Heriot-Watt laser technology will boost new net-zero manufacturing hub 

Heriot-Watt scientists are part of a £13 million project funded by the UKRI Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to advance sustainable manufacturing. 

Heriot-Watt’s Ultrafast Optics Group will receive £1 million through the new Future Advanced Metrology Hub for Sustainable Manufacturing, led by the University of Huddersfield. 

The hub will focus on the potential for metrology, the science of measurement, to enable net-zero manufacturing. 

Laser measurement for sustainable manufacturing 

Professor Derryck Reid, head of the Ultrafast Optics Group, said: “Metrology is a crucial tool for enhancing manufacturing’s sustainability. It underpins the constant drive for accuracy, speed, reduced waste, reduced energy usage and enhanced product quality. 

“We’ll be working with the Huddersfield-led hub to advance our existing femtosecond LiDAR technology, which can measure distances with unprecedented accuracy. 

“In contrast to conventional LiDAR, which achieves a few centimetres of resolution, our approach has a precision of around one ten-thousandth of a millimetre.

“In the manufacture of high-value products, a product might start life as an inexpensive metal block before progressing through several stages of precision machining, each adding more value.  

“The cost of machining errors becomes greater at each stage, but their likelihood can be reduced by better metrology tools such as those we are developing, reducing waste and moving us closer to fully sustainable manufacturing.” 

Critical mass for groundbreaking technologies 

Professor Dame Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang from the University of Huddersfield is an expert in precision metrology and will lead the new hub. 

Professor Jiang said: “This new hub brings together a consortium of world-leading experts in metrology to address the significant challenges the manufacturing sector faces in meeting net zero goals. 

“The critical mass funding support from EPSRC is a reflection of the consortium’s research strength and capacity to deliver groundbreakingly new technologies.”

The EPSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, is funding the hub under its Manufacturing Research Hubs for a Sustainable Future initiative, announcing five with a total of £55m this week – all focusing on different disciplines. 

Professor Charlotte Deane, executive chair of the ESPRC, said: “Given the scale and importance of the UK’s manufacturing sector we must ensure that it is able to benefit fully from advances made across the research and innovation ecosystem.

“With their focus on innovation and sustainability, the advances made by the hubs will benefit specific sectors, the wider manufacturing sector and economy, as well the environment.”

More than 25 industrial partners, including Renishaw, Machine Tool Technologies (MTT), Taylor Hobson, Cummins and Siemens, are also a key part of the project.