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Bad Vibrations

Research supported by The Hallam Fund, is helping to save the lives of more than 16,000 premature babies who undergo potentially life-threatening journeys in emergency vehicles each year.

Through your commitment to the Hallam Fund, you're helping to save the lives of more than 16,000 premature babies who undergo potentially life-threatening journeys in emergency vehicles each year. 

£10,000 of money generously donated by you, alumni and friends of the University, has funded early stage research into a revolutionary material that can dampen the vibrations and sound which pose so much risk to tiny new-borns.

Professor Andy Alderson and Dr Trishan Hewage of Sheffield Hallam's Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) have been working on a new kind of auxetic metamaterial which behaves in a very odd way - it gets fatter when stretched and longer when pushed. When these unusual properties are combined, they have the effect of minimising vibrations and cancelling noise. 

The applications of this material are wide-ranging; however Professor Alderson and Dr Hewage are in talks with Embrace Transport, the Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children's Transport Service, about how the material can be built into the chassis of ambulances, the frame of the cot and in specialised headgear for babies. 

It is hoped that the material will mitigate much of the trauma babies experience during these journeys, which can pose such a threat that sometimes the transport missions are cancelled mid-way through the journey.

Since their research began, Professor Alderson and Dr Hewage have succeeded in taking the 2D model of the material and creating a 3D form. The next step for them is scaling the material down enough so that it can be incorporated into their chosen applications. 

The material has recently been featured in Advanced Materials, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world and the team are currently working to file a patent for the technology.

The progress Professor Alderson and Dr Hewage have made with the Hallam Fund research grant mean that they are now in a good position to apply for further funding. 

Professor Alderson said: "The research grant we received has been so crucial in getting our work to a stage where can see promising results. Consequently, it's been the key we hope will unlock further funding - so we can not only get the technology to a point where it is ready to be placed inside ambulances, but where we can begin to explore further applications, such as sports headwear to minimise the instances of concussion." 

The project has been selected as the University's chosen bid for the The Leverhulme Trust to establish a Research Centre which would be funded for up to £1m per annum to conduct innovative research of the highest intellectual and academic ambition. The chosen project is set to be announced in 2019.

To keep up to date with Professor Alderson and Dr Hewage's research into auxetic materials, plus other life-changing research supported by the Hallam Fund, click here.

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