Circular Economy is a multidisciplinary research theme at Aston University, it spans from technology and process development for materials recovery and product life extension, to system modelling for reducing waste footprint
In the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) at Aston, Circular Economy (CE) research is conducted across the following areas:
- Circular products: Develop smart technology throughout product life cycle, including condition monitoring, diagnostics and prognostics, maintenance planning, remanufacturing/repair/refurbishment technology development, decision making, life cycle cost modelling and optimisation, to extend product life and promote their reuse;
- Circular Energy: Recover waste energy from industrial process; and generate energy from biowaste and biomass.
- Circular materials: Develop technologies to produce recyclable materials (e.g. bioplastics) and recycle various materials (e.g. composite, plastics, biomass, and waste water)
- System modelling and analysis: Reverse logistics, Cost-benefit analysis, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Decision making and optimisation.
Our cutting-edge research covers a wide range of topics, with a specialist focus on the following areas.
- Life Extension
We perform research targeting the untapped potential for remanufacturing and refurbishing large industrial equipment. For more information, visit RECLAIM.
- Supergen Bioenergy Hub
The Supergen Bioenergy Hub works with academia, industry, government and societal stakeholders to develop sustainable bioenergy systems that support the UK’s transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future. More information is available on the Supergen Bioenergy Hub.
- Improving Energy services and Access
We are investigating bio-energy and its capacity for aiding in the creation of sustainable local energy services and energy access in Africa.
- Biorefinery Advisory Model
This research allows organisations to calculate a range of potential variables when investing in biorefineries. For more information, visit BAM.
- Sustainable Hydrocarbon Fuels
A sustainable and innovative thermochemical approach for producing hydrocarbon fuels from unrecycled plastic waste.
- End of Life (EoL) Management Strategies
This work analyses new, more effective methods for managing the challenges surrounding recycling and disposal of Electric Vehicle Batteries.
- RE-Manufacturing and Refurbishment of Large Industrial Equipment (RECLAIM)
This €12.75M collaborative H2020 project RECLAIM consists of 22 partners from 9 European countries. It aims to develop smart technologies and solutions that can monitor the condition of industrial equipment used in production lines using data analytics and machine learning & AI technologies. The project will develop smart technologies and sets of digital toolkits for prognostics of machinery, cost analysis & economic benefit evaluation, optimisation of life extension strategies and activities, such as remanufacturing, repair and reconditioning.
The RECLAIM project contributes to unleashing the full potential of sustainable, green and smart factories, by empowering the industry to produce components and assembly systems at fast changing environment. RECLAIM focuses on 100% re-use of equipment through flexible and low-cost systems that support the fast and easy process of refurbishment and re-manufacturing. This perspective will develop self-aware and knowledge-based equipment for the collection and management of operation-related information. The RECLAIM solutions will be demonstrated in real industrial environments to evaluate the lifecycle of the industrial equipment (machines, production lines, robotic system etc.) and to implement the appropriate recovery strategies (refurbishment, re-manufacturing, upgrade, re-use, repair, etc.).
High industrial productivity and efficiency are closely connected with well-functioning and well-maintained equipment, thus highlighting the critical role of machinery. In order to remain competitive, manufacturing companies are continuously trying to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their production processes and equipment. In this perspective, maintenance activities are even more crucial for business success. This highlights the need to improve the maintenance process, emphasizing the methods of refurbishment and re-manufacturing.
Refurbishment and re-manufacturing are activities of the circular economy model whose purpose is to keep the high value of products and materials, as opposed to the currently employed linear economic model, thus targeting the life extension and reuse of equipment and materials and reducing the unnecessary and wasteful use of resources. Currently, there is a lack of technological solutions with built-in capabilities for self-assessment of the equipment status and optimal re-use strategies.
RECLAIM project aims to develop a breakthrough smart solution involving big data analytics, predictive analytics, and optimisation models using deep learning techniques, and digital twin models to facilitate manufacturers to make an informed decision about whether to refurbish, repair, re-manufacture or upgrade heavy machinery that is towards their end-of-life. This will save valuable resources and help manufacturers to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their production equipment and processes and increase their profitability and competitiveness.
The RECLAIM concept is shown belowImage
To demonstrate RECLAIM solutions for effective management of large industrial equipment that approach the end of their design life, Aston carries out the following research to develop required technologies:
- Condition monitoring
This work develops techniques for online condition monitoring based on smart sensors, Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence. It aims to monitor the condition of machinery to detect and warn the potential failure in advance and predict the remaining useful life (RUL) to support production and maintenance planning.
- Smart inspection and remanufacturing
This task develops automated robotic inspection technology to identify failure mode, and automated technique to carry out repair, and advance algorithm and technique for the optimisation of remanufacturing and repair process.
- Life Cycle Cost modelling and optimisation
This task develops a cost model for estimating the cost of life extension strategies, such as remanufacturing, repair and refurbishment. The cost model will optimise the life cycle cost of owning and operating machineries in various scenarios.
- Decision Support System
This task develops methodologies with procedures for the execution of optimised life extension strategies and activities. Multiple criteria are considered for decision making, including quality, cost and time associated with life extension strategies and activities.
The project will deliver a set of digital toolkits including cost model, decision support system, condition monitoring system; and also smart inspection & remanufacturing tecnologies.
A list of people who worked on this project.
- Prof Yuchun Xu
- Dr Yu Jia
- Dr Gareth Thomson
- DrXianghong Ma
- Condition monitoring
- Portfolio of the Projects
- Circular Products
- Remanufacturing and Refurbishment of Large Industrial Equipment (EU H2020, RECLAIM, https://www.reclaim-project.eu/project/#about)
- Circular Energy
- Supergen Bioenergy Hub (https://www.supergen-bioenergy.net/)
- Bio-Energy for Sustainable Local Energy Services and Energy Access in Africa
- Biorefinery advisory model (http://bamcalculator.com/)
- A sustainable and innovative thermochemical approach for producing hydrocarbon fuels from unrecycled plastic waste
- Waste heat recovery and reuse in foundation industries (InnovateUK)
- Development of low-carbon burners for industrial heating systems (KTP)
- System Modelling
- Reverse Supply Chain for the End of Life (EoL) management of Electric Vehicle Batteries
People Please list staff members here.
The CE theme at EPS includes the academics with broad expertise from different research groups across the College of EPS and Aston University.
- Prof Yuchun Xu: (Remanufacturing, Life Cycle Engineering, Cost modelling and analysis, Decision making and optimisation)
- Dr Timothy Whitehead (Plastic materials recycle and reuse)
- Dr Muftooh Siddiqi (Remanufacturing)
- Prof Paul Topham (Biodegradable plastics materials)
- Prof Brian Tighe (Biodegradable plastics materials)
- Dr Jiawei Wang (Plastic waste recycle)
- Dr Katie Chong: (Bio waste recycle, Techno-economic evaluation)
- Prof Patricia Thornley (Bioenergy, Techno-economic evaluation)
- Dr Imran Muhammad (Waste energy recovery, Low-carbon energy system)
- Dr Abed Alaswad (Renewable energy)
- Dr Ahmed Rezk (Waste energy recovery, Low-carbon energy system)
- Dr Kiran Tota-Maharaj (Waste recovery)
- Dr Nii Ankrah (Cost analysis)
- Dr Felipe Campello (Decision making and optimisation)