On 5th October, the annual British Engineering Excellence Awards (BEEAS) were held in the Honourable Artillery Company, London.
In attendance were industry leaders, all with the hope of winning a prize for their contribution to engineering. The event itself, launched in 2009, demonstrates the breadth and vitality of the UK’s engineering and innovation capabilities.
The University of Lincoln came second in winning the ‘Best Design Team’ award for their PRaVDA project, led by the University of Lincoln’s Prof Nigel Allinson, MBE, School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln.
You can find out more about the School of Computer Science online.
A leading scientist making major strides in medical imaging, which could make proton therapy a viable treatment for many more cancer sufferers, will present his latest findings – including a new type of proton imaging – at a prestigious conference next month.
Professor Nigel Allinson MBE, Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering at the University of Lincoln, UK, will appear among other world-leading experts at the Proton Therapy Congress in London this September.
Proton therapy is a form of radiation treatment that uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. It has several benefits, including less radiation damage to the normal healthy tissues around the tumour and potential to deliver a higher radiation dose to the tumour (increasing the chances of destroying tumour cells). Proton therapy is particularly important in treating children.
The Congress will bring together researchers, clinicians, manufacturers and many more in the proton therapy sector to examine the future of proton therapy. It will take place in London on 20th-21st September 2016.
The PRaVDA instrument is being designed to produce detailed 3D images of a patient’s anatomy using protons rather than x-rays, which has never been done before. To produce these Proton CT images, the world-first technology will use the same high energy particles that are used to destroy a tumour during proton therapy treatment.
Using protons to form an image of the patient will greatly improve the accuracy of the treatment. Using current methods, there could be a discrepancy of up to 1cm in terms of where the protons release most of their energy after passing through 20cm of healthy tissue. By using Proton CT, this margin for error can be reduced to just a one or two millimetres.
The PRaVDA researchers believe that Proton CT will soon be used as part of the planning process for cancer patients, as well as during and after treatment.
An international team of researchers will for the first time be able to demonstrate clinical-quality Proton CT to improve Proton Therapy in the treatment of cancer – moving a step closer to this improved treatment method being used to help those suffering with certain forms of cancer, particularly for children and young people.
Led by Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering Nigel Allinson MBE, from the University of Lincoln, UK, the pioneering PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) project is developing one of the most complex medical instruments ever imagined to improve the delivery of proton beam therapy.
The team has time on the South African National Cyclotron (a type of particle accelerator), near Cape Town, and hopefully later this year will have a world-first in showing clinical-quality Proton CT.
Professor Allinson said: “The uncertainties in where the protons lose their energy and do damage (tumour or healthy tissue) will only be eliminated by using the same type of radiation, Protons, to image and to treat. By delivering clinical quality Proton CT images, this project will greatly improve the treatment of cancer using proton therapy. Such therapy is particularly useful in the treatment of young people, those with brain tumours, and eventually it may help such stubborn cancers as lung cancer.
“It has been an extraordinary engineering feat – certainly the most complex piece of engineering undertaken at the University of Lincoln. It has involved the active involvement of six universities, four NHS Trusts, National Research Laboratories in South Africa, two specialist sub-contractors and numerous UK and European suppliers.
“The system including detectors of the type used in the Large Hadron Collider and CMOS imagers like those to be found in your smartphone but 500 times larger and working 20 times faster. There is enough processed silicon wafers to make more than 25,000 iPhone cameras. The data output of the system is equivalent to over 300 HDTV channels.”
The innovation will assist radiotherapists by helping them to achieve accurate proton CT images. Nearly half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their curative treatment, and most radiotherapy is delivered using high-energy external beams of x-rays. Proton beam therapy, however, uses a different type of beam to conventional radiotherapy. It uses a high-energy beam of protons. Like x-rays, protons can penetrate tissue to reach deep tumours. However, compared to x-rays, protons cause less damage to healthy tissue in front of the tumour, and no damage at all to healthy tissue lying behind, which greatly reduces the side effects of radiation therapy.
There are uncertainties in exactly where the protons will lose most of their energy and hence kill the tumour while not adversely affect healthy tissue. For a tumour 20cm deep inside a patient, this uncertainty is about 1.5 cm. Using Proton CT will eliminate all of these errors.
In November 2014 the consortium received a prestigious Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Award, named as the winner in the Model-Based Engineering category.
An exhibit detailing the University of Lincoln’s revolutionary research into cancer treatment will be one of many exciting and thought-provoking attractions as Spark Engineering Festival returns to Lincoln.
The University of Lincoln is working with City of Lincoln Council, Lincoln University Technical College, Lincoln College and a range of the region’s engineering firms to provide opportunities for people to learn about the city’s cutting-edge engineering and manufacturing sector; and to inspire the next generation to consider a career in the industry.
A three-day celebration of the city’s engineering past, present and future, the Spark Engineering Festival is free and will run from Friday, 17th April until Sunday, 19th April 2015.
The University’s input will focus on current engineering research projects, detailing the Lincoln School of Engineering’s work on power generation, systems control, automotive dynamics and manufacturing technologies for the food industry. The displays will highlight how this ongoing research impacts on the city and wider society.
Professor Nigel Allinson, MBE, from the School of Computer Science, will be showcasing the PRaVDA consortium’s revolutionary work into cancer treatment revealing the new technology they are developing for the treatment of cancer using proton therapy. PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) – one of the most complex medical instruments ever conceived – will let clinicians see in 3D how the protons interact with a tumour. Proton therapy has the ability to deliver high doses of radiation directly to a tumour site with little radiation being absorbed into healthy tissue.
PRaVDA is supported by a multi-million pound grant from The Wellcome Trust, and Lincoln-led consortium consists of six universities, four NHS Trusts and South Africa’s National Research Laboratories.
Dr Colin Dowding, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln, has also created a number of hands-on activities that will show young people the fundamental physical relationships that affect our everyday lives.
Dr Dowding said: “The Spark Engineering Festival has been developed to showcase the engineering expertise in Lincolnshire and to inspire the next generation to pursue a career in the engineering sector, contributing to finding solutions to many of the challenges we face as a society.
“The engineering courses offered by the University of Lincoln are unique in that the electrical and mechanical disciplines are not segregated. Graduates achieve a distinct degree qualification with emphasis on their chosen discipline but each student is constantly exposed to key elements of the alternate discipline. In this way Lincoln graduates are grounded in the core engineering sciences, ensuring that they are prepared for the modern team-based approach to problem solving. The School of Engineering offers a wide breadth of expertise and the University continues to build an academic community to help inform industry and develop new avenues of research.”
Alongside a giant pendulum hanging from the cathedral roof, other displays will include racing cars, a steam engine, model tank and 3D printing.
Aspiring engineers can take part in a Scaletrix challenge, build wind turbines using K’Nex and test propellers in a wind tunnel.
And be sure to see the engineering timeline – a 50ft long display of the history of engineering, how it has impacted the world and how Lincoln has played a vital part in its heritage.
From Formula One cars to jumbo jets, products made in Lincoln and Lincolnshire are used in planes, trains and automobiles around the world, with companies including Siemens, Dynex and Micrometric choosing to base their operations in the city.