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Swansea University

Swansea University
Swansea University

Students: 21,500
Staff: 3,700

Contact for R&D Engagement:
Emma Dunbar

Research Strengths:
– Materials
– Aerodynamics
– Computational modelling
– Solar cells

Location: Engineering North, Swansea University Bay Campus

Space Research Areas:
– Materials
– Computational modelling

Point of Contact:
Professor Nick Lavery


Circa 10 academic researchers, 6 postdocs, 6 EngDs

Facilities & Equipment:
Workshop A:
– Hot and cold mills (for coiling, annealing, and forming steel sheets)
– Tensile testers for mechanical characterisation
– Fatigue tester (up to 600C, 20kN)
– Vacuum chambers
– Argon environment gloveboxes
– Multi-sample automated hardness indenter
– Centrifugal caster (for forming electrical steels at high silicon percentage)
– Vacuum Melter (up to 3000C)

Workshop B:
– Multi-material pushrod dilatometer
– Differential scanning calorimeter (measuring specific heat capacity, thermal
– Tools for measuring magnetic loss and hysteresis
– Spark device (measuring steel alloy composition)
– Scanning electron microscope
– Material store cupboard (40+ elements)
– 2x Renishaw powder builders (400/500W laser)
– ExOne innovent+ 3D printer (material is glued and cured before being sintered)

Collaboration History:
Ongoing and completed projects include AMAZE (additive manufacturing for zero waste), ZEAK with Innovate UK, PROSPERITY (an industry collaboration on materials research with Tata Steel), and EUROFERAP (working with the UK atomic energy agency on radiation-resistant steels). Software developed by MACH1 for discrete-element modelling has been sold to ESI Group.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
The centre has been funded through the European Regional Development fund to support the advanced manufacturing industry in Wales. The ability to engage with the full process
of manufacturing – from modelling through to physical testing – within one group is a significant strength. The expertise is concentrated in material properties research and component optimisation. Investigations into thermoelectric materials have relevance to space through power generation, while modelling and manufacturing projects have included alternative methods for Mars rover wheel design.

Geography Department, Singleton Campus, Swansea

Space Research Areas:
– Earth observation
– Environment

Point of Contact:
Professor Adrian Luckman


4 academic staff, plus similar numbers of postdocs and PhDs

Facilities & Equipment:

– Geophysical field instrumentation (including radar, active-source seismic and geoelectrical instrumentation)
– High Performance Computing through the Supercomputing Wales network
– Uses computer simulation and satellite remote sensing to investigate ice sheet

Collaboration History:
Observational research into calving models for ice sheets as part of the NERC-funded CALISMO project. Using magnetotelluric geophysical surveys to characterise geothermal flows in glaciers (GHOST, US/UK/Germany collaboration). Involvement in the BEAMISH project which set the record for Antarctic ice sheet drilling. Collaborative partners include the British Antarctic Survey, Australian Antarctic Division, and Alfred-Wegener Institute for Marine and Polar Research.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
The group includes world-leading research into the areas of ice shelf stability, iceberg calving, and solid earth interactions. In addition to field research and computer simulation, satellite data is used extensively to understand environmental processes taking place at the Earth’s polar regions.

Geography Department, Singleton Campus, Swansea

Space Research Areas:
– Earth observation
– Environment
– Meteorology

Point of Contact:
Professor Peter North


2 academic staff, 2 postdocs + several research students

Facilities & Equipment:

– Drone instrumentation for field surveys: fixed wing and multicopter UAVs with RGB, lidar and hyperspectral sensors
– Field mensuration equipment including sonic vertex and LAI 2000
– High-Performance computing facilities: Linux cluster and RAID storage
– Sun-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence instrumentation
– Additionally, the group works on algorithms for climate modelling and satellite data

Collaboration History:
Part of the National Centre for Earth Observation, and work frequently with academic partners such as Leicester, UCL, and Reading. Collaborations on space research include with UK Met Office, NASA, and the EU’s Earth observation programme Copernicus. Algorithms developed by the group will be used in the upcoming ESA projects TRUTHS and FLEX which aim to measure solar radiation and map global vegetation cover.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
The focus of research is on the downstream part of the space sector, but involvement in many of the space observation missions pre-launch ensures that instrumentation and
data collected is appropriate for the group’s research needs. The group has expertise on determining how natural and human processes impact the biosphere, with particular focus on how forests cope with wildfires and climate change.

Location: Engineering East, Swansea University Bay Campus

Space Research Areas:
– Solar cells
– Energy storage
– Materials

Point of Contact:
Dr Chung Tsoi


0+ total research staff, several directly involved in space research

Facilities & Equipment:

– Facility booking website allows colleagues from across the university to access equipment

PV characterization lab:
– 2x Solar simulators (large & small beam, AM0/1.5)
– Vacuum chamber (10-3 mBar, -200 to 350C)
– Light source performance measurer for LED & UV bulbs
– High-intensity UV light sources (365nm and 254 nm)
– Humidity chamber (testing for pre-launch degradation of PV)

Applied Photochemistry lab: (investigating causes of device degradation)
– Custom microscope setup which won Royal Microscopy Society award for
innovation 2021:
» Raman microscope
» Photoluminescence detector
» Photocurrent mapping (using Raman laser for excitation)
» Electroluminescence mapping
» 100nm step stage for measuring photocurrent x/y distribution » IR detector & silicon CCD for low bandgap semiconductors
– Vacuum/humidity chamber can be integrated with the microscope setup for in-situ testing
– 10-7 mBar vacuum anti-vibration cryostat (suitable for liquid Helium, 4K)

Fabrication facilities: (clean room at low humidity suitable for Perovskite fabrication)
– Spin-coater (for thin-film materials)
– Roll-to-roll machine for lightweight flexible plastic substrates
– 3x Nitrogen gloveboxes (with vacuum evaporation chamber for organic PVs)
– Injection printer (used to scale up fabrication)

Collaboration History:
Swansea is the principal partner on a 10-year EPSRC-funded project, working with Imperial College and 10 industry partners on emerging perovskites research. Collaborating with Airbus Endeavr on high-altitude pseudo-satellites. Researchers are often funded by industry, such as Renishaw’s sponsorship of masters and PhD students.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Within the centre, the focus of space research is on solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. It describes its approach to different PV types as ‘technology agnostic’ and conducts research into four different technologies for solar: perovskites, CZTS, organic, and dye sensitised. It was among the earliest groups to publish research into perovskites for aerospace use. Novel methods are being developed for deposition of transparent electrodes and scaling-up the production of printed organic solar cells using abundant, low-cost materials.

The OpTIC Centre, St Asaph

Relocating to:
Centre for Integrative Semiconductor
Materials, Swansea University Bay Campus

Space Research Areas:
– Solar cells

Point of Contact:
Dr Dan Lamb


7 research staff

Facilities & Equipment:
Thin film deposition and wafer processing:
– Deposition of oxides, chalcogenides and metal thin films
– 5x Metal Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition reactors
– 2x metal evaporators
– Industrial inkjet printer

Materials characterisation
– Environmental chamber
– Bend testing for flexible materials
– Four-point resistivity probe (for electrical characterisation)
– Scanning Electron Microscope with elemental composition determination (EDX),
optical microscopy, film thickness measurement and UV/visible/near IR spectroscopy.

PV Device characterisation
– Solar simulator (~15cm beam, AM1.5 & AM0) • Cytostatic I/V measurements (I/V vs T)

Additional capabilities
– Process improvement and troubleshooting
– Device efficiency improvement
– Calibration of reference cells
– Hybrid device construction
– Monitoring of processes and performance improvement

Collaboration History:
Within Wales, the group has been involved in collaborations with Aberystwyth and Bangor through the SPARC II solar photovoltaic research consortium. It was also involved with the University of Surrey on a successful mission to test the first cadmium telluride PV cell in space, which was launched on a joint UKSA/Algerian Space agency CubeSat and collected experimental data for 3 years. Industry collaborations have included First Solar (a US market-leader in thin film solar), Qioptiq, Surrey Space Centre, and GTS Flexible Materials.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Through the AlSat Nano solar cell project, CSER has direct experience of being involved in an experimental space mission. The centre has a strong track record for research into novel PV materials and devices. Beyond the fundamental research there is expertise in product development and device scale up towards commercial applications.

Engineering Central, Swansea University Bay Campus

Space Research Areas:
– Debris management
– Satellite communications
– Control and communication
– Propulsion
– Materials
– Aerodynamics
– Computational modelling

Points of Contact:
Dr Kiyo Wada (Satellite Design and Systems Engineering)
Dr Zoran Jelic (Materials and Propulsion)
Dr Ben Evans (Aerodynamics Design/Optimisation)


10 staff involved in space research (with more capable of space research) plus 15-20 PhDs

Facilities & Equipment:
Flight simulator lab:
– Merlin aircraft simulator rig (can also put in spaceflight parameters)
– Mars ascent vehicle simulator (capacity for different air densities)
– Upgrading to double capacity

Aerodynamics facility:
– Closed-loop subsonic wind tunnel
– 50m/s, 1×1.5m cross-section
– Gust generator, for creating turbulence – developing an active turbulence grid

Chemical propulsion:
– Mobile rocket test stand – solid rocket propellant ballistics test rig (for motors up to
0.13x2m, 180kN)
– Tests have occurred at MOD Pendine facility

Dynamics lab:
– Non-linearity & vibration research (aircraft structures and take-off stresses, based on
EU small-sat projects)
– Rotor dynamics – potential for Martian rotorcraft
– Dynamic prototype testing
– Turbine blade vibration testing
– Metamaterials testing with periodic structures
– Scanning laser vibrometer
– Microelectronic mechanical systems (for characterising micromaterials)

Collaboration History:
Involved in international consortium on joint mechanics with Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield, Southampton, Liverpool (EPSRC grant funded – digital twins for enhanced systems design). Work on propulsion thrusters with Surrey University and SmallSpark (Cardiff spin-out)
on low-cost launches. Other industry partners include ESA, Airbus, and British Cycling. Research into active debris removal has engaged with CGI and Astroscale.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Research is predominantly in aerospace rather than space, but most groups in the department have some capability for, or involvement in, space research. Researchers are exploring advances in space technologies ranging from the design of deployable space structures and space planes to debris removal, ion engines, space-based solar cells, and hypersonic aerodynamic modelling.

Engineering East, Swansea University Bay Campus

Space Research Areas:
– Satellite communications

Point of Contact:
Professor Amit Mehta


5 research staff

Facilities & Equipment:
– Electronics workshop with drill, laser cutting, and soldering facilities
– Printed circuit board facility, with photo-developer
– 3-phase transformer models for testing
– Solar PV testing rig

Collaboration History:
Industry project partners include Fujitsu, HP Labs, Sony, Airbus, MBDA, BAE, European Space Agency, MoD, and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
The areas of research focus are next generation communications (5G & 6G), Internet of Things, smart beamforming systems with AI, innovative antenna solutions, ultra-fast satellite communication, and optical communications.

AlSat 1N satellite with CSER thin-film cell
AlSat 1N satellite with CSER thin-film cell
Flight simulator rig, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Swansea Bay Campus
Flight simulator rig, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Swansea Bay Campus

Image credit: Dr Dan Lamb, Swansea

Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating

The centre focuses on science in support of industry. It is a world-leader in printing and coating R&D, with expertise on fluorescent/UV curing inks and flexographic printing processes. The majority of its collaborations are with SMEs, but it is open to engagement with other academic bodies, large industry groups and not-for-profit organisations. Relevant research includes printing antenna segments, lightweight electronic components, and printing heating elements onto fabrics (which could be used for flight suits). Its facilities include:

– Bioplotter – for printing biological materials
– Aerosol jet printer (10-micron width) – can print directly onto integrated circuits
– Reel-to-reel pilot coater with UV curing – 2m width, 100m per minute
– Screen printer – can be used in fabric printing
– Component assembly machine (Europlacer) for printed circuit boards
– Photonic curing system
– White light interferometer (accuracy measurements for small-scale prints)
– Rheometers and microscopes for printed material characterisation


Institute of Structural Materials

The Institute of Structural Materials is home to a Rolls Royce University Technology
Centre and Swansea Materials Research and Testing Ltd (SMaRT). The research focuses on high-performance materials in extreme conditions – particularly materials for gas turbine engines during take-off and landing cycles. There are facilities for testing including scanning electron microscopes (for textural and fracture analysis), static load testing (constant stress or constant strain), fatigue load testing (at 10-100 Hz), cryogenic test setups and vacuum furnace test frames. Research expertise developed here for the aviation industry has significant potential for testing space materials.


Energy Safety Research Institute: Battery and Energy Storage Facility

There are three research streams within the Energy Safety Research Institute: hydrogen, marine energy and energy storage. The Battery and Energy Storage Facility houses expertise in semiconductor research and coating technologies. The facility is developing methods
of batch processing for novel battery manufacturing methods. This aims to bridge the gap between research and industry scale production. The FLEXIS project aims to advance research which enables industrial decarbonisation and greenhouse gas reduction. This has significant potential for the space sector as it aims to use more sustainable technologies.


Zienkiewicz Centre for Computational Engineering (ZCCE)

Swansea University has been a pioneer of computational engineering techniques for over 50 years, having developed techniques such as the finite element method. The Energy and Environment Research Group and Aerospace Engineering and Structures Research Group are engaged in modelling work which supports aerospace and space research across the rest of the faculty. Bespoke computational fluid dynamics software developed by ZCCE includes LITE3D CFD suite (unstructured meshing and CFD solver for high-speed flows) and HiSMART for simulation of multiphase, reacting, and turbulent flows (e.g. for combustion modelling).


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