective than the arrival of ESC (Electronic Stability Control) have been over the last decade or so.

‘We are working alongside vehicle manufacturers to help develop them further in the future – and would encourage the inclusion of such systems as standard fit in new cars.’

Six systems have been under test from vehicle manufacturers as diverse as BMW, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Mercedes.

It is hoped that the Thatcham AEB protocols, now being developed, will be considered in any future Euro NCAP testing procedures for new car safety ratings.

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New national institute to be based at SportPark

The sports industry is celebrating the launch of a new professional development body, which has chosen to base itself at SportPark at Loughborough University.

The Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (IMSPA) was officially launched on 3 May 2011.

The new Institute represents the first unified voice for sport and physical activity tasked with providing leadership, support and empowerment for professionals working in the sector.

Sean Holt, Chief Executive of IMSPA said: ‘IMSPA will reach out to a wide range of people engaged in a variety of roles such as leisure centre managers, local development officers, coaches, health officers and governing body representatives.

‘It is important to remember that what will define our members is not the role that they do but their ambition to develop their knowledge and skills to become celebrated leaders, deliverers and shapers of the sport and physical activity sector.’

The new institute has been built on two successful historic mergers – firstly ILAM (Institute for Leisure and Amenity Management) with NASD (National Association for Sports Development), followed in early April by ISPAL (The Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure) and ISRM (Institute of Sport and Recreation Management), paving the way for IMSPA.

The Institute enjoyed a double celebration at the launch, as it also confirmed that the new body has been granted Chartership accreditation by The Royal Privy Council, a first for sport.

Tim Garfield, Deputy Director of Sport at Loughborough University said: ‘Not only is the new institute good news for sport, it is also another important milestone for SportPark at Loughborough University.

‘One of the ambitions of the SportPark project was to build on Loughborough’s reputation of being at the heart of sport. Having for the first time ever, a consolidated professional institute with chartered status based there, further demonstrates the realising of this ambition.’

SportPark is a £15m development that opened its doors in January 2010. It is home to many of the country’s top sports governing bodies and national sports organisations.

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Loughborough University students win BP Ultimate Field Trip 2011

A team of students from Loughborough University is set to gain a real-life taste of working in the oil and gas industry, after winning the 2011 BP Ultimate Field Trip.

The trio of Chemical Engineering undergraduates, known collectively as ‘Rigid Ideas’, wowed the competition judges, as well as the event host, Professor Brian Cox, with their forward thinking and innovative hydrogen production-based technology that answered a tough challenge set by BP.

The BP Ultimate Field Trip is a team competition open to UK university undergraduates studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. This year it challenged students to answer the question: ‘What innovative, scientific ideas can you come up with to maintain the UK Continental Shelf as a global centre of marine technology and engineering excellence by extending the useful life of North Sea oil and gas infrastructure – and, potentially, the oil and gas fields – as their economically productive activity comes to an end?’

The winning Loughborough trio – Thando Sibanda, Adeleye Adewole and Peter Oladimeji – utilised the temperature gradient between sea water and geothermal fluids in depleting oil wells to generate electricity. Using water and the electricity generated, they argued that they are able to commercially produce hydrogen which is a clean and sustainable energy carrier.

Team member Peter Oladimeji said: ‘We were overwhelmed when we were announced as the 2011 BP Ultimate Field Trip winners. The feelings and emotions we went through are simply indescribable.’

Thando Sibanda added that the team had found the experience invaluable and couldn’t wait for the internship to start. ‘We are now looking forward to the Ultimate Field Trip with BP which will involve spending some time offshore and working on real life business and engineering problems,’ he said. ‘The friendly and informative BP atmosphere we experienced throughout the competition is something to look forward to.’

Event host Professor Brian Cox commented: ‘The Ultimate Field Trip goes a long way to proving how important students are in science and engineering. We all know that the demand for energy is increasing and resources are being depleted. The problems are very real – and they affect everyone in every part of the world. I want the UK to become a more scientific nation, and I’m excited by the investment these students have made in solving a real-world problem. I was also impressed by their commitment, and immense optimism about what they can achieve.’

Professor Chris Rielly, Head of Loughborough’s Department of Chemical Engineering, said he was delighted by the team’s success. ‘The designs generated by the winning team are very imaginative and have real potential for future exploitation. What is most impressive is that they came from second year students, who not only had the creativity and technical skills to design an innovative solution, but also had the passion and drive to communicate their ideas to a panel of international judges.’

The ‘Rigid Ideas’ trio will begin their paid internship with BP North Sea in July this year, when they will work on a real business challenge, experience life offshore, visit operations in Norway and enjoy the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

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Loughborough to lead £3.5 million research project on green vehicles

Experts at Loughborough University are to lead a £3.5 million project to bring environmentally-friendly vehicles one step closer to an everyday reality.

The Fundamental Understanding of Technologies for Ultra Reduced Emissions Vehicles (FUTURE) consortium will examine the interaction of components and control systems for electric and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

The consortium’s work will develop a set of guidelines and tools to enable design engineers to better understand how components, such as fuel cells, power electronics and control systems of HEVs perform together.

The project consists of six work packages. Two of them are led by Professor Rob Thring and Professor Qing-Chang Zhong, both from Loughborough University, and the other four are led by academics from Imperial, Oxford, Coventry and Cranfield Universities.

The Principal Investigator, Professor Rob Thring of Loughborough University, said: ‘This important research represents a step forward in the journey towards sustainable transport.

‘Loughborough is proud of its expertise in the leadership of consortia and co-operation with industry and we look forward to working with respected colleagues from our partner universities on this exciting project.’

FUTURE is being made possible with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is one of three major projects which will address fundamental research questions in developing low carbon vehicles.

Funding for the three projects totals £10 million.

The projects have been developed by EPSRC with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) through the Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform Integrated Delivery Programme.

They were announced by Business Minister Mark Prisk at the opening of a new exhibition at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to showcase UK manufactured low carbon vehicles.

Among the vehicles on show at the exhibition was a hydrogen fuel cell taxi produced by Intelligent Energy.

The company, which was originally a spin-out – born of research from Loughborough University – joined forces with Lotus Engineering, LTI Vehicles and TRW Conekt to produce the ground-breaking vehicle.

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Loughborough University hosts ‘green’ business conference

Experts from universities, NGOs and industry from across the UK, Europe and South America have gathered at Loughborough University to discuss and move forward solutions for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) on sustainability and climate issues.

The international conference was organised by Dr Ed Brown, the Associate Director of the Sustainability Research School along with colleagues from across the University. Delegates heard about challenges facing SMEs and new, creative and practical ideas to help them reduce energy and become more sustainable.

Dr Brown explained: ‘This event was an important stepping stone to discuss a whole range of new and innovative projects to help SMEs thrive and succeed in an emerging green economy. Loughborough is delighted to be working with such an influential array of innovative people from global and local businesses and other sectors.’

Topics covered included behaviour change initiatives, the regulatory, financial and personal motivations for changing business behaviour and creating opportunities for firms to expand. In addition, Dr Jacqui Glass from the University’s Department of Civil and Building Engineering, talked about two new research projects which are now underway focusing on responsible sourcing in the construction industry.

The session also looked at the sustainability challenges being felt by businesses on an international scale with a guest speaker, Alejandro Diaz of Acción RCE, presenting results of a research study of 321 small businesses in Chile, where 96 per cent of respondents stated that they believed ethical behaviour would bring long term success to a business.

Speakers at the conference also included Professor Francisco Castaneda from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile and Shamir Ghumra, Head of Sustainability for Aggregate Industries as well as Drs Grahame Boocock and Laurie McAulay from the University’s School of Business and Economics.

The conference highlighted to delegates the value that can be gained from interaction between SMEs, large companies, academics and policy makers. Dr Brown added: ‘This conference was just the start for us. We are very keen to hear from businesses and other organisations interested in sustainability issues to take this agenda forward and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.’

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Loughborough University graduate goes head-to-head with Apple and Dyson for prestigious design award

Twenty-five-year-old Loughborough University graduate Laurence Kemball-Cook, the inventor of a revolutionary flooring system that generates electricity from footsteps, is competing against global innovation giants Apple and Dyson for an esteemed Product of the Year award.

The young inventor’s pioneering indoor and outdoor flooring product, Pavegen, allows people to save energy without even realising it, turning kinetic energy from footsteps into electricity to power street lighting, advertising and information displays and other applications that spring into life when people approach them.

The product has been nominated for Product of the Year at the 2011 Brit Insurance Design Awards, alongside best-selling innovations Apple iPad and Dyson Air Multiplier Fan.

‘We are delighted to be taking on such big companies and high-profile products with a low-carbon innovation,’ says Laurence. ‘We’re a new company but our investors and partners have been quick to recognise the great potential of a product that can be seamlessly integrated into existing architecture and generate electricity on its own, without needing to be connected to the grid.’

He continues, ‘If rolled out, this product could help local authorities, developers and communities reduce their energy bills but also get their staff and customers engaged in delivering a low-carbon future.’

Laurence developed the technology while studying Industrial Design and Technology at Loughborough University in 2009. The University supported the Pavegen technology in its infancy through its Student Business Plan competition and recognised the company’s achievements with a Graduate Enterprise Award in 2010.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise at Loughborough University, Professor Phill Dickens said: ‘Loughborough University strives to create a culture of enterprise on campus, providing practical support and positive encouragement to student entrepreneurs. Pavegen is an excellent example of how our enterprising students can apply their skills to address crucial issues like sustainability and I am delighted to see that the great potential of the innovative low-carbon Pavegen product is being recognised.’

Pavegen’s commercial successes include winning a contract for the low-carbon energy system to be installed at the new Westfield shopping centre on the Olympic site in Stratford City, helping them to achieve strict targets for environmental sustainability. A Canterbury school has also installed the energy-producing floor tiles in one of its busiest corridors.

The Brit Insurance Design Awards 2011 were launched on 15 February at the Design Museum in Central London. Category results will be announced on 28 February and the winner from each will be entered in the overall competition, announced at a ceremony at the museum on 15 March.

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