A year of Science and Engineering at The University of Manchester

The Faculty of Science and Engineering at The University of Manchester has been at the forefront of many exciting discoveries and achievements in 2023. Here we round-up just some of the great stories from this year.

January: Mapping the galaxy

The year started with a bang as after almost a decade of observations, a team of astronomers from The University of Manchester and other institutions around the world presented the most accurate description to date of the polarization of the Milky Way’s emission in the microwave range. The observations provided unprecedented insights into the structure of the Milky Way’s magnetic field.

February: Finding dinosaur footprints in Yorkshire

In February, an archaeologist found the largest footprint of a meat-eating dinosaur ever found in Yorkshire. The footprint, which measures 80cm, belongs to a theropod dinosaur and was found on the coast. It dates back to the Middle Jurassic period, about 166 million years ago.

March: Developing cosmic concrete

Scientists from The University of Manchester developed a new type of concrete that is twice as strong as regular concrete and can be used for building structures in space. The concrete, dubbed "StarCrete", is made is made from extra-terrestrial dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt. While building infrastructure in space is expensive and difficult to achieve, StarCrete offers a possible solution.

April: Celebrating outstanding Women in Science

Two researchers from The University of Manchester won a 2023 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK & Ireland Rising Talents Award , which celebrates outstanding women post-doctoral scientists. Dr Sophie Nixon won the award for Sustainable Development, while Dr Kara Lynch, won the award for Physical Sciences.

May: Launching a new robotics research centre

The University of Manchester launched a new robotics research centre designed to create robotics and autonomous systems that will play a key role in the climate response. In collaboration with Jacobs, CRADLE will research new technologies for demanding and heavily regulated industry sectors such as space, nuclear decommissioning, energy generation and urban infrastructure and will work to find advances such as autonomous inspection and repair systems to extend the life of water and energy networks, roads, bridges and railways, that will support the work towards net zero targets.

June: Finding evidence for new class of gravitational waves

Astronomers from The University of Manchester and other institutions around the world found the first evidence for a new class of gravitational waves , which could unveil the origin and evolution of the Universe and our own Milky Way. The finding stems from observations made over the last 25 years using six of the world’s most sensitive radio telescopes, including the Lovell Telescope at The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory.

July: Solving a long-standing mathematics questio

Mathematicians from The University of Manchester found the answer to a long-standing problem: how many lottery tickets do you need to buy to guarantee a win? The mathematicians found that 27 is the lowest possible number of tickets needed to guarantee a win - although, importantly, with no guarantee of a profit.

August: Capturing stunning images of the Ring Nebula

A Manchester astronomer captured stunning images of the Ring Nebula , a planetary nebula located about 2,600 light-years away from Earth, using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The researchers said that the

September: Receiving and studying a sample of asteroid Bennu

The University of Manchester was selected to receive and study a sample of asteroid Bennu as part of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. The sample returned to Earth in September before being split up and delivered to scientists around the world. The findings will help scientists to understand more about the origin of the Solar System and of organics and water that could have led to life on Earth. It also aids our understanding of asteroid impacts on Earth.

October: Designing and flying the world’s largest quadcopter drone

Researchers and students from The University of Manchester designed and flew the world’s largest quadcopter drone. The drone, made from a cardboard-like material called foamboard, measures 6.4m (21 ft) corner to corner and weighs 24.5kg - 0.5kg less than the weight limit set by the Civil Aviation Authority. The innovative design of the drone, dubbed the Giant Foamboard Quadcopter (GFQ), means it is unlike any other in existence.

November: New partnership to bring more sustainable chemical manufacturing to the market

In November, The University of Manchester and Shell Research Limited came together in a Prosperity Partnership worth over £9 million to find new sustainable routes to manufacturing commodity chemicals, while also de-risking the process for industry. If successful, this five-year project could help reshape the chemicals industry and support the UK delivering on its clean growth strategy.

December: Hosting two minister visits

To end the year, The University of Manchester hosted two minister visits, showcasing its research and innovation in energy and biotechnology. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, visited the University’s High Voltage Lab to discuss the reform of the UK’s power network and how the University is contributing. The University also hosted Bolton West MP Chris Green on an extended visit including a tour of the Bioprinting Technology Platform.

And that’s it! As we draw the curtains on another remarkable year for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, we present only a tiny snapshot of the of achievements and discoveries that happened in 2023. Looking ahead, we can’t wait for the year that awaits us - in particular as we celebrate University’s 200th anniversary. Thank you to every individual who has played a role in helping us to share these incredible stories. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.