Academic to advance laser measurement technology thanks to funding award

04/04/2023
Professor Derryck Reid

A Heriot-Watt professor has received a prestigious funding award to advance a pioneering new laser measurement technique.

Professor Derryck Reid from the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences based in Edinburgh, has received £225,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Research Chairs programme. This forms part of a £1.15m package of support provided by the engineering and scientific technology company, Renishaw plc and Heriot-Watt University.

Over the next five-years and working closely with the industrial partner Renishaw plc, Professor Reid will explore how ultrafast lasers can provide exact distance measurements needed to advance high-value manufacturing and industrial practices.

Precision laser metrology uses lasers to accurately measure various physical properties, such as distance, position, motion, vibration, and surface characteristics. It is often used in industrial and scientific applications where high accuracy and precision are required such as aerospace engineering, nanotechnology and in the medical sector.

Professor Reid is one of only seven Research Chairs from across the UK to be selected in the latest round of awards announced by the RAEng today (Mon, April 3). 

Professor Reid said: “I’m honoured to have been selected for this award by the Royal Academy, which recognises the exceptional potential of the laser measurement technology that we are co-developing with Renishaw plc.”

The project uses the remote sensing technology, LiDAR, to accurately map a surface with unprecedented accuracy, utilising lasers capable of capturing data at hundreds-of-nanometre precisions, in contrast to the few centimetres normally possible with LiDAR.

This is expected to deliver major advantages to industries and sectors around the world, which rely on optical technologies to deliver accurate measurements.

Professor Reid explains: “This project will advance existing technology by using two lasers that strobe at slightly different rates. This effectively slows down the light travelling between the subject and the detector. This ‘slow down’ allows us to go from centimetre scales down to hundreds-of-a-nanometre.

“That is a huge progression on what the existing technology currently allows and will not only increase accuracy but help cut waste for companies around the world.”  

The Royal Academy of Engineering is supporting new partnerships between academia and industry aiming to develop advanced technological solutions to relieve overstretched health services, improve the digital security of nuclear facilities and critical national infrastructures, improve the sustainability of food production and improve the energy efficiency of computing systems. 

The Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships scheme enhances the links between academia and businesses with each of the five-year positions co-sponsored by an industrial partner. Each awardee will establish a world-leading research group in their engineering field. 

Professor Máire O’Neill OBE FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, said: “I am always impressed and encouraged by the ingenuity of engineers in developing and harnessing new technologies that address our many societal and global challenges and deliver public benefit. When research engineers partner with industry the solutions they deliver together can be transformative and these latest appointments illustrate this perfectly—the breadth and scale of their potential impact is truly exciting.” 

More information on the seven Research Chairs and three Senior Research Fellowships can be found on the Academy website.

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