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The UK has a strong transport industry, especially in the aerospace, road, rail and marine sectors as well as newer capabilities in intelligent transport systems. But the way that we use transport today is unsustainable in terms of energy use, impact, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The challenge is widely recognised and addressed by industry, government agencies, research institutes, national and European programmes, all of which share the aim of making transport more sustainable, seamless, competitive and responsive.

Our industry-focused research is based on:

Green transport

The growing demands on fossil fuels and their impact on the environment make it increasingly important to investigate the use of renewable energy in transport.

There is already some transport powered by renewable energy on the market, but this requires significant development to make it economically viable and efficient enough to be adopted more widely. The key to effectively using renewable energy in transport lies in the development of hydrogen, electric and solar power sources, and the storage of this energy.

Electrical power and power electronics


Our projects with industry have included:

  • Testing a fuel additive that reduces emissions
  • Modelling material properties for higher-efficiency power plants
  • Increasing the storage and energy production in thermoelectric generators

The Industrial Electrical and Electronic Engineering Research Group in our Department of Engineering is actively engaged in research into power electronic systems, novel electrical machines and drives.

There is a blend of interests and skills amongst the academic and research staff, providing a rare multidisciplinary strength to the Group that includes expertise in very high voltage and current, novel magnetic design and power systems.

The research aims to make significant contributions to the understanding and development of power electronics, machines and derived systems. Work ranges from fundamental research to industrial consultancy.


A wide range of facilities and equipment is available for industrial research, including:

  • Motor/generator sets of various power ratings
  • DC and AC variable speed drives and inverters
  • Ballard fuel cell
  • Battery test cell (including multiple charge/discharge unit)
  • Instrumented diesel generator set
  • Ultra-capacitor bank
  • Programmable power supplies and load banks
  • DC and AC machines (cage and slip-ring induction, PM and wound-field synchronous)
  • Power analysers
Centre for Advanced Electronically Controlled Machines and Drives

The Centre is developing a new type of electric motor that is energy efficient, electronically controlled and cheap to manufacture, which is essentially a permanent magnet-based brushless DC motor with few electronic components. The new motors are attracting growing commercial interest worldwide.

This research is of particular significance to aerospace, where high power densities at high speeds are essential. This is a new field and is also of considerable interest for military applications.

The research is also looking at development of a complete fuel cell based electric vehicle drive system using a Nexa fuel cell, ultra-capacitors for energy storage, and an energy efficient permanent magnet brushless DC motor.

We have had considerable success in developing a new ultra-fast battery charging technique using pulsed power electronics to enable lead-acid batteries to be rapidly charged without overcharging, excessive gassing, or overheating. 

Atmospheric chemistry


Our expertise in measuring the trace composition (VOC/OVOC) of complex mixtures of gases in real-time is being deployed through a new regional demonstrator project, RAFT (Real-time air fingerprinting technology). 

RAFT will encourage industry to adopt the technology and generate joint IP to better exploit commercial opportunities. 

Green chemistry

Another way we are driving developments in transport is by investigating how to increase the sustainability credentials of the materials used to construct vehicles. Our chemistry experts research green chemistry and materials, including the use of coatings.

Our work in this area is of particular interest to manufacturers of vehicle and components looking to increase the efficiency of vehicles whilst maintaining the economic viability of their products.

We work with clients of all sizes and have a range of schemes offering funded support to small businesses in our region.


At Leicester we have a dedicated team of inorganic, organic and physical chemists working together to develop the field of green chemistry.

They are mainly active in developing novel solvent systems (ionic liquids) with industrial applications such as electropolishing, metal oxide deposition and electroplating, and have built strong partnerships with industry.


Another area of transport sustainability we are working on is combustion, which enables the most efficient use of fossil fuels and renewable energy whilst reducing the harmful effects of high-temperature processes on air quality and the climate. These processes are also found throughout other industries such as materials processing, manufacturing and electricity generation.


Research projects in the field of combustion conducted by the Thermofluids Research Group in the Department of Engineering fall into two general categories:

Internal combustion engines

  • Evaluating a cleaning method for the Diesel Particulate Filter
  • Fuel system cleaning fluid for HDi Diesel car and van engines
  • Co-fuelling of a Diesel engine
  • Commissioning and testing of a Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) fuel system

Fundamental aspects of combustion

  • Ultraclean and flameless combustion
  • Thermoacoustic oscillations in applications involving the use of premixed flames
  • Aerodynamic influences on flame structure and on heat transfer from flames

Advanced automotive engineering

Our specialists in advanced materials help companies discover new ways to improve their products and processes, enabling them to compete globally. We work with the aerospace, space and automotive industries to develop innovative new materials, products and techniques.

Advances in materials have had a significant impact in the technology of transport such as fuel cells and batteries, superconductors and hydrogen storage, lightweight structures, smart coatings and insulation.

Testing of materials

When developing new materials it is necessary to be able to test and prove their efficiency, analysing their durability, weaknesses and performance.


Our academics have access to facilities for the testing of new and old materials and the modelling expertise to predict their characteristics. We have a number of specially developed testing rigs to predict in-service performance by recreating the operating conditions of engines. This enables us to test new materials such as diamond-like carbon coatings or assess the performance of lubricants. We have a complete range of tools for characterising coating performance in the laboratory.

We offer manufacturing companies research, support and consultancy services in:

  • Laser 3D vibrometry and structural resonance analysis
  • Casting defects and their avoidance - experimental, analytical and modelling
  • Aerodynamics/aerodynamic noise
  • Multifunctional composite materials and sandwich structures
  • Finite element modelling methods for impact and penetration failure of materials and structures
  • In-situ oil analysis
  • Modelling of casting and welding processes
  • Emission testing
Analytical services

A wealth of analytical services is on offer at the University of Leicester:

  • Mechanical and physical properties
  • Chemical and elemental analysis
  • Surface analysis and imaging
  • Mineral analysis
  • Archaeological analysis
  • Particle sizing
  • Powder analysis
  • Thermal analysis

Our equipment and methodologies include:

  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Field emission gun scanning electron microscopy
  • Electron probe microanalysis
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy
  • Gas chromatography mass spectroscopy
  • Mass spectrometry

Analysis of materials


The facilities include four instruments and the associated preparation equipment:

  • Omicron ultra-high vacuum scanning tunnelling microscope
  • Scanning probe microscope
  • Sirion 200 field emission gun scanning electron microscope with electron back-scattered diffraction and energy dispersive X-ray analysis
  • JEOL 2100 transmission electron microscope with EDX


The study of aerodynamics investigates the behaviour of gases when they interact with solid surfaces. It is vital to many industries, such as aerospace, automotive, military and power generation. In terms of transport design, improving aerodynamics reduces the fuel consumption and increases efficiency, speed and safety of vehicles.


At Leicester, we investigate new designs and conduct tests and modelling to ensure efficiency and safety. The Thermofluids Research Group specialises in the fundamental understanding of fluid flows, and how this can apply to industry.

The group is particularly interested in:

  • Turbulence
  • Acoustically-active flows
  • Unsteady aerodynamics
  • Reacting flows
  • Thermo-acoustic technologies

One of our key academics in this field is Dr Aldo Rona, who leads research into unsteady aerodynamics and flows; development of computational fluid dynamics software; and modelling noisy flows past aircraft pressure relief valves and car door seals.


The group has an extensive range of equipment available to businesses looking to improve their products:

  • Wind tunnel
  • Lab for gas dynamics
  • Hydraulics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Thermoacoustics

Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionise design and manufacturing.

In the Department of Physics and Astronomy, our experts are designing components that increase energy efficiency in transport through additive manufacturing.

We are looking for companies and research groups to collaborate with on current and future activities. For information on this project please contact Piyal Samara-Ratna on

Intelligent mobility

We can improve our transport system by using the latest advances in data technology to predict and control traffic.

Data from Earth observation satellites can be used to analyse pollution and congestion, with the potential to generate alternative routes that allow traffic to flow around urban areas more effectively.

Traffic management and Earth observation


At the University of Leicester, we have a strong track record in Earth observation techniques. Many of our academics work closely with industry, developing new products and techniques to manage traffic.

This helps businesses to better manage their fleet, saving travel time, fuel and improving carbon emissions as well as meeting the increasingly tough regulatory and stakeholder demands.

Services for business


The University of Leicester, in collaboration with Astrium, De Montfort University and Leicester city council is working on the iTRAQ project of dynamic traffic management system that optimises the use of the road network whilst sustaining high standards of air quality in urban environments.

The study will establish whether an integrated system of traffic and air quality management, strengthened through the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, air quality and meteorology data from space-borne assets, could provide societal and economic benefits through implementation at the local authority level.

The target market is anticipated to be that of the local authorities of medium to large towns with typically more than 200,000 people. The iTRAQ system was successfully demonstrated in Leicester in 2011, and development options into 2015 are currently in negotiation.

For more information about iTRAQ, please contact the Earth Observation Science Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.


CityScan, developed in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, constructs virtually real-time, 3D maps of pollution over entire urban areas of up to 25km2. CityScan undertakes monitoring of nitrogen dioxide and aerosols, effectively acting like a pollution radar.

Control systems


Our internationally-recognised Control Group in the Department of Engineering has an enviable reputation in the development and application of control system design methods, which applies to many sectors of industry, particularly aerospace.

The Group’s specialisms include autonomous systems and fault tolerant flight control systems design, with particular interest in unmanned air vehicles (UAV) and helicopters, the development of innovative routing algorithms, robust and stochastic control and modelling. The group is very well resourced with excellent computing facilities.

Unmanned air vehicles

Unmanned vehicles have been recognised as a major development area in the 21st century, due to their flexibility and reduced risk of human loss. Their major drawback, however, is the lack of human intelligence to deal with uncertainties. In the last few years, one of our major research directions has been on raising the autonomy level of such vehicles, including:

  • Mission scheduling
  • Path planning
  • Health monitoring and management
  • Reconfiguration
  • Network optimisation 

Robust control of constrained systems - helicopter flight control

We also research helicopter flight control systems, with industrial support from with QinetiQ, AgustaWestland and the NRC Flight Research Laboratory, Canada.

A Government-upported project, REACT (Rotor Embedded Actuator Control Technology), investigates control systems to reduce the vibrational effects of the main rotor, which will reduce pilot fatigue and maintenance costs whilst improving the performance of the rotor system using embedded actuators. 

Monte Carlo methods for the control of complex systems - Air traffic management

This research develops new methods for the control of complex systems based on the use of Monte Carlo methods. The research has focused both on rigorous theoretical analysis and on the development of challenging real world applications. The research has been applied to the design of innovative tools for air traffic management for two EU projects. 

Gain scheduling and LPV Systems – aerospace

Techniques developed at Leicester have been used in an ESA project to control the lateral directional dynamics of a re-entry vehicle. High performance robust gain-scheduling missile autopilots have also been designed with the tools developed at Leicester.

For more information please contact Dr Emmanuel Prempain.

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