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Cardiff University

Cardiff University
Cardiff University

Students: 33,500
Staff: 6,900

Contact for R&D Engagement:
Amanda Roberts Jones

Research Strengths: – Astronomy and astrophysics – Propulsion – Space observation – Data analysis

Location: School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen’s Buildings, Cardiff

Space Research Areas:
– Astronomy and astrophysics
– Space observation
– Optics and photonics – Spinoff technology

Point of Contact:
Professor Matt Griffin
Professor Peter Hargrave

cardiff.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/ research-groups/chart

Circa 20 academic staff currently (but expecting to expand)

Facilities & Equipment:
Technology areas
– Detectors – MWIR – mm-wave
– Optics & coatings
– Quasi-optics & meta-materials – world-leading capability
– Filters, wide-band absorbers, polarization modulators
– Cryogenics – coolers, actuators, structures, thermal engineering
– Satellite instrument system design, mission definition
– Lasers & precision optics
– High-performance materials
– Precision manufacturing research

Collaboration History:
Strong internal collaborations, particularly with the Gravity Exploration Institute and
the Data Innovation Institute. Work on telescopic instruments includes the Simons Observatory, EXCITE, MUSCAT, ARIEL, LiteBIRD and the James Webb Space Telescope. The group frequently collaborates with universities and industry partners across Europe and the US. Technologies commercialised by the group’s spinoff vehicle (QMC Instruments) include Cardiff Filter Technology and Sequestim Ltd.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
CHART combines the university’s strengths in astronomy, astrophysics, and instrumentation into one of the largest astronomy research groups in the UK. The concentration of equipment and expertise allows it to pioneer space technologies from end to end: through design, construction, testing, and data analysis. The group focuses on driving research from a low TRL through to deployment, particularly sub-mm instrumentation for Earth and space observation.

School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen’s Buildings, Cardiff

Space Research Areas:
– Astronomy and astrophysics
– Space observation
– Optics and photonics

Point of Contact:
Dr Katherine Dooley

cardiff.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/research-groups/ gravity-exploration-institute

10 academic staff, 8 researchers

Facilities & Equipment:

– Sensitivity improvement research into the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in the US
– Research into gravitational-wave phenomenology and source modelling using numerical relativity
– Working on the design of the 3rd generation Einstein gravitational-wave Telescope
– Co-founded the British/German GEO 600 detector
– Equipment based at the university includes
» 1064nm lasers, amplifiers, and isolated optics table
» Co-located Michelson interferometer lab
» 500 MHz high-frequency digitiser for data acquisition
– Access to high-performance computing systems through Supercomputing Wales facility

Collaboration History:
Member of the LIGO scientific collaboration, which involves more than 1000 scientists worldwide and which announced the ground-breaking gravitational wave detection in 2015. Working with ESA on the proposed space-based eLISA mission.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Housing significant expertise in black holes and gravitational wave research, the institute was heavily involved in the first direct gravitational wave detection. It has developed cutting- edge techniques for processing LIGO and Virgo data and is engaged in research into complex astronomy topics such as compact binaries, neutron stars, and gamma ray-bursts.

Data Innovation Research Institute, Trevithick Building, Cardiff

Space Research Areas:
– Computational modelling

Point of Contact:
Professor Roger Whitaker

cardiff.ac.uk/data-innovation-research-institute/research/ computational-science-and-engineering

4 institute staff, with a large number of affiliated researchers from across the university

Facilities & Equipment:

– Analysis of gravitational and astronomical data from the Herschel Space Observatory operated by the European Space Agency (ESA)
– Simulations for major astronomical events such as stellar birth and black hole mergers
– Data analysis from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope and developing
adaptations to account for its increase in size and scale
– Handling large, complex geological, meteorological and climate data sets from a variety
of different sources

Collaboration History:
The Data Innovation Accelerator, which ran until 2021, was hosted by Cardiff University and encouraged companies across Wales to make better use of their data. Academic collaborations with Swansea and Bristol through the Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science, and with Swansea, Bangor, and Aberystwyth through Supercomputing Wales. Close engagement with the School of Physics and Astronomy on space-based research.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Set up to conduct fundamental research into the aspects of managing, analysing and interpreting massive volumes of textual and numerical information. It is the university hub for data science and High-Performance Computing – hosting Cardiff ’s hub for the Supercomputing Wales network.

Location: MOD St Athan

Space Research Areas:
– Propulsion
– Aerodynamics

Point of Contact:
Dr Rukshan Navaratne

Coming soon

2 academics, 4 postdocs, 5 PhDs

Facilities & Equipment:

– The Centre is still being established but aims to draw on the University’s expertise in propulsion, fuels, and aerospace research
– Test facilities are based at MOD St Athan
– Developing novel propulsion systems for space applications
– Alternative fuels research includes electric, hydrogen and hybrid power systems
– The facility will have the capability to conduct combustion testing on-site

Collaboration History:
The group members have a background in gas and hybrid propulsion, working closely with the Gas Turbine Research Centre. Previous relevant industry collaborations include BAE, Thales, Airbus, B2Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
The centre will have a research focus on aerospace propulsion, with a large section of this lying within the space sector. It aims to be at the forefront of research into low thrust and alternative fuels for space propulsion.

Cardiff Catalysis Institute

The Cardiff Catalysis Institute houses significant strengths which are relevant to space technology – particularly research into new materials. Well-equipped facilities housed on- site provide insight into catalytic processes and include an Xray photoelectron spectroscopy lab which is available for external university and industry engagement. It has a strong history of collaboration with industry partners to develop environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, expertise which could be valuable to the Welsh space sector as it aims to become more sustainable.


Centre for High Frequency Engineering

The Centre for High Frequency Engineering (and the Condensed Matter and Photonics Group) sits within the University’s flagship Institute for Compound Semiconductors – which engages with researchers and industry at the cutting-edge of semiconductor development. Research focusses on applications of electronic materials, wireless communications, and embedded systems. It aims to carry out industrially relevant activities, which have so far resulted in improvements in the security, advanced materials, energy, and health sectors. Techniques developed by the Centre have the potential to impact both the upstream and downstream space sector, in research areas such as control and communication and satellite communications.

cardiff.ac.uk/research/explore/research-units/centre-for-high- frequency-engineering

Condensed Matter and Photonics Group

The Condensed Matter and Photonics Group focuses on fundamental physics development and improving understanding of light-matter interactions, structural, and magnetic processes. It is equipped with a suite of state-of-the-art laboratories for electron microscopy and optical micro-spectroscopy. The Imaging, Sensors and Instrumentation research unit has world-leading expertise in cryogenic design and superconducting detector technology – which has applications in the field of complex astronomical instrumentation.

cardiff.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/research-groups/ condensed-matter-and-photonics

Gas Turbine Research Centre

The Gas Turbine Research Centre is based off-campus at the Engineering Research Building in Port Talbot. It houses a large test hall which is involved in gas turbine research for decarbonising energy and heating through alternative fuels. The Centre conducts research into the applications of pulse detonation engines for space propulsion. All testing can be remotely operated and some of the significant equipment includes:

– 100 Bar shock tube (for hydrogen detonation), a dynamic pressure transducer, and gas analysis probes
– Particle-induced velocimetry laser and tuneable dye laser (used give a 3D picture of the gas flow)
– Phantom camera and intensifier (up to 250,000 fps)
– Spray rig (fuel injectors) for phased doppler anemometry
– Auto ignition delay time rig (to test ignition temperatures of different fuels)
– Plasma assisted combustion rig (for ammonia decomposition)
– Hydrogen, methane, and ammonia storage and plumbing system
– Dynamic/acoustic instability monitoring
– Modelling capabilities

The centre is heavily invested in collaboration, working with academic partners such as Cambridge and Oxford on spectroscopy research as well as industry groups including Siemens, Rolls Royce and Tata Steel.


Computational Mechanics and Engineering AI Research Group

The Computational Mechanics and Engineering AI Research Group carries out research into mechanics of structures and materials which can be applied to address current engineering research challenges. The major focus of the group is on the modelling and optimisation of composite materials – a technique which is well utilised in the aerospace sector and could be translated to space.

cardiff.ac.uk/research/explore/research-units/Computational- Mechanics-and-Engineering-AI-Research-Group

Gas Turbine Research Centre
Shock tube and Phantom camera setup - Gas Turbine Research Centre Port Talbot
Sub-mm Instrument produced by CHART
Sub-mm Instrument produced by CHART
Image credit: Prof Peter Hargrave, Cardiff

Strengthening the space sector in Wales

Space Research Areas

Welsh universities cover virtually the full range of space research areas

Supporting Organisations

Nine organisations that support space-related research in Wales


The RAD capabilities and facilities relating to the space sector in Wales


Contact information for the Universities in Wales with Space sector capabilities