Three engineering research projects have been awarded grants totalling £13.6 million to help solve "major problems" facing the UK.
The research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at re-using carbon, the fundamental design of major infrastructure constructs, and the way in which the complex behaviour of fluid flows are predicted.
EPSRC chief executive David Delpy said the projects are significant and will bring about advances in industrial practice at a time when the UK needs to "up its game" and build for growth.
"Research into re-using carbon can help us cut our carbon emissions, new design techniques will help us build safer structures and new industrial models will change the way the UK works," he said.
"These are exciting projects and demonstrate the role fundamental science and engineering can play in the future of our economy."
The projects encompass:
Professor Ray Allen of Sheffield University has secured a £4.5 million grant to develop new ways of capturing CO2 efficiently and study how it can be converted into a fuel.
If successful, the development could make a significant contribution to reducing the UK’s carbon footprint.
Professor Allen will lead a team made up of Sheffield, University College London, Queen's University Belfast and Manchester University.
They will work on a recently developed solvent which has been shown to be an excellent absorbent of CO2 and look at reducing the captured CO2 to a syn-gas.
Professor Allen said: "This is a difficult and highly interdisciplinary project but it is potentially extremely important. We are optimistic we will be able to find new, safe ways of re-using carbon to provide valuable energy."
A further £4.2 million has been awarded to Professor David Wagg and his research team from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea.
They aim to create new methods for designing complex structures such as bridges and aircraft, which often suffer from unwanted vibrations.
Professor Wagg, from Bristol University's department of mechanical engineering, said: "The complexity of modern designs has outstripped our ability to fully understand their dynamic behaviour.
"All our understanding is based on linear dynamics and we find it really hard to anticipate nonlinear effects. We plan to advance our knowledge in this area to develop a new and radical era of design for structures such as wind turbines, bridges, building, spacecraft and aircraft."
Professor Omar Matar is leading a team at Imperial College London in a £4.9 million project to design a new generation of modelling and simulation tools for fluid flow systems such as oil and gas transportation in pipelines.
Working with industry leaders including BP and P&G, the teams aims to improve industrial practice, making it more reliable and efficient.
Professor Matar said the work represents a "paradigm shift" in the way we think about the prediction of complex multiphase flows – integral to the design of virtually every processing and manufacturing technology.
"Currently, there is an over-reliance on existing models, which are often used beyond their range of validity. We want to change that culture and ensure researchers in academia and industry rely more on fundamentals."
"This approach will ultimately lead to more innovative and inventive products for us all, more reliable equipment design, with an associated reduction in emissions and our carbon footprint. This will be of tremendous benefit to the UK economy."
Posted by Jack Painter