Honeycombs are used because of their excellent density specific mechanical properties

Low-carbon manufacturing and sustainable technologies

Led by Professor Ken Evans, Professor Chris Smith, Professor David Zhang, Dr Stephen Childe, Dr Liang Hao, and Dr Oana Ghita

We are an international leader in low-carbon manufacturing. We have a comprehensive set of research activities concerned with how to enable industry to tackle the medium to long term business and sustainability challenges in product development and manufacturing. These activities span across low-carbon materials, products, manufacturing technologies, systems, supply chains, and strategies.

With increased pressure to deal with the problems of climate change, diminishing natural resources and energy security, major challenges for manufacturing industry include how to reduce carbon emissions, as well as materials and energy wastage over the whole life-cycle of products, from design to production including usage and decommissioning. Low-carbon manufacturing has become a new direction in manufacturing research. Our work attempts to find solutions to the above problems using a total systems approach.

Research areas

Light weight materials, honeycomb structures and their optimum usage in product designs

The research investigates new light-weight composite materials, as well as new types of honeycomb structures, for use in products, in particular in aerospace, automotive and construction industries, with the objectives of reducing materials utilisation in product designs and minimising weight, leading to greater energy efficiency of products in use.  We are particularly interested in optimising the structure of materials at the product design and manufacturing stages and in developing methods to support the design and manufacturing of sustainable products.

Low-carbon manufacturing technologies

We are interested in new manufacturing processes and technologies such as additive manufacturing and wastes and by-products recovery, as well as the optimisation of traditional processes to reduce materials and energy waste in manufacturing. We are also interested in technologies for tracking and modelling energy use in manufacturing and for enabling the use of renewable energy in manufacturing.

Low-carbon manufacturing strategies and systems

The capability to produce zero-emission products is destined to become an important part of a manufacturing strategy. However, how it relates to other capabilities in a manufacturing strategy, and how to formulate and deliver a manufacturing strategy based around “low-carbon” is a very important, yet unanswered question. Our whole systems approach to this problem aims to provide an integrated decision platform, whereby decisions with regard to alternative technologies, production plan, systems design, supply chain management, product/service integration, as well as resource/wastes reduction, recovery and reuse can be considered and supported simultaneously in the formulation and delivery of a low-carbon strategy. We are also interested in new manufacturing systems design methodologies and planning and control algorithms to support low-carbon operations.

Dr Oana Ghita is interested in the optimisation of the manufacturing process for reduced material and energy use by using in-process material monitoring systems (spectroscopic technology).

Low-carbon supply chains

For the development and implementation of a low-carbon strategy, taking a whole supply chain view is very important. The question is how to design, structure, adapt, and operate supply chains, to reduce wastes and emissions while satisfying business requirements and being reliable with respect to risk and uncertainties. Our research focuses on modelling, simulation and optimisation techniques to support the design and operation of low-carbon, stable, and reliable supply chains. We are also interested in how to formulate and deliver low-carbon strategies and improvement initiatives across supply chains.

Recycling and remanufacturing

An important aspect of low-carbon manufacturing is to make sure materials and parts from products after life are reused and recycled to reduce the waste of materials and energy from mining and production. We are interested in new technologies for materials recycling, such as composite recycling. More energy is saved by remanufacturing to produce the equivalent of new products by re-using existing parts.  We are also interested in new manufacturing strategies, logistic systems, and modelling and analysis tools for the implementation of remanufacturing.

Dr Oana Ghita researches into the remanufacturing of composites: Recycle and remanufacture of Glass Fibre Composite for transport systems. Novel methods of recovery of glass fibre through hydrolysis or mechanical technologies and reuse of components in composites for transport industries

Value co-creation for sustainable design, manufacturing and consumption

The big problem with our mass-production scheme is that it works by stimulating people’s demand for increased consumption. We are looking at new ways of designing, manufacturing and consuming products involving consumers in the value creation process, to help shape the structure of a new sustainable industry culture.