Sustainable Design Research Centre

Theme Icon for Technology & Design

Sustainable Design Research Centre is led by Dr Zulfiqar Khan (Associate Professor) as Director. SDRC received its REF14 Panel Feedback as, “Sustainable Design Research Group had the highest proportion of outputs judged to be internationally excellent”. He is current lead/champion of REF 2020 UoA 12

Studies of surface wear mechanisms and integration of sustainable development issues within advanced engineering components and systems is the underlying principle of this research centre. Issues of tribology (friction, wear and lubrication), corrosion, thin nano-films and thermal behaviour are studied to help understand their influence on product durability and energy consumption. SDRC has significant industrial funding and partnership in research into structural integrity in terms of corrosion, corrosion condition monitoring and prediction, nano coatings, oil condition monitoring, renewable technology & rolling contact failure.

The activities of SDRC include four areas

  1. Tribology and Surface Engineering
  2. Renewable Technology & Sustainable Design
  3. Structural Integrity and
  4. Design Education.

The Centre has extensive experimental and analytical resources to assess wear mechanisms of rolling and sliding contacts, corrosion simulation, renewable technology and surface analyses. These include rotary tribometer, micro-friction machine, corrosion simulation chamber, solar-thermal heat transfer & thermal expansion bench testing, 2D and 3D surface analysis techniques.

We have formed strong partnerships with multinational companies such as SKF (Netherlands), Oakland Ridge National Laboratories (USA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Future Energy Source Ltd, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Ministry of Defence, Schaeffler, Energetix, Smith & Nephew plc, The Tank MuseumPoole Tidal Energy Partnership, Balmain Trust and have secured funding from The Royal Academy of Engineering and EPSRC.

Collaborative work is also being carried out with other universities such as Oviedo University in Spain, County Carlow Institute of Technology in Ireland, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee USAPES Institute of Technology Bangalore India and National Institute of Technology Srinagar India.

SDRC Research Themes

Tribology and Surface Engineering

Design for Whole Life Cycle managed Programme titled “Sustainable Development of Mechanical Systems using replacement environmental acceptable refrigerants” (£110K EPSRC plus £8K in kind from BP Castrol Technology Centre) was completed in this area of research. This research theme was further developed by another EPSRC funded studentship (£45K) with BP Castrol and Plint and Partners as industrial collaborators.

EPSRC previously funded two industrial CASE projects, “Sustainable design of lifeboat launching systems”, (£65K) and “Tribology Tests Using Oil Condition Monitoring Techniques” (£130+704K + 4K) with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This research is looking to identify a non-invasive condition monitoring approach that is suitable for the RNLI mode of operations and maintenance environment.

A BU funded research looking into Sustainable Design of Domestic Micro Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems was recently completed. Micro CHP systems are very efficient and effective in generating electricity and in producing heat and hot water simultaneously.

SKF Engineering and Research Centre (The Netherlands) have fully funded 3 PhD studentships (£38K, £54K and £57K), one fellowship (£70K) and a number of short-term projects (£16K).

Schaeffler is match funding a PhD studentship (£24K plus £36K in kind) looking into Electroplated composite coatings with incorporated nano particles for tribological systems with a focus on water lubrication. Schaeffler develops and manufactures precision products for machines, equipment, vehicles and aerospace applications. Schaeffler is a leading manufacturer of bearings worldwide and a renowned supplier to the automotive industry.

A current research [Dr Khan] to optimise thin nano-films through physical and chemical deposition for optical applications is in progress. This research is part of an exchange programme with Turkey.

Renewable Technology & Sustainable Design

It is envisaged that further expansion of this research area, in conjunction with a large commercial partner could potentially produce a substantive portfolio of academic activity.

Renewable Technology has been identified as a BU cross-school and cross-disciplinary area within the BU’s Technology & Design Theme. The research engagement and funded projects have significantly increased in a short period of time. SDRC has been actively engaged with Poole Tidal Energy Partnership. Students led projects in mechanical current turbine and heat pumps have been completed in partnerships with the local community interest groups and stakeholders in renewable technology.

This theme has led to strong collaborative links with industry interested in renewable technology/energy conversion.

Future Energy Source is fully funding (£49K plus in kind support £50K/year lab staff over four years, £10K/year estates costs over four years & £20K lab equipment in solar-thermal simulation and thermodynamics expansion lab) a PhD research in “Research and development in novel alternative renewable energy technology” and a second project (£48K) in “Experimental investigation and mathematical modelling of dynamic equilibrium of novel thermo fluids for renewable technology applications”. In addition another short term research project looking into quantitative assessment of existing bench testing in Renewable Technologies (£4.8K) is funded by Future Energy Source Ltd. A Future Energy Source Ltd is funding (£30K) a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) in “Modelling & development of novel sustainable Thermofluids” to be started in early 2016.

In addition National University of Sciences & Technology is match funding a PhD degree research in “Energy recovery at thermodynamic expansion and thermal boosting through convection in flat plate solar thermal systems” (£22.5K). The total research portfolio in the above theme for both cash and in-kind is over £400K (Z Khan PI).

Significant partnerships have been established with cross-channel academic and industrial partners within renewable technology in mechanical current turbines (tidal and fluvial) to work towards the EU strategy of renewable technology. AmpereWave has shown interest in research collaborations with SDRC. Balmain Charitable Trust is match funding (£30K) PhD in “An optimised tidal energy design for Poole harbour”.

SDRC is actively working with industry and continues to support renewable technology and sustainable design projects in the form of enterprise, short courses and consultancy.

The Centre has completed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) projects with Electronic Technician Limited. The partnerships were to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the companies through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills.

Structural Integrity

The Tank Museum at Bovington is one of the world’s largest museums which has over 300 historic military vehicles. These vehicles are subject to structural deterioration through corrosion, corrosion fatigue, stress corrosion cracking and mechanical failures. The Tank Museum at Bovington match funded (£25K + £3600) a PhD research programme in “Sustainable Methodology of Conserving Historic Vehicles”. This project provided an understanding of military vehicle preservation from a predominantly technical viewpoint with aspects of project management and ethics of museum artefacts. The interesting aspects of this project with the Tank Museum are the requirements to run and operate large and heavy vehicles after periods of non-use in various humidity and temperature environments.

The current research in collaboration with the Tank Museum has made significant contributions to knowledge creation and exchange through coupling research in UG and PGT live projects with The Tank Museum. The outcomes to date have been disseminated through prestigious international journals (Insight: Non-Destructive Testing and Condition Monitoring, Journal of Materials Performance and Characterisation, Engineering (ASTM) & Tribology Transactions), commercial articles and international conferences as invited keynote speaking at Cranfield University, Oxford University, Cardiff University, The Institute of Physics and Time Higher Education.

The findings have also attracted international industrial players in corrosion, structural deterioration and materials’ characterisation, who have been involved through in-kind support such as NASA Materials Testing and Corrosion Control Branch (joint research publication). BAE SystemsTechnology Design LimitedPANalytical LtdAnalatomPMI Analytical, Carl-Zeiss Cambridge and West-Dean Chichester (in kind £21K in total) in experimental resources.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Ministry of Defence is match funding (£22.5K) PhD studentship in “In-situ corrosion health monitoring and prediction in military vehicles.

Design Education

Teaching development based on research was the basis of the successful grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering grant in Sustainable development to second a visiting professor (£98K over five years). This activity has resulted in learning and teaching resource used for teaching all levels of design group programmes and by other UK and European universities.

The historical research area of the SDRC, as evidenced by the themes above, has revolved around the highly technical aspects of sustainable design, namely the techno-centric dimension. However, more recently, the research of the SDRC has expanded to encompass the socio-cultural aspects of sustainable design. Initially, this developed from the area of sustainable design education with the awarding of an HEA grant to build a web-based learning resource for the socio-centric dimension, however, this has now expanded through consultancy work currently being undertaken, and through current bidding for funding, for example, to investigate how product life spans may be extended by re-designing products with a focus on product attachment.

SDRC has established long standing collaborations with University of Wisconsin Milwaukee USAPES Institute of Technology Bangalore India, National Institute of Technology Srinagar India and Oviedo University Spain.

SDRC has visiting professors from PES Institute of Technology Bangalore India, National Institute of Technology Srinagar India and visiting research fellows from Oviedo University Spain.

Related links

SDRC International Partners

SDRC has established longstanding collaborative links with several academic institutions some of the key collaborators are

  1. Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences & Technology (MoU has been signed)
  2. National University of Science & Technology (match funded studentships)
  3. PES University (MoU has been singed)

SDRC Membership


Visiting Professors


Visiting Fellows

  • Keith Stokes
  • Dr Brian Parkinson
  • Dr Jose Luis Viesca Rodriguez
  • Dr Antolin Hernandez Battez
  • Dr Ruben Gonzalez Rodriguez


Post Docs

  1. Dr Adil Saeed

Current PGRs & Research Projects

  1. Development of thermally activated self-lubricated ceramic-based polymeric Nano composite coatings for enhanced performance in conventional lubricants under sliding contact (PGR to be recruited)
  2. Ulterius Corrosion Health Monitoring (UCHM) using Wireless Sensor Technologies (PGR to be recruited)
  3. Developing Thin Film Nano-Composite Coatings for Advanced Industrial Applications (PGR to be recruited)
  4. Energy Recovery at Thermodynamic Expansion and Thermal Boosting Through Convection in Flat Plate Solar Thermal Systems (FPSTS) (PGR Zakir Khan)
  5. Practice Based Design Research: Development of research models, methodologies and evaluation criteria appropriate to its intellectual culture (PGR Carmel MAHER)
  6. Experimental investigation and mathematical modelling of dynamic equilibrium of novel thermo fluids for renewable technology applications (PGR Helvaci HÜSEYN UTKU)
  7. Dynamic modelling of complex interacting systems deployed in harsh operating conditions (PGR Vivek Chacko)
  8. Recyclable Materials Applied to Small Marine Leisure Craft (PGR Abu Nasser SAIFULLAH)
  9. An Optimised Tidal Energy Design for Poole Harbour (PGR Adam ROBERTS)
  10. Research and development in novel alternative renewable energy technology (PGR Zheming WEN)
  11. In-situ corrosion health monitoring and prediction in military vehicles (PGR Mian Hammad NAZIR)
  12. Electroplated composite coatings with incorporated nano particles for tribological systems with the focus on water lubrication (PGR Rizwan BAJWA)
  13. A Market Driven Standard for a High Quality Graduate (PGR Iman NASSEF)


Latest news from Sustainable Design Research Centre:

  • Tsinghua University Collaborative Research Award

    Tsinghua University has awarded CNY 150K (approx. £15.5K) to support Zulfiqar Khan collaborative research in nano coatings incorporating corrosion for a multitude of industrial applications. The award will support his visit... »

  • BU research in corrosion: in the spotlight

    Taylor & Francis one of the major international publishers publishes a list of top 20 most read/downloaded papers in the Journal of Adhesion Science & Technology. Three of the BU’s... »

  • BU publication becomes one of Taylor & Francis’ most read publications

    Sustainable Design Research Centre recent publication “Modelling of metal-coating delamination incorporating variable environmental parameters” by Hammad Nazir (PhD student), Dr Zulfiqar Khan and K Stokes (Defence Science & Technology Laboratory Ministry... »

  • Experimental Resources for Research and Education

    The Sustainable Design Research Centre (SDRC) is pleased to announce the addition of new commissioned experimental resources to its lab. The new equipment will be used for both research and education purposes, including... »