New Energy Conversion Laboratory Opens at Heriot-Watt University

Professor Alan Miller, Dr Pachauri, Professor Steve Chapman and Professor Hari Upadhaya

Professor Alan Miller, Dr Pachauri, Professor Steve Chapman and Professor Hari Upadhaya

In a short ceremony on Tuesday on the 26th of February Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and director general of TERI (The Energy Resources Institute), opened the new labs.

In the Energy Conversion Lab researchers are developing low cost, environmentally friendly solar cell technology, which has a low upfront capital investment requirement, and is therefore suitable for countries around the world. The PV sector that looks set for double digit growth in the coming years with this low cost technology now having great commercial potential.

Professor Hari Upadhyaya, who recently joined Heriot-Watt University, leads the team on energy engineering at the University’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences and has over 20 years’ experience in thin film PV, establishing low cost (non-vacuum) and conventional (vacuum based) thin-film materials.

Following the Lab opening, Dr Pachauri, was then taken on a tour of the University including learning more about Carbon Capture technologies from Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer and was shown the new high speed rail testing rig by Professor Peter Woodward.

Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer and Dr Pachauri

Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer and Dr Pachauri

Professor Peter Woodward explains to Dr Pachauri the work Heriot-Watt is doing in high speed rail

Professor Peter Woodward explains to Dr Pachauri the work Heriot-Watt is doing in high speed rail

The Principal Professor Steve Chapman and Professor Alan Miller, Deputy Principal Research and Knowledge Transfer joined Dr Pachauri on the tour of the facilities with the Principal commenting “I am very impressed with the cutting-edge research Heriot-Watt is doing in solar cell technology, carbon capture and storage, as well as high speed rail. Working with industry on key projects such as these is vital to Heriot-Watt University as we continue to develop commercially viable solutions to global challenges through expanding our research intensification.”

Industry Day Speaker – Professor Hari Upadhyaya

Professor Hari Upadhyaya of the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot Watt University, will speak on ‘Building Integrated Photovoltaics: New Trends & Challenges’ at Industry Day 2013.

Hari Upadhyaya

Hari Upadhyaya

Prof. Upadhyaya is the Deputy Director of Institute of Manufacturing Process and Energy Engineering within the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot Watt University, where he leads Energy Engineering activities. Prof. Upadhyaya was leading the Thin Film and Excitonic PV group at Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST), at Loughborough University, UK before joining at Heriot Watt. With his past experience in thin film PV for over 20 years, he had established the low cost (non-vacuum) and conventional (vacuum based) thin-film materials and photovoltaic device processing research and characterisation facilities at new PV laboratory facilities at Heriot Watt. His research involves activities on Transparent Conducting Oxides (TCOs), Dye Solar Cell (DSC), hybrid solar cells, CdTe and CIGS thin film solar cell technologies. His research interests also include the electrochemical storage technologies,  rechargeable batteries and super-capacitors, where he was involved in pursuing research projects on Na- rechargeable batteries and ion/electron  conducting polymer based super-capacitors in India.

Prof. Upadhyaya came to UK from India through Royal Society Fellowship to work at Imperial College, where he established himself quickly as an expert in Dye-sensitised Solar Cells on flexible substrates. In collaboration with Prof. Michael Gratzel, the inventor of the DSC technology (EPFL, Switzerland) and Prof. Ayodhya Tiwari (EMPA, Switzerland) he had established over ~15% efficient record Dye/CIGS Tandem Solar Cells, which is highest for thin film based tandem solar cells. He is involved in managing several Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) such as Excitonic Supergen consortium involving top Universities in UK, and recent EPSRC-DST funded project between India and UK worth £5 Million as coordinator from UK. Prof. Upadhyaya has established strong links with industries in the UK and abroad.

Professor Upadhyaya will speak during Parallel Session 3 – ‘Energy Consumption & Usage in the Homes of the Future’. 

Printed human organs for testing and transplantation

This story has got been generating lots of media interest from around the world this week.

A specialised 3D printing process, using human stem cells, could pave the way to purpose-built replacement organs for patients, eliminating the need for organ donation, immune suppression and the problem of transplant rejection.

The process, developed at Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with Roslin Cellab, takes advantage of the fact that stem cells can now be grown in laboratory conditions from established cell lines, could also speed up and improve the process of drug testing by growing three-dimensional human tissues and structures for pharmaceuticals to be tested on.

3D printing with embryonic stem cells

3D printing with embryonic stem cells

New valve-based technique

A range of human stem cell cultures can now be grown, generation after generation, in laboratory conditions. Those cultures developed from cells from areas like bone marrow or skin are hardier but less flexible than those developed from embryonic material. While 3D printing of the tougher cell cultures has been achieved before, the new valve-based technique developed by Dr Will Shu and his colleagues at Heriot-Watt’s Biomedical Microengineering group are the first to print the more delicate embryonic cell cultures, which have an ability to replicate indefinitely and differentiate into almost any cell type in the human body.

Dr Shu said, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that these cells have been 3D printed. The technique will allow us to create more accurate human tissue models which are essential to in vitro drug development and toxicity-testing. Since the majority of drug discovery is targeting human disease, it makes sense to use human tissues.

Dr Will Shu LecturerSchool of Engineering & Physical Sciences; BioChemistry,BioPhysics & BioEngineering

Dr Will Shu Lecturer
School of Engineering & Physical Sciences; BioChemistry,BioPhysics & BioEngineering

Dr Shu’s team are working with Roslin Cellab, a leading stem cell technology company. The company has a good track record of applying new technologies to human stem cell systems and will take the lead in developing 3D stem cell printing for commercial uses. Initially this will be in the areas of novel drug-testing products but in the longer term there is the goal of growing purpose-built replacement organs.

“In the longer term, we envisage the technology being further developed to create viable 3D organs for medical implantation from a patient’s own cells, eliminating the need for organ donation, immune suppression and the problem of transplant rejection.”

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Digital tools for Design, Manufacture and Knowledge Capture – Professor Jim Ritchie to talk at Industry Day 26th February 2013

Jim Ritchie will be speaking at our Industry Day event on the “Sustainable Development: Infrastructure Challenges and Solutions” in session on Materials and Design technology.

Heriot-Watt’s Annual Industry Day takes place on the 26th February 2012. To register please click on

Professor Jim Ritchie is the Head of Institute (Institute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering) at Heriot-Watt University.

Jim Ritchie Head of Institute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering

Jim Ritchie Head of Institute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering

His research outputs have included digital tools for design and manufacture, including VR applications and logistics. The work exploits advanced digital techniques for improving the effectiveness of product engineering, for example in the use of knowledge engineering for product knowledge and information capture and reuse and the application of digital tools to design, manufacturing process simulation and planning.

He is a Chartered Engineer with substantial industrial and engineering management experience in both design and manufacture. He has also been involved extensively in TEMPUS, EU, EPSRC and KTP projects.

Other areas of research involvement have included capability maturity modelling of the engineering design process, quality methods in the food industry, laser cutting, austenitic manganese steel machining, transport management and rapid prototyping.

He has over 140 journal and conference publications, has presented the results of the IMRC’s work at a many international institutions and conferences and is regularly invited onto Scientific Committees associated with virtual reality applications in engineering.

His current areas of research interest include:
• Design/manufacture
• Virtual manufacturing
• Digital engineering
• Engineering knowledge capture
• Serious games for engineering.

Funding for Heriot-Watt to support further industry collaboration

Heriot-Watt has received £1.18m funding allocated to the University to help to build on the University’s already strong links with business and industry.

The funding, which has been provided by EPSRC under their Impact Acceleration Account programme, is part of a £60m funding package announced made by Business Secretary Vince Cable and designed to help support universities’ best scientists and engineers to deliver greater collaboration with industry, bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace, and help them become better entrepreneurs.

Impact Acceleration is designed to support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition, the ‘Valley of death’ between a research idea and developing it to a stage where a company or venture capitalist might be interested. It will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment: improving their knowledge and skills and returning to the lab with a better understanding of the way companies operate and the challenges they face.

Alan Miller, Deputy Principal (Research & Knowledge Transfer) at Heriot-Watt, said, “We are delighted to have received this funding which will be used to help support those trying to increase the Impact of their research.

“The funding will be allocated on a competitive basis to tie in with the University’s key strategic aims and builds on our £6.5m working with industry project which has, over the last three years, transfered knowledge and expertise to Scottish businesses, benefited the wider economy and fostered partnerships as well as creating 300 private sector jobs and supporting the development of 17 new companies through the Converge Challenge competition, run by the University.”

Launching the fund, which will provide a total of £60m to 31 universities across the UK, the Business Secretary said, “The UK’s scientists are some of the most innovative and creative people in the world, but they need support to take their best ideas through to market. This could be by establishing a successful, technology-driven SME like Space Syntax which I visited today.

“This investment I’m announcing today will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, generating commercial success to fuel growth.”

This investment will help Heriot-Watt to continue to work with industry and develop new technologies, some of which, as in the video below, has a direct impact on on people’s lives.

Heriot-Watt scientists hail artificial liver breakthrough – an end to animal testing?

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University are working towards creating the world’s first artificial human livers for drug testing to drastically cut the number of live animals used and get life-saving medicines into the clinic faster.

Alan Faulkner-Jones, part of the Heriot-Watt team, with the new artificial liver cells. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Alan Faulkner-Jones, part of the Heriot-Watt team, with the new artificial liver cells. Picture: Colin Hattersley


Dr Will Shu is leading the Heriot-Watt University team in the £100,000 project. Working closely with Roslin Cellab, the team aims to demonstrate how an artificial liver, created using human cells, could become a new testing platform for drug discovery and development.

The team is working towards creating miniature human liver tissues and, eventually, ‘livers-on-a-chip’, using novel technology that will ‘print’ the cells in 3D onto testing surfaces.

Dr Will Shu said, “If we are able to advance this technique, the medical benefits could be enormous.”

Testing new drugs currently requires large numbers of experimental animals. This work is expensive, time-consuming and is often inconclusive since drugs that pass animal testing usually fail during the even more expensive clinical stages of development, when the first human subjects are used.

Dr Jason King of Roslin Cellab said, “If successful, this technology will enable drug developers to test using human organ models at a much earlier stage. It should highlight drug failures well before they reach the clinic and help target resources towards the most promising new drug candidates.”

There is growing interest in the cell-printing technique from scientists internationally because 3D cells, such as those being developed by Dr Shu’s team, outperform cells grown in 2D cultures, which until now have been the standard in the drug development sector.

The research is currently funded by the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) INSPIRE programme.

Roslin Cellab is a Roslin Foundation company that offers contract research and is now using human cells to develop liver models for pre-clinical testing.

To read more, please visit the report on the Scotland on Sunday by clicking here.

Creating Black Holes in the lab – just another Thursday at Heriot-Watt

BBC article reveals the creativity in Heriot-Watt’s labs.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt are trying to generate exactly the same conditions that you would find around a gravitational black hole.

In an unassuming laboratory at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, they are ripping a hole in the fabric of space and time.

Not too far away, they are working with information that can mean two things at once.

They are two separate studies, but what they have in common is the interaction of light and matter.

Together they’ve won 3m Euros (£2.3m) in research funding. The money has come from the EU’s European Research Council as part of a programme to encourage creativity in research.

Continue reading at the BBC website.

Laser pulse

UWI Label – “Revolutionary Potential”

Today’s report on more funding for the UWI Label (pronounced yoo-wee) is a great step forward for a product which Heriot-Watt has had a major hand in creating and developing.

Inventor Pete Higgins hit on the idea of a smart label which would tell him how long any jar had been opened for, and therefore whether or not the food inside had gone off.  This would be indicated by a clear strip which over time would turn green, indicating for how many days, weeks or months have elapsed since the jar was first opened, depending on the contents, before finally turning red to show the food had expired and was no longer safe to consume.

Heriot-Watt has helped develop UWI's technology.

Pete Higgins, inventor of UWI, over jars with his labels attached.

Through Interface-the knowledge connection for business, UWI (Use Within) was introduced to Heriot-Watt in order to help advance the technology of the label and develop the commercial potential of the product. The collaboration received Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher funding, followed by  funding through EDTC and the Product Realisation Centre, and has given rise to an important and successful partnership between industry and academia.


UWI will revolutionise safety standards in sectors like medicines, aerospace, cosmetics and food and drink.
– Pete Higgins

This latest funding of an additional £250,000 from Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Investment Bank, £254,000 from a US private investor syndicate alongside £68,000 from private UK investors, is fantastic news, and will help advance the technology.

Heriot-Watt’s role in developing UWI

Spanning two of Heriot-Watt’s Campuses, Edinburgh and the Borders, experts were identified to evaluate the problem, and undertake research into the subject to find appropriate chemicals. With the help of funding grants, Robert Christie, Professor of Colour Chemistry & Technology, and Roger Wardman, Professor of Colour Science, supported the company  in to identify a range of chemical systems which have the potential to fulfil the requirements of the UWI Label.

The next stage was to develop a working prototype to show to investors, and demonstrate the technology to investors.

Top Heriot-Watt University academic, Dr. Will Shu, was asked to collaborate on the scientific development and overall design of the UWI Label, with the aim of it becoming a standard feature on every food jar throughout the world

2012 National Student Survey (NSS) results Heriot-Watt ranked as top university in Scotland


Heriot-Watt has soared up the rankings of the National Student survey (NSS) 2012, the results of which were published today. Heriot-Watt is now ranked Number 1 university in Scotland (up from Number 3 last year) and Number 4 university in UK (up from Number 29 last year).

Now in its eighth year, the NSS measures 23 core criteria of the student experience across 120 UK universities and higher education institutes.

Heriot-Watt University ranked top in the UK in:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Psychology (for the third year running)
  • Planning

Four additional subjects were ranked number two in the UK:

  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Marketing

Heriot-Watt University are in the top 10 for graduate employment in the UK with 94% of our graduates are in full time employment within six months of graduation. Click here to read more.

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