Cutting edge research will be on display at The Royal Academy of Engineering’s annual Summer Soirée at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), on Monday 27 June, hosted by the University of Southampton.

Highlights include:

Ocean floor energy: the University of Southampton and NOCS are at the forefront of research on methane hydrates, ice-like deposits occurring in deep ocean sediments. These show promise as a major source of energy but could also trigger a dramatic acceleration in global warming if their trapped methane was released – they are already implicated in submarine landslides.

The thinking oilman’s seafloor survey: Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping plc, a spin-out company from the University of Southampton, is pioneering the use of controlled source electromagnetic sounding to test the resistivity of rock structures under the sea bed, which gives a very accurate picture of oil and gas deposits. Used to complement seismic surveys, it is already saving oil companies millions of pounds in offshore test drilling and might be used in future to assess and monitor rock structures during carbon dioxide sequestration. OHM was shortlisted this year for the Academy’s £50,000 MacRobert Award for innovation.

The fibre is listening: the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre has developed an optical fibre with an integrated vibration sensor that can detect sounds up to 20 metres away from the fibre over a total length of up to 40 kilometres. The system can distinguish simultaneous noises and identify their sources. It is already being used in smart structures to record stresses and also for earthquake monitoring. Another new biosensor chip simultaneously measures 32 different pollutants in real time and is already in use monitoring rivers and coastal waters.

Bubble bubble: the formation of bubbles and violent splashing as waves break transfers energy and mass between the atmosphere and the ocean and understanding this process is important in studying both climate change and coastal erosion. Research at the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research and the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment aims to demystify the turbulent interface between water, air and seashore using novel probes based on optical fibres. Understanding how dolphins manage to use sonar in bubbly water could lead to improved design of human sonar equipment, which is currently limited in turbulent coastal areas.

Virtual Trafalgar: see the Battle of Trafalgar from every angle as you’ve never seen it before. Final year engineering students have developed a virtual maritime environment to create realistic simulations of ships from HMS Victory to modern yachts.

Guest of Honour HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Senior Fellow of the Academy, will also formally rename the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (formerly the Southampton Oceanography Centre).

Notes for editors

  1. Members of the media are invited to visit the Soirée exhibition during the afternoon of 27 June.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million. Southampton is one of the UK’s premier universities for Engineering, being highly rated for the quality of its research and teaching. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, Engineering at Southampton achieved 5* ratings across all Schools. Southampton degrees provide breadth and depth of study, enabling graduates to follow a variety of careers in engineering and other professions.
  4. Formerly known as the Southampton Oceanography Centre, on 1 May 2005 the Centre became the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton under the Directorship of Professor Ed Hill. It is a Joint Centre between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. The Centre is one of the world’s largest institutions devoted to research, teaching and technological developments in ocean and earth science. The UK ocean-going royal research ships, RRS Discovery and RRS Charles Darwin are based at Southampton. In 2006 a new vessel RRS James Cook will join the fleet, replacing RRS Charles Darwin. The Centre is also home to Autosub, the autonomous underwater vehicle and to ISIS, one of the worlds deepest diving remotely operated vehicles.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
or Sarah Watts at the University of Southampton
tel: 023 8059 3807
or Kim Marshall-Brown at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
tel: 023 8059 6170