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Scientist Recognised for Innovation In Building Technology

Originally Published 08 December 2003

This week will see the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science, recognise the achievements of a key scientist from the University Warwick for research that is leading innovation in the built environment. The Society is to award Dr Phil Purnell, from the Department of Engineering, its prestigious 2003 Brian Mercer Award for Innovation, one of only 4 such awards given to UK scientists.

Dr Phil Purnell is developing a new generation of diagnostic instruments for construction materials. Based on the very latest ultrasonic sensor and signal processing technology, these instruments are able to diagnose the properties of concrete without even touching the surface.

Dr Phil Purnell, from the University of Warwick, said: "I am delighted to receive this award which highlights that Warwick is leading the way in developing new methods for looking at materials. We are using ultrasonic 'chirps' - tuned pulses of sound beyond the limit of human hearing ¡V to help diagnose properties of building materials. Recent advances in signal processing and computer technology are allowing us to do new things, such as 'seeing' a reinforcing bar within a concrete slab - without even touching the surface.

Building materials affect everyone's life. Methods for testing them, without damaging the structure, are needed to diagnose problems and for quality control. For example, during industrial flooring once the finish goes on, any defects are hidden. These quickly cause 'potholes'. Fixing potholes causes headaches for clients and contractors. Together we aim to develop techniques that check for invisible defects before use - saving wasted time and money."

To highlight innovation science a reception is to be held at the Royal Society on December 9th 2003. The labs to riches reception will bring 200 scientists, industrialists, financiers, policy makers and journalists together to celebrate the contribution that scientific research makes to UK wealth creation. For more information contact: Jenny Murray, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574 255 Mobile: 07876 217740 or Dr Phil Purnell, Department of Engineering, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 528 392, Mobile: 07930 548 739

The Brian Mercer Awards for Innovation promote innovation and commercial explotation of scientific research in the general area of the built environment. Funding is available to both individual researchers and research groups. The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society and as a funding agency. It responds to individual demand with selection by merit not by field.