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Division of Mechanical Engineering, Robotics and Design

Research Themes

The current research in the division includes the following themes (which are not exclusive):


Robotics is a multidisciplinary research field which has its foundations in several classical areas, including mechanics, control theory, electronics and computer science. Within our Centre for Advanced Robotics @ Queen Mary (ARQ), we aim to generate disruptive innovations in the research areas covering robot design and mechatronics, control and systems engineering, autonomous systems, field robotics, sensing and human-robot interaction.

Robot mechanisms innovation

Robot mechanisms is a fundamental research area with strong science elements within the multidisciplinary field of robotics. Our multidisciplinary team of experts explores in-depth principles and approaches for embedding mechanical intelligence in robotic systems design and innovation resorting to advanced mechanism theory, materials science and smart manufacturing techniques.

Soft robotics and applications in healthcare

Our soft robotics research looks at using compliant materials to design and build robots that can conform to their environment and work safely with humans. This enables a wide range of solutions that are applicable in the healthcare field, including soft robotic exoskeletons, wearable robotic solutions, and supporting mobility of disabled people, as well as assisting personnel in industrial operations.

Sensing and human-robot interaction

One important research focus is to create robots that truly interact with their environment. At the core of this research is the creation of systems that can manipulate objects and interact with humans using embedded force and tactile sensing technology to achieve appropriate and safe physical interaction with the environment.

Drones and swarm robotics

Our research on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), particularly regarding the multi-rotor UAVs at small scales and their related technologies, aims to address the ever-growing demand of UAVs in real-world applications such as in post disaster rescue, pollution monitoring, ecology, infrastructure inspection and smart agriculture. In addition, our researchers are solving fundamental questions for modelling the kinematics and dynamics of complex systems that involves a large number of agents and applications in swarm robotics.

Our specialised robotics teams within the division are:

See more associated teams »

Sustainable Energy

The division undertakes world leading research across a broad range of energy engineering systems. We are committed to the development of low carbon energy generation, energy storage, and energy management technologies whereby our interests span areas in wind, solar, wave, carbon neutral combustion and nuclear. Our group contains leading researchers in wave energy converters (WEC) who are currently developing the next generation systems. Underpinned by grant (LINK) we are working towards the large scale deployment of WECs with advanced designs for optimal control that provide maximal yet stable power generation. Our researchers are leading the development of green energy and waste heat powered systems that utilise both solar and wind power for the efficient purification and desalination of drinking water for third world countries (LINK). In nuclear energy we are developing advanced computational models that can predict reactor operations and assess the sensitivities and uncertainties due to unknown data and measurements.

Our expertise extends to thermal management of buildings and we are involved in the development of predictive models for optimising efficiency of rooms and building's air conditioning and heating systems. This work has expanded into the wider management of indoor environments for reducing the spread of airborne pathogens, such as Covid-19, both by the management of people movement in combination with room environmental settings, and via the use of Ultraviolet light inactivation.

Our people in Sustainable Energy: Guang Li (WEC), Nader Karimi (indoor thermal management), Andrew Buchan (nuclear fission energy), Hassan Shaheed (solar-wind-hybrid renewable energy systems)

Mechanics and Modelling

Research activities on mechanics and modelling span across Division of Mechanical Engineering and Division of Aerospace Engineering. The overarching aim is to develop innovative, robust and predictive models for guiding the design of energy efficient and lightweight engineering components. These engineering structures can be applied for mechanical, aerospace, energy, transportation and biomedical sectors, which are the key enablers to achieve the ambitious net-zero emission goal.

The development of new engineering structures is often costly and time-consuming, and heavily relies on trial-and-error approaches. To address this issue, a key research theme in the division of mechanical engineering is the Mechanics and Modelling. Our research includes a coordinated endeavour of solid mechanics, computational modelling and materials science. Our core teams are Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Group, Applied Mathematics and Numerical Methods Group, Mechanics of Composite Materials Group.

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Group (led by Professor Vassili Toropov)

Development of design optimization techniques for large-scale problems with computationally expensive and noisy function values (e.g. obtained by a crash simulation or CFD analysis), particularly based on multipoint approximation techniques, multi-fidelity modelling, evolutionary techniques. Improvement of reliability and robustness of engineering systems. Optimization of composite structures. Inverse problems including material parameter identification and structural damage recognition

Applied Mathematics and Numerical Methods Group (led by Dr Pihua Wen):

Development of new numerical algorithms including the boundary element method and meshless method. The research activities include the damage tolerance analysis and repair investigation for damaged/cracked structures, the interaction of solid and fluid, dynamic system, aerodynamics and biomechanics. The group has built up strong links with manufacturing industry including Airbus UK. The group has participated and completed numerous numerical simulations for A340-500/600 and A380 including the buckling analysis, distortion analysis and creeping forming simulation.

Mechanics of Composite Materials Group (led by Dr Wei Tan):

Proposing novel characterisation methods to reveal the deformation and failure mechanisms of composite materials and structures. Developing analytical or computational models for predicting the mechanical response of composite materials and structures. Integrating data-driven approaches with advanced computational models to optimise the structural designs. Funded by an EPSRC grant (CELLCOMP), the group is now creating an intelligent data-driven virtual testing tool to enable rapid discovery, design and prototyping of cellular composites for crash energy absorption of future zero emission vehicles.