Funding Award

Innovate UK Funds DIRDI Research on EM Metamaterials

It is with great pleasure that we can announce that DIRDI has been successful in applying for the Innovate UK – Accelerated Knowledge Transfer (AKT) scheme. The AKT Scheme aims “to deliver a short, rapid and targeted intervention to accelerate the evaluation or development of an innovation project or concept, which has the potential for significant impact for the Business Partner.” This collaboration will be between DIRDI Fellow Dr Mehdi Keshavarz-Hedayati’s lab at Durham University and Coltraco Ultrasonics, DIRDI’s industrial partner. 

The 4 month project aims to develop, by mid-2024, a novel, miniaturised, low-cost pressure sensor specifically designed for rubber seals in the maritime industry. Unlike existing pressure sensors, this relies on a physical phenomenon that has been relatively unexplored scientifically: a particular kind of electromagnetic metamaterial with unusual properties. The characteristics of this metamaterial will be utilised to develop cheap, high-sensitivity sensors for monitoring the efficacy of watertight seals. Metamaterials interact with electromagnetic waves in a manner dependent upon the resonant responses of individual constituents at the nanoscale. 

This project utilises the fact that these optical metamaterials, constructed from certain readily-available constituent materials, have been shown to have a variable response that can be predicted mathematically. It has been shown that even small pressures can therefore have a measurable effect on how the material interacts with the electromagnetic field. It is therefore theorised that these materials can be used to make a cheap, effective, miniature pressure sensor that could be mass produced to generate pressure data at regular intervals across the extent of any watertight seal.

There is a need to monitor watertightness and to improve safety in the shipping industry in particular, but budget constraints can discourage ship owners from spending on additional personnel. This project will develop a constant-monitoring solution based on a novel sensor design that enables cheap, mass-manufacturable sensors with the form factor required to measure pressure in watertight seals. Contributing to DIRDI’s aims of ‘Newtonian Discovery’ and ‘Edisonian Commercialisation’, this project will facilitate new research into a previously unknown scientific field, to provide a commercial product which improves maritime safety and efficiency.