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Systems analysis - from nanoscale to global

The UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £8.6 million to develop systems analysis for infrastructure planning and modelling of fluid dynamics at the nanoscale, in the form of two major research grants focusing on the development of systems analysis for engineering applications.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: ‘These programme grants will firstly help maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in the field of infrastructure design that takes account of the growing interconnectedness of real and virtual infrastructure at local, national and international scales.  Secondly they will boost our scientific knowledge of how flow occurs at the nanoscale so we can model systems more accurately and apply this knowledge to technical innovations.’

The first programme, entitled ‘Nano-Engineered Flow Technologies: Simulation for Design across Scale and Phase’ -- led by Professor Duncan Lockerby, University of Warwick -– brings together researchers from Warwick and Edinburgh Universities, Daresbury Laboratory, and industry to investigate how nano‐scale engineering flow systems can help respond to global health, transportation, energy and climate challenges over the next 40 years.

The team will aim to deliver new design techniques for flow systems at the nanoscale – a critical area of research to enable the development of visionary technologies. To develop these technologies safely, it is essential to get the fluids engineering right. Standard flow system design tools do not work at the nanoscale, so industry has no way of exploring and optimising possible new technologies. This programme bridges that gap, so that the non‐intuitive flow physics can be exploited to engineer technologies beyond any currently conceived.

The second programme, entitled ‘MISTRAL: Multi-scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics - led by Professor Jim Hall, University of Oxford– which builds on previous EPSRC investment in the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), a consortium of seven UK universities, led by Oxford, which has developed unique capability in infrastructure systems analysis, modelling and decision making. ITRC’s vision is for infrastructure decisions to be guided by systems analysis.

This project aims to provide decision makers with access to visualisations and other information that tells them how all infrastructure systems are performing. They will have models that help to pinpoint vulnerabilities and quantify the risks of failure. They will be able to perform 'what-if' analysis of proposed investments and explore the effects of future uncertainties, such as population growth, new technologies and climate change. 

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research invests more than £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to build and maintain the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.

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