Imperial College London
⚗️ Industry consortium to develop modern chemical manufacturing methods
A major consortium led by Imperial and chemical company BASF is to help make chemical manufacturing more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. Imperial will receive £17.8 million from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners under the EPSRC Prosperity Partnership programme in a consortium of organisations from across the chemicals value chain.
“Flow chemistry is inherently more sustainable than batch processing because it makes better use of heat and materials,” said lead investigator Professor Mimi Hii from Imperial’s Department of Chemistry. “It can also provide a powerful tool for automating production and the research and development of more sustainable processes. However, there are technical bottlenecks that are holding back its full implementation. Through this new consortium we will be in a strong position to address these.”
Flexible robotic arm put to work with AR
According to Imperial, the flexible arm can twist and turn in all directions, making it customisable for applications in manufacturing, spacecraft maintenance, and injury rehabilitation. In use, people working with the robot would manually bend the arm into the precise shape needed for each task, a level of flexibility made possible by layers of mylar sheets inside, which slide over one another and can lock into place. So far, configuring the robot into specific shapes without guidance has presented challenges.
To enhance the robot’s user-friendliness, researchers at Imperial’s REDS (Robotic manipulation: Engineering, Design, and Science) Lab designed a system for users to see in AR how to configure their robot. Wearing mixed reality smartglasses and through motion tracking cameras, users see templates and designs in front of them superimposed onto their real-world environment. They then adjust the robotic arm until it matches the template, which turns green on successful configuration so that the robot can be locked into place.