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06 June 2007

Four of UK's finest engineers honoured with Academy Awards

The Awards evening was sponsored by BAE Systems, BP, E.ON, Microsoft, NationalGrid and Rolls-Royce.

Four of the UK's finest engineers have won The Royal Academy of Engineering's prestigious Silver Medal this year for their outstanding personal contribution to British engineering. Academy President Lord Browne of Madingley presented the medals at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Tuesday 5 June.

"The greatest inventor is the engineer," said Lord Browne. "Engineers approach a problem in a manner which is both visionary and realistic - they draw simultaneously on science and business to provide solutions to challenges through the application of new technology."

The 2007 Silver Medallists are:

Professor Gehan Amaratunga is Head of the Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion group at Cambridge University's Engineering Department. He receives the Silver Medal for his pioneering development of special silicon chips with built-in high voltage power-switching devices. These integrated circuits are used in the AC/DC converters essential for most consumer electronics. He has formed several successful companies to commercialise his work, including CamSemi and Enecsys. His latest project is to develop nanoscale supercapacitors to replace batteries in products from electric vehicles to PDAs. Gehan and his team have grown forests of multi-walled carbon tubes just billionths of a metre wide. When sandwiched with silicon nitride between niobium and aluminium electrodes they create a tiny capacitor that packs a real punch in terms of energy storage.

As Director of Imperial College London's Energy Futures Lab and Shell Chair in Sustainable Development in Energy, Professor Nigel Brandon is leading the way in fuel cell technology in the UK. He was co-inventor of the Rolls Royce Integrated Planar Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, which operates at over 900 degrees Centigrade and can be integrated with a gas turbine. This gives megawatt scale power generation with 70 per cent efficiency and is now exploited through Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems. Professor Brandon also co-invented a novel metal-supported solid oxide fuel cell, and this work was spun out from Imperial College in 2001 to form Ceres Power with him as CEO. He is now Chief Scientist of the company, which successfully entered the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange in 2004.

Professor Christofer Toumazou heads the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. A world leader in current-mode analogue signal processing, he has created three successful companies including Toumaz Technology. During his PhD research, Chris tried giving current rather than voltage the main role in signal processing. This apparently simple insight transformed analogue signal processing, improving performance and slashing power consumption, which was critical for several applications. His work has recently moved towards bioengineering and he is now using ultra low power wireless to communicate with biosensors attached to or implanted in the human body. A complete cochlear implant is now in clinical trials and he is also developing a portable real-time DNA sequencer - a major step on the road to personalised medicine.

Professor Chris Wise is one of what the architect Lord Rogers of Riverside calls a new generation of built environment engineers. Chris's legacy includes the pioneering Commerzbank in Frankfurt - 290 metres tall and the world's first 'green' skyscraper. At Arup, where he spent the early part of his career, he led the design of London's well-known Millennium Bridge with Anthony Caro and Norman Foster. With his team at Expedition Engineering, a new company he set up in 1999, Chris's latest projects include Italy's tallest building, the 220 metre Sanpaolo Bank HQ with architect Renzo Piano. They have also designed two huge hydrogen fuel-cell powered 'walking buildings' to be used as research bases on Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf with Hopkins Architects. After less than ten years Expedition now turns over £4 million a year and has just received its 200th commission.

ends

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy's Silver Medals were instigated in 1995. They are awarded annually to engineers who have made outstanding contributions to British engineering but have been working as an engineer for no more than 30 years. Up to four medals may be awarded each year.

  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.

For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering

Tel. 020 7227 0536, email: jane...@...org.uk

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