Innovative Engineering

Our academic enterprise in innovative engineering centres on research that advances the fundamental understanding of engineering and applied science to create technological solutions to real world problems and needs. 

Through engaging in multi-disciplinary learning and research our undergraduate and postgraduate students develop the creative capabilities that enable them to gain outstanding skills and expertise in engineering design, innovation, management and problem solving.

Importantly, our expertise is leveraged through partnership working with industry and commerce to co-develop and apply our technology, engineering and management know-how. 

See examples of our global impact in innovative engineering >>

Student in an engineering laboratory

Improving root canal treatment

Bradford researchers have applied their micro and nano technology expertise to develop a new process and new material that have radically improved root canal treatment for thousands of dental patients.

Working with dental products company, DRFP, the Bradford Centre for Polymer Micro and Nano Technology team has developed DRFP’s idea for a better and easier way to fill a root canal’s cavity, especially the randomly-shaped ones. A bespoke material and a hydrophilic coating were created for the application to ensure a complete 3D seal– a major improvement on traditional treatment approaches. In addition, the Bradford team has been able to develop the polymer material so that it consistently combines the necessary ceramic powder ingredients to make it visible in x-rays and exhibits properties compatible with mass-manufacturing techniques - qualities that that DRFP had been unable to source anywhere else.

Technician using polymer machine

As well as overcoming the technical challenges of the material itself, the Bradford team has developed an automated production process using University micromoulding equipment and specialised techniques, which allows DRFP to meet the growing demand for its ‘Smartpoint’ root canal device.

Clinical trials have shown that the device has reduced the 5-year failure rate of root canal treatments from up to 30% to 1%, and patients have reported excellent healing and much lower levels of post-operative pain.

The technology has won several awards and DRFP has both expanded its product range and is scaling up its production after securing FDA approval for Smartpoint’s use in the USA. DRFP continues to work with the University in developing new solutions to manage the scale-up as the company grows and to refine its products further.

New polymer building materials

A range of new materials for the construction and medical industries have been developed thanks to the unique engineering expertise of researchers at the University of Bradford.

A team from the Centre for Advanced Materials Engineering has been able to apply its knowledge of polymers die drawing to develop a composite building material that is replacing wood in a wide range of applications. The new material is lighter, stronger and more durable than wood, whilst closely matching its structure and aesthetics. Patents have been filed in partnership with a US company, Dow Building Products, and a dedicated company, Eovations LLC, is marketing the potential of the manufacturing process and the material to architects, industrial engineers and product designers, with a reported increased market share running into millions of dollars.

die drawing rods on a table

Alongside this, the Bradford polymer die drawing expertise has also directly led to the development of innovative new ‘shape memory’ products for medical implants that help the surgical repair and healing of tissue damage, caused by injury and diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.  Researchers perfected a ‘micro-scale’ version of the industrial process for use with biocompatible polymers, and a range of shape memory devices for fixing bone and soft tissue in place that are activated at body temperature have been produced. A number of patents have been filed in partnership with global medical technology company Smith & Nephew, and the new bioabsorbable products are proving easier for surgeons to fix into place, with patients benefiting from faster recovery time from procedures.

Better braking systems for car manufacturers

Engineers at the University's Automotive Research Centre have been applying their expertise to the technical, environmental and economic challenges faced by major vehicle and brake manufacturers for over 20 years.

Working directly with Bentley, Ford, BMW, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Bosch and Toyota amongst others, Bradford has developed novel techniques and solutions that have led to increased safety, optimised performance, increased customer satisfaction as well as reduced manufacturing costs.

The team’s deep understanding of the underpinning science of dynamics, thermo-mechanics, contact and pressure distributions of components and the behaviour of materials under different forces has led to fundamental changes in the design of braking systems, components and materials used. In addition, the team’s ability to develop new techniques to accurately measure and predict performance at the design stage has been effective in avoiding later operational problems.

photo of man in automotive engineering lab University of Bradford

Bradford’s expertise has been used to investigate and fix specific problems such as brake judder and squeal noise – finally allowing one new vehicle to be released for production and substantially reducing warranty costs with another manufacturer.

Bradford researchers also share their knowledge with industry, through an annual “Braking of Road Vehicles” short course, attended by hundreds of engineers from all over the world, and regarded internationally as the ‘industry standard’ course in the road vehicle and braking industries. In addition, Bradford’s research is incorporated into Jaguar Land Rover’s in-house Master’s-level professional training programme.

Mapping traffic noise

Research in the Centre for Sustainable Environments at the University of Bradford using novel boundary element methods has resulted in more accurate and efficient predictions of the noise created by roads and railways and of how sound spreads from the transport corridor, enabling more effective design and positioning of noise barriers and earth banks. Bradford researchers refined two areas of modelling applied to noise prediction, which helped to ensure that two new models 'NORD2000 and HARMONOISE' were able to provide more accurate results.

NORD 2000 was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministries and is used by Scandinavian national and local governments, to predict noise from roads and railways. It is mandatory to use Nord2000 in Denmark for strategic noise mapping. The model is also used by the Federal Department of Health in Canada.

Lots of traffic on a USA street

Both models were incorporated into six new software packages used around the world to map noise and design noise reduction strategies and barriers, for road, rail, wind turbines and industry. The software packages – Predictor-LIMA, CadnaA, ExSound2000, SPL2000, SoundPlan and WindPRO – are used in over 40 countries, including most European countries, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, Chile, and Taiwan.

Reducing waste and noise

A sound-proofing material made almost entirely from recycled industrial waste has been developed by researchers in the University of Bradford Centre for Sustainable Environments.

Designed to dampen the effects of vibration as well as absorb sound, the material was demonstrated to be up to 50 per cent more effective than other materials on the market - despite being around three times as thin.

The University of Bradford set up a spin out company, called Acoutech, to commercialise the technology used to produce the material.

This technology was licensed to Armacell, a global company specialising in insulation products, which began to produce sound insulation products under the brand name ArmaSound. These have been used throughout the world in sound-proofed linings for vehicles and industrial-scale machinery.  The company is now able to use up to 95 per cent of its own waste materials to produce ArmaSound products.

Noise waves in colour

A real breakthrough for the technology came when it was approved for use in large-scale pipework projects. This led to the development of a compact insulation system that is now used widely to reduce the noise from large pipes at facilities such as petrochemical plants and offshore oil platforms.

In 2012 Armacell were awarded a contract to supply ArmaSound to the Gorgon Gas Project, a $45 billion natural gas facility to be constructed off the coast of Western Australia. This is the largest facility of its kind ever constructed and will use ArmaSound insulation in around 200km of pipe-work.

The technology developed at the University of Bradford has had a huge impact on large industries worldwide which need to control noise pollution. Not only has it been effective in reducing noise pollution, it has also created an environmental benefit, through using recycled materials that would otherwise go straight into landfill.

Through Armacell, the technology has created a significant economic benefit as well, creating over 20 jobs and enabling the company to achieve significant growth each year.