The University of Southampton

Southampton hosts Launch Event for Flat Fibre research grant

Published: 17 June 2024

In May, the University of Southampton hosted the launch event for FOSSIC, a £2.2 million project focused on developing ‘flat’ or letterbox-shaped cross-section optical fibre, to improve the monitoring capability of high-value composite materials. The project is being led by Dr. Christopher Holmes at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC).

The event brought together key researchers from the University of Southampton and five other collaborating universities: Bristol, Nottingham, Warwick, Herefordshire, and Wrexham. Industry representatives also attended, underscoring the strong industrial support for the project, which contributes 10% of the total funding.

Christopher highlighted the benefits of this industrial partnership, explaining: “The relationship between us, as researchers, and industry is mutually beneficial. Companies supporting this project will gain early access to emerging technology while providing valuable feedback to researchers. This collaboration aims to maximise the project's success and its industrial impact, particularly in understanding and add adding value to the composite sector, through enhanced monitoring capability.”

Sir David Payne, a renowned figure in optical fibre fabrication, opened the event with a keynote speech. He framed the project within the context of the ORC’s strong tradition of advancing technologies from low technology readiness levels to successful commercial products and spinouts. David’s speech set an optimistic tone, highlighting the potential future impact of the FOSSIC project.

The event showcased the project's aims, which are to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of composite manufacturing. Flat fibre sensors will be designed to be integrated into composite materials and used to provide unique triaxial stress information. Used in manufacturing this will permit control feedback to optimise component quality and extend useful life once the composite component is in service. In turn this project is set to offer significant benefits to industries relying heavily on composites, including aerospace, renewable energy, civil infrastructure, and automotive sectors.

Attendees were introduced to the collaborative efforts planned for the next three years. The ORC team will develop the flat fibre sensors in the Zepler Cleanrooms, in partnership with the Bristol Composite Institute at the University of Bristol. Subsequent research at the universities of Nottingham, Warwick, Herefordshire, and Wrexham will then focus on applying these sensors in industry-aligned case studies.

The launch event marked a significant milestone for the FOSSIC project, aligning academic innovation with industrial application and setting the stage for future advancements in composite material manufacturing.

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