Two UofG engineers win prestigious research chairs

Published: 2 October 2020

Two UofG engineers have each received prestigious research chairs awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Two University of Glasgow engineers have each received prestigious research chairs awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Professor Douglas Paul and Professor William Sloan from the James Watt School of Engineering are two of eight global leaders in their fields from across the UK named today as Chairs in Emerging Technologies.
Over the next decade, they will each receive £2.7M in funding to support research to develop emerging technologies with a high potential to deliver economic and social benefit to the UK.
Professor Paul aims to develop cold-atom atomic clocks, accelerometers and rotation sensors that can be manufactured on single silicon chips and used for navigation without any reliance on satellites. Laser light is already used to slow atoms down by quantum processes and reduce their temperature close to absolute zero enabling accurate atomic clocks and quantum sensors but present systems are large, heavy and expensive. A portrait of Professor Douglas Paul in a lab environment
His research aims to develop chip scale quantum navigators that are sufficiently small to fit inside a mobile phone enabling resilient position, navigation and timing systems for all forms of transport.
He said: “I aim to be one of the international leaders in chip-scale quantum technology and the Royal Academy of Engineering Emerging Research Chair is essential to give me the time away from teaching and administration required to undertake the advocacy and leadership required to deliver this vision.
“I am presently working on three Innovate UK industrial projects aiming to translate quantum technologies into UK industry for secure communications to reduce banking fraud, automotive lidar that can see through rain, fog and snow to improve the safety of all road vehicles and the development of components for quantum computers aimed at improving the development of new materials and drugs.
“My vision is to deliver resilient navigation systems that do not rely on satellites that can be easily jammed but can also operate indoors, under the sea and underground where satellite navigation is not available. These resilient navigation systems are  aimed at reducing road accidents, improving navigation around factories, improving the logistics of the secure delivery of goods and the improved safety of workers in many hostile work environments."
Professor Sloan will develop new technologies to simultaneously tackle the most pressing global water problems and help decarbonise the water industry. Some 35% of the world's population, most of whom live in rural communities, lack access to either improved sanitation or safe drinking water. The western, centralised model for water supply and treatment is too energy- and capital-intensive to deliver sustainable solutions. Professor Sloan will harness the bioprocessing power of microorganisms to deliver clean drinking water and treat wastewater in rural communities using low-energy, sustainable, off-grid technologies.A portrait of Professor William Sloan
He said: “I am delighted and honoured to be awarded the Chair in Emerging Technologies and grateful to the Royal Academy of Engineering for their support.
“I have spent much of my career to-date researching the fundamentals of engineering biology in water systems. A suite of emerging technologies now presents me with the opportunity of applying the knowledge I have gained in new ways that will help to deliver clean water and sanitation to rural communities.
“With the 10-year RAEng Chair, and with the help of Scottish Water and collaborators in Thailand, Brazil and Canada, we intend to develop new off-grid water technologies for remote communities from the Scottish islands to tropical rainforests.”
Following the appointment of Professor Paul and Professor Sloan, there are now four Chairs in Emerging Technology at the James Watt School of Engineering. Professor Colin McInnes received the honour in 2018 to support a range of space-based research project. The following year, Professor Daniele Faccio of the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy won support for the development of imaging devices that combine artificial intelligence with emerging quantum detection technologies.
Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “When I see such exciting projects as these, I am genuinely heartened and optimistic about the engineering talent we have working in this country and the critical role our engineers can play in helping to tackle global challenges. These visionary engineers and the projects they will be working on are outstanding examples of why the Academy places such importance on supporting excellence in engineering as part of its strategy to achieve a sustainable society and inclusive economy that works for everyone. We expect great things of them all and I’m confident they will deliver results that will benefit the economy and society as a whole.”
The Chairs in Emerging Technologies scheme is made possible through funding from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

First published: 2 October 2020

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