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Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number EP/K038656/1
Title Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE): Addressing Challenges in Sustainability and Scalable Manufacturing
Status Completed
Energy Categories Not Energy Related 75%;
Hydrogen and Fuel Cells(Fuel Cells) 25%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields BIOLOGICAL AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES (Biological Sciences) 25%;
PHYSICAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS (Computer Science and Informatics) 25%;
ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY (Chemical Engineering) 25%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 100%
Principal Investigator Professor N Titchener-Hooker
No email address given
Biochemical Engineering
University College London
Award Type Standard
Funding Source EPSRC
Start Date 29 November 2013
End Date 28 November 2019
Duration 72 months
Total Grant Value £4,980,773
Industrial Sectors Construction; Energy; Environment; Manufacturing
Region London
Programme NC : Engineering
Investigators Principal Investigator Professor N Titchener-Hooker , Biochemical Engineering, University College London (99.986%)
  Other Investigator Mr SP Hanna , The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London (0.001%)
Professor M Miodownik , Mechanical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Professor R Catlow , Chemistry, University College London (0.001%)
Professor PF McMillan , Chemistry, University College London (0.001%)
Professor G Sankar , Chemistry, University College London (0.001%)
Professor A Penn , Bartlett Sch of Architecture & Planning, University College London (0.001%)
Professor P Treleaven , Computer Science, University College London (0.001%)
Dr D Brett , Chemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Professor A Gavriilidis , Chemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Professor M Coppens , Chemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Dr P Lettieri , Chemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Professor JM Ward , Biochemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Dr DG Bracewell , Biochemical Engineering, University College London (0.001%)
Professor A Pomiankowski , Genetics Evolution and Environmen, University College London (0.001%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Ltd (SFEL) (0.000%)
Project Contact , Johnson Matthey plc (0.000%)
Project Contact , Astra Zeneca (0.000%)
Project Contact , Aedas Architects Ltd (0.000%)
Project Contact , AFC Energy (0.000%)
Project Contact , Laing O'Rourke plc (0.000%)
Project Contact , ExxonMobil International Ltd (0.000%)
Project Contact , General Electric (GE), USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , Harris Corporation, USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , Antecy B.V., The Netherlands (0.000%)
Project Contact , Synfuels China Technology Co. Ltd (0.000%)
Project Contact , MATGAS, Spain (0.000%)
Project Contact , Maxeler Technologies Ltd (0.000%)
Project Contact , Particulate Solid Research Inc. (PSRI), USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , Quantachrome Instruments, USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation), Saudi Arabia (0.000%)
Project Contact , GSK (0.000%)
Project Contact , Dummy Organisation (0.000%)
Web Site
Abstract Evolution over the eons has made Nature a treasure trove of clever solutions to sustainability, resilience, and ways to efficiently utilize scarce resources. The Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering will draw lessons from nature to engineer innovative solutions to our grand challenges in energy, water, materials, health, and living space.Rather than imitating nature out of context or succumbing to superficial analogies, research at the Centre will take a decidedly scientific approach to uncover fundamental mechanisms underlying desirable traits, and apply these mechanisms to design and synthesise artificial systems that hereby borrow the traits of the natural model. The Centre will initially focus on three key mechanisms, as they are so prevalent in nature, amenable to practical implementation, and are expected to have transformational impact on urgent issues in sustainability and scalable manufacturing. These mechanisms are: (T1) "Hierarchical Transport Networks": the way nature bridges microscopic to macroscopic length scales in order to preserve the intricate microscopic or cellular function throughout (as in trees, lungs and the circulatory system); (T2) "Force Balancing": the balanced use of fundamental forces, e.g., electrostatic attraction/repulsion and geometrical confinement in microscopic spaces (as in protein channels in cell membranes, which trump artificial membranes in selective, high-permeation separation performance); and (T3) "Dynamic Self-Organisation": the creation of robust, adaptive and self-healing communities thanks to collective cooperation and emergence of complex structures out of much simpler individual components (as in bacterial communities and in biochemical cycles).Such nature-inspired, rather than narrowly biomimetic approach, allows us to marry advanced manufacturing capabilities and access to non-physiological conditions, with nature's versatile mechanisms that have been remarkably little employed in a rational, bespoke manner. High-performance computing and experimentation now allow us to unravel fundamental mechanisms, from the atomic to the macroscopic, in an unprecedented way, providing the required information to transcend empiricism, and guide practical realisations of nature-inspired designs.In first instance, three examples will be developed to validate each of the aforementioned natural mechanisms, and simultaneously apply them to problems of immediate relevance that tie in to the Grand Challenges in energy, water, materials and scalable manufacturing. These are: (1) robust, high-performance fuel cells with greatly reduced amount of precious catalyst, by using a lung-inspired architecture; (2) membranes for water desalination inspired by the mechanism of biological cell membranes; (3) high-performance functional materials, resp. architectural design (cities, buildings), informed by agent-based modelling on bacteria-inspired, resp. human communities, to identify roads to robust, adaptive complex systems. To meet these ambitious goals, the Centre assembles an interdisciplinary team of experts, from chemical and biochemical engineering, to computer science, architecture, materials, chemistry and genetics. The Centre researchers collaborate with, and seek advice from industrial partners from a wide range of industries, which accelerates practical implementation. The Centre has an open, outward looking mentality, inviting broader collaboration beyond the core at UCL. It will devote significant resources to explore the use of the validated nature-inspired mechanisms to other applications, and extend investigation to other natural mechanisms that may inform solutions to problems in sustainability and scalable manufacturing

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