Report by Cohort 4 researcher, Luke Wilkinson

I attended the inaugural West Midlands Seminar for the Oil & Colour Chemists Association (OCCA) at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on Monday 16th October. It aimed to bring industrial partners and academia together to discuss the latest advancements in the coatings sector. Established in 1918, the OCCA has been a leading association in accrediting work and encouraging partnerships within the coatings sector. The seminar had four guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds and companies.

The first speaker was from Tremco and was titled ‘Fire Prevention’. The presentation began with many statistics on fire, with the most interesting being that it would take less than 4 minutes to fill a 6 metre cubed room with smoke through a hole the size of a pencil. This has lead companies to strive to compartmentalise buildings to prevent the spread of fire and smoke, leading to intense research into finding materials to plug holes in walls around windows, doors, electrical cables and pipes. Tremco manufacture passive fire prevention techniques and give their products ‘fire prevention ratings’ E30, E60, E120, E180 and E240, which are the minutes they can withstand a temperature increase of +140 degrees compared to ambient temperature. An interesting point from this talk was that certain fire prevention materials are well suited to only a small number of uses. For example, polyurethane foam is able to have an E240 rating for horizontal and vertical joints between bricks and concrete, but if used to fill a larger hole, e.g. 200mmx200mx150mm, it only withstands heat for 5 minutes before combusting and failing. I found this talk extremely interesting and informative. There was a good balance of case studies and how they affect the processes and testing undertaken by the chemical industry.

SurfaChem gave a talk on titanium dioxide and its changing uses over recent years. TiO2 is used in sun cream to prevent the harmful effects of UV. In the USA, skin cancer is classified as a disease, and as sun cream prevents this disease, it is certified as a drug by the FDA. In the EU, sun cream is classified as a cosmetic product and is subject to different laws. The nano form of TiO2 is often used in sun creams. The concerns about the use of nanotechnology were raised, including can the nanoparticles be inhaled, and as TiO2 is not naturally occurring in humans, can it be excreted. Issues around labelling were also raised, and the example of paraben was cited; people stopped using paraben based on a medical report, yet it was still used in Calpol, and were still giving it to children. The point about risks and benefits outweighing each other were discussed, and what the chemical industry can do to label chemicals in a way that does not cause panic among consumers. This talk was very informative and opened my eyes to the considerations the chemical industry has to take when developing products and how they are labelled and marketed.

A short coffee break followed to allow for networking opportunities, and discussions with companies with table top displays.

The third speaker was from Altana and was titled ‘Using Laponite for Unique Rheology Modification Properties’. Laponite is a synthetic inorganic layered structure based on an octahedral arrangement of lithium and magnesium and a tetrahedral arrangement of sodium and silicon. It can be dispersed in water to form a gel. It has a unique rheology that allows sheer thinning viscosity. The delegate explained the applications of laponite, which mainly consisted of allowing pigments in paint to be suspended evenly and allow a better distribution of colour and there was a demonstration of multi-coloured paints and how laponite is key in ensuring different colours in paints aimed at replicating materials such as granite do not mix. Other applications of laponite involve wood coatings and coatings in the automotive industry. The talk was well structured, and offered a good insight into an industrial company and the work they do in the coatings sector.

The final speaker was from the company Samuel Banner and was about Biocides and related challenged. It was explained that biocides are chemicals added to coatings that are there to fight off fungal growth on or within the coating. There was a lot of information on the legislation to do with certification and how the industry needs to label their chemicals. One interesting point was that if a company makes a claim, for example, ‘kills 99% of bacteria’, it costs over £2 million to make that claim, and they have to back it up within 2 years of submitting it. This was the most challenging talk of the day to understand as there were a lot of acronyms without definition hence I felt it was aimed at the industry experts and did not engage enough with people from outside the direct circle of biocides.

All in all, it was a positive first experience at a conference. There were many important things the industrial world has to consider within chemistry which were highlighted and I can now reflect upon these when I am doing academic lead chemistry. It was also good to gain my first experience in networking opportunities.

The conference "8th European Conference on Precision Livestock Farming" was held in Nantes France. Cohort 1 research Adrian Ayastuy Rodriguez presented a poster and published a paper titled "Novel activity monitoring system based on smart collar and variational Bayesian learning of multivariate autoregressive hidden Markov models".

Adrian found the research presented at the conference to be of interest and took the opportunity to discuss work on tracking animals and predictive healthcare with peers. In particular, new techniques for measuring animal weight without direct contact and new techniques for location tracking and behaviour recognition.  During the poster session there was significant interest in Adrian’s work and the method used to analyse data. There is potential for new collaborations from these conversations.

On the final day of the conference there was an excursion to SPACE '18 an exhibition of livestock in Rennes. The exhibition allowed Adrian to meet distributors of animal collars, which he has been using throughout his research, and to discuss the technical aspects of sensors, the ergonomics of collars, and as well as the market and industry.

On the 19th/20th September the Digital Catapult Centre hosted the Entrepreneurship workshop, organised by the Digital Economy Network. Two PhD. students from the CDT-Embedded Intelligence, Orange Gao & Youssef Hamid took part on this experience which was a successful combination of workshops led by Prof. Philip Treleaven, UCL from UCL and practical hand’s one business creation simulations.

The round table workshops focused on entrepreneurship methodologies (Identifying your idea, branding and vision) and skills to acquire (Business model canvas, funding pitches). The PhD entrepreneurial journey was put in perspective by 4 real experience presentations where Ex-PhD students told the stories of their transition from a PhD student to a CEO or Confounders of their businesses.

Participants were encouraged to take a part pf the Dragon's Den competition where teams of 4 to 5 PhD students pitched their new business ideas to the event’s organizational board. The £1000 prize winner idea “Cycle Rack” presented a mobile app offering London cycling commuters a safe and affordable parking spaces. The winning team (pictured below left) included Youssef Hamid - CDT-EI, Alex Owen - Web Science CDT, Yitong Huang - Horizon CDT and Cristina Guerrero - IGGI CDT. The team on the right are Orange Gao - CDT-EI, James Burnett - Horizon CDT, Keisha Taylor - Web Science CDT, Faiza Bukenya (Sustainable Energy Tech PhD Student) - Uni of Nottm, Tugba Gurler (Computer Science PhD Student), Uni of Nottm.

Thank you to Felicia Black for organizing such a successful event and to Prof. Teleaven for bringing the entrepreneurs. You can read more about the Entrepreneurial Workshop on the DEN blog.

Den Enterprise

World Tribology Conference (WTC) is open to those wanting to highlight progression in the field of Tribology. The conference is held every 4 years and the venue changes on each succession. The 6th WTC was held in Beijing from 17th September to 22nd September 2017. Jamal Umer and Gajarajan Sivayogan were accepted to present at their findings at this conference.

WTC held over 1000 oral presentations and ad a wide range of applications where tribology is of high interest and important, ranging from bio technology, engine component and space. While many interested presentations ran in parallel, every day of the conference was highly useful for advancing research and seeing how others apply the same theory behind very different background.  

Jamal Umer presented his work on the friction optimization in internal combustion engines, specifically at the piston ring-liner interface. The lubricant-surface combination with various additive in the lubricant is critically analysed and explained with proper mathematical modelling is adopted to explain those results.  

Gajarajan Sivayogan presented his work on hypoid gears with particular interest on advancing current modelling techniques, with particular interest in how the lubricant behaves in such complex gearing systems. Automotive industry are highly keen on this as it can aid in reducing NVH issues, increase durability and ultimately increase efficiency.


Both CDT students found the audience to be engaging and very helpful in providing support and advice on where the effort for the respective investigation should go towards. In fact the same can be said for the whole conference and Beijing. Both the locals and invited people were welcoming and kind, the atmosphere of the event was a highly delightful and a wonderful experience all together. It is important to mention that this conference gave a best platform for networking and collaboration with the some world leading tribology’s and scientist across the globe.

Following on WTC, Gajarajan Sivayogan was also invited to present at International Conference for Advance Vehicle Powertrains (ICAVP) where this was based in Hangzhou, China. Gajarajan Sivayogan presented his collaborated work with a Master’s student Callum Oglieve on Lubricated Loaded Tooth Contact Analysis (LLTCA).  Where the main objective is to provide an alternative method to traditional Tooth Contact Analysis (TCA). The key differentiator between LLTCA and ordinary TCA is that TCA does contact consider rheology aspects, where the new proposed process does. 

Like WTC, the audience in ICAVP were highly interested in the topic and highly engaged with the topic with very useful advice on how to improve the work further.

Overall the experience in China was unforgettable and invaluable and can be highly recommended for future trips…

Loughborough University academic and CDT-EI supervisor, Dr  Will Whittow, won the inaugural Men As Allies Award at The Women's Engineering Society (WES) Awards 2017.

On receiving the award Will has said "I'm genuinely honoured to win this inaugural award. There are many amazing people who work tirelessly to promote STEM and Women in Engineering. We need to work together to change public perceptions. Engineering is millions of well paid jobs and covers incredibly diverse topics demonstrated by the PhD opportunities at Lboro! We need diversity of people to continue to innovate. My 1st PhD student won the Sir Robert Martin Prize for the Best Loughborough Student. If she can do it so can you."

More details about WES can be found here.

EDF Energy Research Day

28 September 2017

Cohort 3 researcher, Robin Hamer, reports on the 3 day event organised by his co-sponsor EDF Energy for postgraduates, EDF personnel and academics. 

Day 1 – Monday 25th September

The first day of the event consisted of interesting talks from Xavier Mamo (UK R&D Director) and Jean-Paul Chabard (Scientific Director R&D). These talks consisted of EDF’s scientific plan, their 2020 and 2030 vision which included plans for innovation. It was useful to align my PhD with the future plans of EDF as it was possible to see the contribution that I could make. Furthermore, I gained an understanding of how the business operates more thoroughly, aided by the ILM assignments. The poster session provided an opportunity to network and share work with fellow PhD students, the directors of EDF and other academics whom were interested by the concept of ‘safety-II’, especially Xavier Mamo.

Day 2 – Tuesday 26th September

The second day consisted of more presentations from EDF employees, previous PhD students and technical presentations from current PhD students. The technical presentations provided a good insight into what other students at various universities around the UK were doing within the realm of the energy sector. Although my PhD seems to be very different from the purely Engineering and Chemistry based PhDs, it was still good to have some exposure to where my PhD fits in with EDF as a company, and the other students. Two presentations stuck out for me on this day: Paul Spence, EDF Energy Director of Strategy & Cooperate Affairs and Philip Ball, Leadership Development Partner. I enjoyed Paul’s talk about how EDF plans to grow, change and innovate to meet their 2020 and 2030 goals and I enjoyed the discussion regarding the imminent and future challenges, of which I posed my own questions. Philip’s talk about leadership and a technique to develop ones own leadership (Transactional Analysis) was very useful as we have not yet touched on it in our CDT training sessions. I felt the presentation made me more aware of how I act myself and thus how to best deal with others in a leadership role. The evening was a great time to relax and network in a less formal way as everyone headed to the pub and did an Olympic themed quiz. I found it much easier to talk to network especially with the higher up members of EDF as everyone seemed to drop their guard which made conversation and discussion much easier.


Day 3 – Wednesday 27th September

Day three was the last day and since we all left at midday not much happened on this day. Everyone had the opportunity to have a tour of EDFs on sight Geo-solar centre which supplies Cannington Court with 100% renewable energy making it fully self-sustaining. It was interesting to see the technology behind this initiative and to see how easily building can become fully self-sustained.


This event was in all a great success. It was extremely useful to listen to the presentations by employees higher up in the company whom exposed the students to the overall goals and vision of EDF. This helped us not only understand the different subsections of the business but helped us understand where our PhD fits into the bigger picture and thus gave us a sense of purpose and that our work was actually mattering. I found it very useful to network with other students and found that three other students at the retreat are from Loughborough also. I have definitely created some network opportunities and am looking forward to returning next year where I hope to give a technical presentation about my work.

Cohort 3 research, Jorge Garcia, attended the first ever International School on Computational Microscopy (ISCM) in the paradisiac Mediterranean coast of Amalfi, Italy organized by the Institute of Applied Science and Intelligent Systems of the Italian National Research Council. It reunited researchers, postdoctoral and postgrad student’s universities and international research centres. The main topic of the international school was label-free unconventional imaging systems, which basically consists on optical systems for imaging of microscopic objects without the need of marking them with external labels or fluorescent toxic substances. The sessions also focused on the synergy of technologic research and start-up companies with workshops and lectures conducted by successful researchers.

The lectures were carried by worldwide famous researches in the optics field from all over the world. Moreover, the new technologies and developments presented by the lecturers were outstanding. For example, Dr. Zalevsky from the Bar-Ilan University presented a project about a photonic “super ear” which was able to monitor heart beats and voice vibration from a long distance using a low-intensity non-invasive light source and a camera. Other highlight of the summer school was the workshop “Starting up your ideas” given by Dr. Park from the Korean company Tomocube. Dr. Park shared his experiences and advises in an interactive talk focusing on making the big step from research to entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the event was the perfect opportunity to make networking with other postgraduate student working in the field of optics and digital signal processing. At the same time the event included a poster session where the participants were able to share their work to the others. Jorge presented his project about a compact holographic coherent sensor, which was well accepted by the optical community in attendance.

In summary, the ISCM 2017 was a well-organized event where the new advances in the optical imaging field where presented. The relevance of this international school was to increase our knowledge on non-conventional optical measurements methods and being aware of what other similar research groups are doing in other universities around the world, meeting new people for possible collaborations in the future.

Welcoming Cohort 4

20 September 2017


To welcome our fourth cohort of researchers we held our induction week in the highlands of Scotland. Representatives from cohorts 1, 2 and 3 also attended to meet the incoming cohort and use the remote and idyllic location for a writing retreat.


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