Laser researcher to receive top engineering award

July 19, 2013
Lin Li, from the U. of Manchester, will this week receive the Sir Frank Whittle medal for his outstanding and sustained research achievements that have directly benefitted the UK economy.

Manchester, UK - Professor Lin Li, from the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, will this week receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering's highest accolades — the Sir Frank Whittle medal — for his outstanding and sustained research achievements for engineering innovations in manufacturing that have directly benefited the UK economy.

Professor Li, Head of the University's Manufacturing Research Group and Director of the Laser Processing Research Centre, pioneered the development of laser and materials processing technologies for manufacturing in several industrial sectors.

Collaborating with Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, this team developed a laser cleaning technique that has been deployed in the aerospace industry to replace conventional chemical cleaning for a range of component manufacture processes, resulting in reduced scrap rates and environmental impacts. This work will be the subject of a feature article in the September/October issue of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine.

Working with BNFL, Li and his colleagues invented a technique called "laser scabbling," which is now being commercialized for nuclear power plant decommissioning. A laser is used to separate highly contaminated surface concrete in a nuclear installation from the bulk concrete structure, so that the remaining bulk concrete can be treated as low-level nuclear waste, dramatically reducing the decontamination process and cost.

In collaboration with Delphi and GFH GmbH, he led the research in novel hole drilling techniques for fuel injection nozzle manufacture, which led to the worldwide applications of an electro-mechanical drilling technique in diesel cars and trucks with improved fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impact. His scientific work in the use of non-conventional laser beam geometry for materials processing has inspired car manufacturers for laser joining of car roofs utilizing special beam geometry for the control of heat flows.

Professor Li's expertise has also been called on by the medical devices industry in manufacturing devices like coronary stents and inhalers. Working with Swiss Tec AG, he led the research to investigate the scientific phenomena in water-assisted laser machining and fiber laser machining of coronary stents, which reduced the need for post-processing. Such a technique has been commercialized by Swiss Tec AG for the medical industry.

Professor Li also led research into the understanding of scientific phenomena in laser demetallization of nanometer thick metallic threads imbedded in transparent polymers, in collaboration with De La Rue Ltd. Such a laser etching technique is now being used for banknote security thread manufacture used in currencies of many countries.

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