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Kyushu University

10 Projects, page 1 of 2
  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/T005831/1
    Funder Contribution: 24,039 GBP

    This travel grant will enable Prof. Stephen Eichhorn (University of Bristol) to undertake collaborative work together with Prof. Tetsuo Kondo (Kyushu University, Japan) in the area of hydrophobic interactions in cellulose nanofibres. Cellulose is the most utilised material on the planet. Current annual production stands at a staggering 10^12 tonnes. Given its density this is about 20 times the volume of steel. It is primarily produced by plant cell walls but can also by some gram-negative bacteria and one known animal (tunicates). The structure of cellulose is such that chemical groups which decorate the sugar units making up the chains of the polymeric structure, are involved in hydrogen bonding - like in ice. This presents a dichotomy, in that although the basic sugars that make up cellulose are soluble in water, the polymer cellulose is not. This is usually attributed to the extensive hydrogen bonding present but given that the material will not dissolve in most solvents, this is now thought to not be the only contributing factor. Recently, the concept of a hydrophobic interaction (where two water 'hating' surfaces come together) within the cellulose structure, between the faces of the glucose rings, has been postulated - the so-called 'Lindman effect - as a limiting factor in its solvation. The hydrophobic effect itself is well-understood for relatively simple molecules, but for cellulose and complex macromolecules our understanding is still very much in development. Better understanding of this effect in cellulose could lead to greater exploitation of the material, particularly its use in composites by exploiting the inherent hydrophobicity of certain surfaces of a new form of cellulose nanofibre (a fibre with lateral dimensions <100nm). This form of cellulose nanofibre is produced by the group at Kyushu University using high pressure water jets - called Aqueous Counter Collision. The purpose of this grant is to form a collaboration to better understand the properties of this material. Professor Eichhorn currently has a large EPSRC funded program of research investigating the formation of hydrogels (EP/N03340X/2) using cellulose nanofibers; one potential area of exploitation is their use in composite materials. Professor Kondo has just received funding from NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization)- Feasibility Study Program to study the interaction of thermoplastic polymers with cellulose. The work from these grants, combined with this travel, will enable the group to establish some new research lines in this area.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: NE/W005247/1
    Funder Contribution: 493,089 GBP

    The geomagnetic field plays a key role in the Earth system by shielding the surface environment from a wind of charged particles emanating from the sun. However, this shielding effect is far from constant; the strength and structure of the field varies significantly in time. This can cause problems for international telecommunications and disrupt satellites as they pass through regions of weak field. To understand why the field changes we must look deep beneath our feet to Earth's iron core. It is in the core that our magnetic field is produced by an ocean of liquid iron alloy that is powered into turbulent motion by heat loss to the overlying mantle. Data from satellites and permanent observatories can be used to determine the magnetic field at the top of the core, but cannot directly provide information about the core's interior. Our understanding of Earth's magnetic field is therefore only as good as our knowledge of the core surface, and it is here that there have been significant new insights. Debate surrounding the dynamics at the top of Earth's core has persisted for over 40 years and has centred around one key question: is there a stable layer of fluid at the top of the core or is the whole core in turbulent motion? The distinction is critical because the existence of a stable layer would hide from observational view the key processes that generate the magnetic field in the core's turbulent interior. The two main tools for studying Earth's core are seismology and geomagnetism, unfortunately they provide conflicting evidence. Seismic studies find anomalously slow wave speeds in the uppermost core compared to what is expected for a turbulent region, implying there is a stable layer at the top of the core. Conversely, geomagnetic observations appear to require radial fluid motions at the top of the core, motions that would be absent in a stable layer. The crucial, and untested, assumption inherent in all previous work is that any stable stratification preventing turbulent convection in the core arises as a global layer. Using advanced computer simulations, we have recently discovered a new scenario is possible, that stratification occurs on a regional scale and not as a global layer. In our simulations, stable regions arise because the amount of heat leaving the core varies around the core-mantle boundary: radial motion in the core is suppressed by the unusually hot mantle under the central Pacific and Africa; conversely, radial core flow is enhanced where the cold mantle at American and east Asian longitudes draws more heat from the core. In this scenario, seismic and geomagnetic observations that apparently suggest different dynamics can be resolved within a single coherent framework. Our best estimates of temperature variations in the mantle suggest that both stable and unstable regions should exist in Earth's outermost core, the next step is to establish whether they do. A key aspect of this regional stratification scenario is that it can be tested using improvements in seismic and geomagnetic observations. We will test this model of regional structure and dynamics in the uppermost core by combining cutting-edge seismic processing techniques with state-of-the-art simulations of core dynamics and quantitative metrics for comparing simulated and observed magnetic fields. By enabling new seismic observations to drive new dynamical simulations and vice versa we will obtain a self-consistent picture of outer core dynamics and hence an improved understanding of how the core generates the magnetic field.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: ES/S014128/1
    Funder Contribution: 49,921 GBP

    Technologies of artificial intelligence are an increasing part of our everyday lives. Neural networks and deep learning find application in vast areas such as the financial markets and weather prediction. We are told that many traditional kinds of jobs may be in danger of being replaced by automation. Artificial intelligence can emulate human decision making, and software programmes can now beat chess masters. AI research in the UK and Japan are at the forefront of international advancement in the field. Programmes by London companies like DeepMind take the chess example to the next level of complexity by playing the ancient Japanese game of Go. In Japan, advanced robots that take on humanoid form have been deployed in healthcare settings such as minding older people. While AI and automation might better human chess players or risk to replace jobs, they can be seen as a partner in dialogue with human activity. This is seen in a compelling way in the world of art. While computer programmes have been created to generate visual images and algorithmically compose music, it is in partnership with a human artist that new forms of art can emerge. If an AI algorithm becomes part of the creative palette of an artist, what kinds of new work emerge? For an artist to be able to harness these advanced technologies, how do they need to be configured? Is the human artist a partner, master, or mere operator? How do these new techniques change our aesthetic sense and challenge what might constitute a work of art or piece of music? The Art, Artifice & Intelligence project brings together leading research labs from the UK and Japan to foster new partnerships to explore the creative potential of artificial intelligence in art and music. The Embodied Audiovisual Interaction (EAVI) unit from Goldsmiths, University of London, will lead the project in partnership with the SACRAL artificial life laboratory of the University of Tokyo and the Faculty of Design at Kyushu University. The project will facilitate exchange of academics, young researchers, and students between the UK and Japan to share knowledge and best practices in harnessing AI technologies in creative settings. The project activities will take place in a series of workshops - two in Japan and one in London - and in a 3-month residency for a young UK researcher to develop a new project in Japan. The results of the project will be presented to general audiences in public exhibition/performance events in London, and in Japan. We will work with cultural institutions such as the Barbican in London and the Yamaguchi Center for Art & Media (YCAM). The project will be a trigger for future large scale collaborations in art and AI between the UK and Japan, and bring to the public eye the rich histories, technologies, and critical perspectives that underpin our present-day fascination with artificial intelligence.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/V037862/1
    Funder Contribution: 395,232 GBP

    Organic semiconductors combine novel optoelectronic properties, with simple fabrication and the scope for tuning the chemical structure to give desired features, making them attractive candidates for the applications in almost every economic and industrial sector. Organic dye-lasers (optically pumped) are currently used in communication and medical applications because their colour can be easily tuned, and they are low-cost. However, the organic dyes used in these lasers cannot be electrically pumped because of the intrinsic limitations (poor charge transport and luminance quenching) of the organic materials, which remains a major challenge for the researchers to achieve better materials, processing methods and device architectures. This project addresses the research challenges in i) achieving high performance material combinations and device structures of novel light-emitting field-effect transistor (LEFET) that eliminate any inefficiencies for, ii) developing high speed optoelectronic devices and (iii) the creation of high current density and exciton densities above lasing threshold for suitable low-loss optical feedback structures. Electrically pumped solid-state organic lasers are highly attractive technology due to their potential in achieving colours at a relative ease, that are difficult to realise with inorganic lasers, and this will allow the improvement and creation of a wide range of new applications in communications, biomdecial sensors and displays.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/M014142/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,076,040 GBP

    A fuel cell consists of three primary components: the air electrode, fuel electrode and ion transport electrolyte. The function of these components is primarily to carry current, reduce oxygen and oxidise a fuel. As these devices are typically constructed using traditional manufacturing techniques there is little control of the atomic scale processes that occur at the interfaces between each of these components. As the electrochemistry that controls the fuel cell operation is correlated with the structure and strain at the interfaces between the components and with the electrode/environment interfaces, a clear understadning of these processes at the atomic scale is essential if optimised, high performacne, low cost fuel cells are to be produced. In this work we will use a complementary suite of advanced techniques, including X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Low energy ion scattering and crystal truncation rods to probe the structure of the interfaces, including buried interfaces, and link this with surface chemistry and fuel cell performance. Once these key factors are understood we will apply this knowledge to the design and manufacture of 2D and 3D electrode structures. We will engage with our international partners to complement the work undertaken at imperial and test devices with our industrial partner, AFC Energy.


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