June 2021

In the last 6 days I have had 5 industrial project meetings (one quarterly review, one project end, one face-face on campus), submitted 2 papers, overseen 12 equipment procurements (£2.5M), costed up and submitted 5 grant submissions (value to Newcastle, £1.8m), marked several undergraduate reports and orals, been internal examiner for a PhD student plus a host of duties involved in being Chair of the Board of Examiners during results week. Time to breath now.

Still pushing on with research. Am expecting some testing to start in the next month on a pretty unusual machine which we have been developing over several years. Also, our latest linear machine has started its mechanical testing.

A bit rough round the edges, but some very creative assembly techniques used


The world is slowing down….so I can summarise most of 2020 into one post.

As we move towards a high TRL design, progress for some of our work has slowed down as we all evacuated campus in March 2020. During lockdown I have done virtual open day (study at Newcastle ? https://youtu.be/z1SrDCetrDE), virtual graduation, (good luck students) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_pkNNjjcpQ&t=201s , lectured a whole module from the bedroom, set and marked online exams. One PhD has passed his Viva and left Newcastle and I have performed 4 vivas… all without setting foot on campus.

For well over a year now I have been trying to supplement my research income with new grants (mostly renewable energy, but also machine design, biomedicine, machine manufacture). This has started to pay off now, as  I have won a number of really interesting projects. Some of the details are embargoed, but in summary

1, Feasibility study of installing tidal energy at a local site.

2, Working with wave energy developer to try out a new generator. Mocean Energy

3, Working with a major player in the UK electric motor supply chain to look at loss modelling of SMC components.

4, Working with a drives company on technology behind high speed units

5, A major Capital expenditure programme from the industrial stratergy fund. Various publications have gone live during lockdown, including Development and Testing of a Novel Cylindrical Permanent Magnet Linear Generator DOI: 10.1109/TIA.2020.2990114 ,  Manufacturing Challenges of a Modular Transverse Flux Alternator for Aerospace https://doi.org/10.3390/en13164275 and A study of a speed amplified linear generator for low-frequency wave energy conversion (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymssp.2020.107226)

I have also agreed to be guest editor on a special edition journal on generators for wave energy converters https://www.mdpi.com/journal/energies/special_issues/permanent_magnet_machines_wave_energy_converters

Autumn 2019

I have recently become the school of Engineering’s Deputy Director of Business and Engagement. This role covers aspects of internationalization, employability and outreach. It will allow me to continue my outreach and STEM work as well as enhancing the school’s engagement with industrial contacts.

In January 2019, the electric drive developed as part of our EDRIVE project was transported to Flo-wave tank located at Edinburgh University. It was mechanically coupled to a scale model of a submerged heaving buoy – a device developed by industrial partner Carnegie. The buoy, machine and power converter were tested in a range of sea-states and control regimes in the wave tank. At full scale, it is envisaged that the submerged heaving buoy would have the power take off situated below the buoy. For testing purposes, the power take off unit was located above the water line and coupled to the buoy via a pulley system. As the buoy tested was operated fully submerged, it had no hydrodynamic stiffness and was hence not representative of a whole class of wave energy converter. In order to demonstrate the EDRIVE system applying a variable spring stiffness, a surface piercing buoy was built (with thanks to mike @ https://www.fountaindesign.co.uk ) . To manipulate the resonant frequency to a representative sea state, it was coupled to a submerged mass. The hydrodynamics of the buoy were investigated by Elie Shami, a PhD student from RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

In August 2019 a final set of testing was done at FloWave. The new buoy had a distinct heave resonant frequency which as used to demonstrate the effect to of varying spring stiffness on the oscillation. In addition the maximum power transfer controller was used to tune the device at a number of different sea states. The controller was developed by Luke McNabb, who was visiting us from RMIT for 3 months. You can see Luke getting fully involved in the testing.

Between us, fully controlled direct electrical power take off of a scaled wave energy converter was hence demonstrated. A representative control algorithm was used to prove that electrical systems could control the oscillation, and that bidirectional power flow could be achieved in a pure electric drive train. Many thanks to Steve McDonald, Luke, Elie, Markus Mueller (Edinburgh) and Mike from fountain design (https://www.fountaindesign.co.uk) for making this project happen .

I recently discovered that ex-PhD students of mine are now working at universities in China and Iran, plus employed in the private sector in companies in Wales, England and Saudi Arabia. Reassuring that students I have worked closely with for at least 3 years are going off to do good things in the wider world.

A good day at work.

Taking machines from the computer screen to the laboratory and then onto a commercial product. This month I was coordinating work on the electromagnetic design, the mechanical design, the coil winding, component pressing and assembly of a new machine across 4 partners. Here is a 3d printed mock-up of a new stator design we are hoping to make from SMC.

In other work, we are approaching the build phase of a new linear machine, and closing the test phase of an in wheel motor.

Another first for me: visiting an undergraduate field trip. As part of the re-launch of our undergraduate degrees, there are some huge improvements coming on stream September 2020, including a field trip and an iinterdisciplinary group project including an electrical drive.

August 2019

Recruitment for September 2020 has started, with a University wide open day held over the summer. My first experience driving an electric car was parking this University owned vehicle in a prominent spot for the day.

Two weeks later summer graduation was held – there was a good range of students that I taught in their third year, plus fourth year tutees graduating that I have known since their first year. Amongst a focus of research impact it is easy to forget that graduated students are probably the greatest ‘pathway to impact’ for the university. Its also the time of year when you get to see the academic’s true colours.

This year’s E3 academy summer school was held in Oxford, including an impressive tour of the YASA manufacturing facilities (https://www.yasa.com/ ). A really pioneering British electric motor manufacturer. Photos from the summer school, including this one, and more information about E3 Academy in general can be found from their facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/eee3Academy

For the second year in a row I was delighted to be involved in a STEM outreach project at Beamish Open Air museum. The challenge was to build a crane, here are some of the designs from the school I visited

and here is an action shot of me acting as one of the competition judges.

In research, two of our papers were presented at the 12th International Symposium on Linear Drives for Industry Applications (LDIA) conference in Switzerland: One summarising the EDRIVE project (DOI: 10.1109/LDIA.2019.8771015) which won an award


– and one hinting at the next linear machine we intend to build DOI: 10.1109/LDIA.2019.8771011

A successful outcome for my (now ex) PhD Student M.A.H. Raihan as he passed his viva this month. Congratulations

In recent months I did a small piece of work to help a local firm trying to develop appropriate affordable wind energy technology for use in rural South America. Part of the university’s commitment to work with SMEs in the North East. https://www.ncl.ac.uk/work-with-us/expert-solutions/arrow/ . A nice project that I would have liked to spend more time on.

Driving the Electrical Revolution. We have known this was coming for some time, but it has now been formally announced that the UK government intends to invest £80 million over 4 years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy. It aims to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of power electronic, machines and drives (PEMD). Good news for those of us involved in electric machine design and passionate about low carbon technologies. More details about the first call available here.


Constructive Summer 2019

(Dr) Ahmed Almoraya successfully defended his viva this month, meaning he can return home with his wife and son, deservedly proud of his achievements in Newcastle. A good chunk of his work was accepted for publication in IEEE Transactions on Industrial Applications the day before his viva https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8719979 – also available here https://eprint.ncl.ac.uk/file_store/production/258207/D9F3FDD7-D697-4D0D-ABC9-CD8CBF74AB13.pdf . Some of his earlier presented work also came online this month. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8737130 .

In fact, recently many of our research outputs were released open source via the IET’s Journal of Engineering, e.g. work on linear machines https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8737123 , in wheel motors https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8737230 , tidal machines https://digital-library.theiet.org/content/journals/10.1049/joe.2018.9305 and current source converters https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8737122.

In the lab, two machines are now ready for test – both involving some pretty unusual manufacturing techniques.

Probably the highlight of this quarter has to be travelling to San Diego to attend International Electrical Machines and Drive Conference IEMDC 2019. At least 11 people from Newcastle attended this event. I was involved in work presented on free piston engines, aerospace generators and automotive traction motors. Also hired an electric scooter, went on some fast runs and enjoyed some California IPA.

Plans are afoot to return to FloWave wave tank in Edinburgh to demonstrate all electric control of a wave energy device. After successful tests earlier in the year proved we could demonstrate fairly simple control, we look forward to some more representative test to demonstrate altering resonance. With help from two new friends from RMIT Melbourne (Elie Shami on hydrodynamics and our visiting researcher Luke McNab on modelling and control).

Recent STEM activity includes showcasing an old undergraduate student project on a self-balancing robot, and advising primary school children about building cranes.

I await with excitement the viva for another PhD student who has just successfully secured an electromagnetic modelling job in North Wales

Circle of life

I seem to have a student at every stage of a PhD at the moment! This month has seen one student submit a thesis, a second reach the pinnacle “light bulb” moment where the whole story of the thesis became apparent (to me at least), a third sitting his viva this week, a fourth well on the way to assembling a machine and a potential fifth having been awarded funding to enable starting late 2019. At one point I had 8 concurrent PhD students, so I can take all these developments in my stride.

A new journal publication about the effects of coil pressing got accepted for publication this month –” Life-time Characteristics of Random Wound Compressed Stator Windings under Thermal Stress” in IET Electric Power Applications.   First time in an IET journal for me. Hopefully it will get picked up by the research community, as it is packed full of experimental reliability results and makes some interesting points about the practicalities of coil pressing.

I am looking to expand my research base into carbon life cycles, end of life disposal of motors and bio-engineering. This means a heavy focus on proposal writing over the coming months.

Two machines are slowly making their way from the computer screens into the laboratory for testing. We are doing some work on the practicalities of using slot wedges, and also winding tape rather than round wire. Quite possibly my favourite part of the job: do these machines actually work in practice. Both of these will be tested towards the end of the summer I hope.

I haven’t done much STEM activity this month, apart from partaking in a campus wide science week activity. Hoping to get more done later this term, before schools break up for the summer


New Year’s resolutions

Successful research requires the right combination of facilities, insight, people and money all being available in the right place at the right time. I’ve managed this a few times in my career and I’ve been lucky over recent years….but the whole process is cyclical and I am entering a stage where I need to secure more funding in the coming months to continue. I was unlucky with funding late 2018, so in 2019 I am going to focus on new opportunities – I have 4 potential projects in the pipeline…fingers crossed  …I am also starting to recruit PhD students for September 2019 entry.


As semester two starts, so too does my annual teaching load. In January I taught my smallest ever cohort of MSc students – learning all their names by the end of the week, which resulted in a really nice teaching atmosphere. I have changed the focus of my undergraduate renewable energy course coursework to designing a 5 MW solar farm in the South of England. Interested to see how they get on.

Newcastle University is one of just a handful of Russell Group universities to be awarded the TEF gold award for teaching excellence. The next submission, which is due in 2020, is going to be subject specific. I have agreed to be part of the Engineering team responsible for helping deliver our TEF submission –  a so called TEF coordinator for Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering..


In the last week of January we took one of our linear machines up to the flowave wave tank at Edinburgh University. At small scale, we were able to demonstrate direct drive electrical power take off of a wave energy device, including bi directional power flow to control the oscillation. Exciting stuff! This marks the beginning of the end of our EPSRC funded EDRIVE project.

The latest machine we have started to build is a radial flux, external rotor Halbach array machine, and Iago, a hard working PhD student, is in the exciting phase of planning the build of this machine. Meanwhile January also saw the submission of Ahmed’s thesis – after months of analysing the data from one of our linear machines.


End of 2018

Of the 4 of my PhD students that completed in 2018, I managed to get (rid of) 2 of them at the same ceremony. Congratulations Mehmet and Liam!

Over this last year I have had more linear machines tested than at any point in my career…but always as a passive generator. For the first time we managed to get one of these machines hooked up to a bespoke voltage source inverter to act as a controlled actuator. Watch this space next year for exciting results.

We are continuing or work with Protean on electric vehicle traction motors, with Iago delivering his annual address to his industrial supporters.

We are at the exciting planning stage for our next round of motor builds. As always, I thinks its pretty useful to mock up assemblies for those hard-to-imagine machines. Here is a potential assembly plan for Halbach arrays