The University of Southampton

60 years, 60 successes

Published: 27 June 2012

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, 60 of the University of Southampton's leading research successes have been chosen to illustrate the variety of research activities taking place across its Faculties, institutes and academic departments.

"60@60" successes from the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences include:

Improving coordination in a crisis. Professor Nick Jennings, who leads the University's Agents, Interactions and Complexity research group, has pioneered research into the use of agent technology in decentralized information systems, such as disaster scenarios. “Computers are much better than people at collecting and analysing large amounts of information,” says Professor Jennings, which is why he aims to produce systems where computers work together, negotiate priorities, and share information. Professor Jennings is currently leading the ORCHID project, which aims to advance research in the area of human-agent collectives. Exploring deep space. The LOFAR (low frequency array) telescope in Chilbolton, Hampshire is part of a Europe-wide network of telescopes using low-frequency radio waves to generate high-resolution images of space. Professor Rob Fender (Astronomy), who is leading the development of the UK telescope, says: "The quality of the images produced by LOFAR will help scientists to understand the fundamentals of astrophysics - the birth and life-cycle of stars and galaxies and the ultimate end points of stars and black holes."

Innovative research into dielectric materials. The Tony Davis High Voltage Laboratory is a unique facility that undertakes research in power engineering. “Elements of our work have been used internationally, and we have been invited to work with leading laboratories in Europe and China,” says Professor Paul Lewin, Director of the Lab. Research carried out in the Lab contributes to the maintenance of electrical infrastructure; helps to avoid costly equipment failures and develops more efficient ways to distribute power from renewable sources. Intelligent insulation that changes colour under high voltage is also being researched at the University of Southampton, as well as nanodielectrics and liquid dielectrics.

Advancing our knowledge of the oceans. As part of a long-standing collaboration between ECS and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), new technology has been developed in research projects led by Professor Hywel Morgan and Dr Matt Mowlem, including tiny sensors that can perform operations traditionally performed in a laboratory. These sensors can measure salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, temperature, chemicals, nutrients and pollutions, meaning that they can help scientists to collect important information about the complex ocean environment. These ‘lab-on-a-chip’ sensors are being developed for use commercially, and could be used to monitor pollution in lakes and rivers.

Opening up government data. Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt of ECS have been working with the UK government to create - a website designed to make government information freely available to the public. Information about education, traffic, taxes and crime is available, and can be used to create new software tools. Professor Shadbolt says: "Open data allows people to hold governments to account and improve public services. It is exciting to see Southampton taking a lead in the higher education sector."

Driving global advances in communication. Phototonics research, led by Professor David Payne of the Optoelectronics Research Centre is driving global advances in communications. “The whole global internet relies on our invention of erbium-doped fibre amplifiers that amplify optical signals to allow fast telecommunications,” says Professor Payne. The ORC has developed special optical fibres for a range of uses – from high-powered lasers for machining to the Moon Rover.

The University will be celebrating these achievements on Saturday 30th June, with a Community Open Day on the Highfield Campus from 10.30 am to 4 pm.

For further information about this news story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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