FUNDED PROJECTS 2017 
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Hands On Systems Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,403.60
  • Abstract: Air traffic is estimated to grow at a rate of 5% p.a. This will increase traffic density within airports and as a result the ACARE2050 strategic agenda directs a research focus towards ground operations and, specifically, aims for a reduction in aircraft emissions on the ground. Significant research effort is currently being directed towards engineless aircraft taxiing, with the best two technology routes being either the use of an electrical motor installed on the aircraft wheels or the use of automated tugs to assist during taxiing. Both of these options have their merits, including additional (or lack of) weight on-board the aircraft and the dependency (or otherwise) of the aircraft on airport infrastructure.Irrespective of the engineless taxiing method used, there is currently a gap in research for increased safety and efficiency during ground operations. This project aims to address this gap by proposing a system which will increase Situation Awareness (SA) on the ground while also optimising taxi operations. SA will be improved by having multiple sensors (such as visible and infrared cameras) installed on the aircraft and tow trucks to detect obstacles and taxiway markings (including the centreline and edge markings) to improve safety of operation. Once this information is processed using novel sensor fusion algorithms, it can be displayed to the pilots and/or the tow truck driver in order to assist them during taxiing, particularly in low visibility/illumination conditions (e.g. in fog or at night) and in unfamiliar or complex airports. It can also be used as a key technology enabler for future automatic taxi. This project also aims to address traffic management and optimise engineless taxi operations for the case where a fleet of automated (self-driving) tow trucks is used to tow aircraft all the way to and from the gate and the runway. Novel algorithms will be developed to allocate tow trucks to departing or landing aircraft and to determine the best route to be followed by each aircraft-tug pair in order to minimise energy costs and sequence aircraft to prevent conflicts. Such a system will need to be dynamic in order to also cope with unexpected events (e.g. departure delays). A user interface will also be developed to facilitate Air Traffic Control. This project will be carried out by the University of Malta and HandsOn Systems Ltd., with contributions of Malta Air Traffic Services Ltd. (MATS) as subcontractors, and the support of Latécoère .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Halmann International Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,665.38
  • Abstract: RESTONE A technology for recycling building waste, has been developed at the University of Malta (UoM), which can be used to create recycled building products, with engineered physical and mechanical properties. Waste undergoes a proprietary process to be converted it to high quality value-added products, such as building blocks, and wall cladding, etc. The use of recycled stone and concrete is not well established when it involves the production of recycled materials. Waste collection habits which makes recycling in this industry possible are rarely in place. Trends in the industry are moving from a place of abundance to a place of monitoring and minimizing waste. The cost of landfill dumping is increasing, the EU has set targets of recycling 70% of such waste by 2020 and the market is more receptive to the use of recycled building materials. This project proposal aims to ‘productise’ the research carried out to date. The global cladding market is “projected to rise 5.1% per year to 5.7 billion square meters, valued at $89 billion”. In addition, the market for green building materials is anticipated to grow at a rate of 12.5% between 2013 and 2019.The University of Malta has submitted a patent application in early 2015 and is waiting for its final approval.
  • PARTNERSHIP This project will be carried out in collaboration with a Malta base company with international contacts, namely Halmann International limited. This company has an extensive product development and marketing track record.
  • R&D, KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER On a national level, this project would provide a value added use for construction/demolition waste, which currently has none. It will also allow Malta to meet EU targets for waste management and can create new green jobs.
  • PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT We have now gathered enough data to be in a position to start prototyping specific building products made from the recycled limestone material. Initially the focus will be on cladding panels (a high value added product) to refine the production process to be able to achieve sensible production levels. To our knowledge the process that we are using has never been put into production and this is further supported by the fact that the University has a patent pending on the process and the material developed with a good chance of being funded. The objectives are:
  • To create panel (1×1.2 m) with the existing mix. This panel must have adequate resistance to wind loads, impact resistance and abrasion resistance as per British Standards and other European design recommendations.
  • Analyse constituents of mix for cost effectiveness and mechanical properties to improve performance and cost effectiveness of cladding
  • Refine production process for cladding and scale up for industrial volumes
  • Product Line Expansion for niche application cladding (eg fungicides etc)
  • License technology to our Industrial Partner
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Farm Fresh Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,543.08
  • Abstract: Every year the European dairy industry processes approximately 152 million tonnes of raw milk, for consumption or for the production of food, feed and pharmaceutical products. The raw milk delivered by the EU-25’s 1.6 million diary farmers, processed by the dairy industry, plays a vital role in rural areas, and the dairy industry represents approximately 15% of the turonover of the food and drinks industry in Europe employing about 13% of the total worksforce. Typical tests currently in use for the analysis of milk products rely on lengthy procedures that can last from 24 to 36 hours for bacterial analysis, and 7 to 8 days for fungal analysis. Alternative methods such as rapid genomic subtyping may be faster but are very costly for SMEs not running their own Research and Development department, while the efficacy of methods such as infrared spectroscopy can be limited if the presence of water is above specific threhsolds. In this project we are proposing the development and application of an imaging system that provides a non-contact and non-destructive approach for the early detection of microbial contaminants that are responsible for food spoilage, with a focus on slow-growing fungi in dairy products. The main hardware component of the system consists of a hyperspectral camera which can be used to acquire image sequences at different spectral bands. These images can be considered as a fingerprint that characterises the composition of the object being analysed. Through the automated processing and analysis of the hyperspectral data, this system would help identify the contaminated products and also assist in finding the environments in the processing facilities leading to post process contamination. The system being developed can significantly reduce time and effort for food sample inspection, and this would have a strong economic impact on the production processes of manufacturers of dairy products. In light of recent foodborne illness outbreaks, the early detection of contaminated products in the processing chain would allow for immediate action to prevent contaminated batches from moving further down the production and distribution line and reaching the end customer, leading to a significant social as well as economic impact especially in regions at greater risk.
  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner:  QuAero Ltd.
  • Funding:  €199,694.53
  • Abstract:

Flight data monitoring (FDM) today forms an integral part of safety systems within flight operations.  Typically, aircraft data is recorded during flight and this data is then used off-line to analyse the performance of the aircraft and how it is being flown. Traditional use of FDM primarily focuses on thresholding of parameters (defining maximum values, or maxvals) and detecting exceedances, which will then lead to further analysis and investigation into whether there is value to analyse the matter further.

 

FDM generates large amounts of data and this provides a wealth of information regarding the operations of an airline which can be used to advantage in terms of improved safety and efficiency, impact on the environment and possibly commercial benefit. However, the current statistical approach employed for FDM is inadequate to investigating big data.

 

Hence this project sees and inter-faculty research collaboration between the Institute of Aerospace Technologies and the Dept. of Intelligent Computer Systems from the Faculty of ICT and industrial partners QuAero to develop a tool by which modern machine learning techniques are adopted to analyse flight data. Some of these techniques include neural networks or Hierarchical Temporal Memory Learning Algorithms. These are required to teach the machine what anomalies to look for when analysing flight data. The tool allows the operator to improve post monitoring analysis, increase operation efficiency and enhance safety, resulting in larger commercial returns and reducing the impact of its operations on the environment.

 

This project proposal has also attracted the interest of TotalAOC, a third party which will be interested to pursue the commercialisation of this research, after the end of this project. TotalAOC is a UK company specialised in providing comprehensive aviation management support, including flight data monitoring services to private and commercial aviation operators. A letter for this project is included with this application.

  • Coordinator : Celier Aviation Malta Ltd
  • Partner:  University of Malta
  • Funding:  € 199,818.57
  • Abstract:

Helicopters are in their own merit, complex, expensive (in terms of purchasing, operational use and capacity) as well as consume only one specific type of fuel that is not readily available anywhere, except airports. In this respect, Celier Aviation Malta will be embarking on a research and development project involving a multi-purpose gyrocopter to be named the C-66. This aircraft aims at simplifying a complex system into a hybrid rotary wing that can perform the same complex missions, at a fraction of the price of current helicopters on the market as well as reduced operational costs.

 

Our innovation is based on a simplification process that will transform the concept of building a traditionally complex and expensive flying machine into one that is cost effective, economical, easy-to-use, eco-friendly and have multi-purpose solutions with unparalleled safety features.

 

Celier Aviation has set up in Malta to design, test and build this new product for the aviation industry and is partnering with The Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta for the execution of this project.

  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner:  Abertax Kemtronics Ltd.
  • Funding:  €199,956.88
  • Abstract:

Cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) is the use of a heat engine to simultaneously generate electricity and useful heat. In separate production of electricity, some energy must be discarded as waste heat, but in cogeneration this thermal energy is put to use. This system increases the overall energy efficiency of the generator from about 40% to more than 85%.

 

A micro-CHP has been designed at the University of Malta. Small enough for households, which would increase the amount of renewable energy used as well as the attractiveness of using other renewable energy devices such as photovoltaic panels. The key design feature of the system is the fact that it treats the grid as an option and not as a compulsary source in meeting the energy needs of a household. The other advantage is that the micro-CHP and the PV panels can be used to generate electricity during a power cut, which is not currently possible.

 

Micro CHP  units are available on the market but these are too expensive for medium income households and do not offer the full flexibility in their operation.

  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner:  Applied Biotech Ltd
  • Funding:  € 194,017.59
  • Abstract:

Early diagnosis is crucial to allow proper patient management and increase survival rates.  In this project we aim (1) to develop and validate a diagnostic kit for HER2 amplification in Breast Cancer patients, (2) to prove the technology for similar diagnostic tests for other cancerous diseases such as early diagnosis of colorectal cancers and (3) optimise the technology to measure amplification in circulating exosomes.  The University has developed a method for testing for HER 2 positive breast cancer which is superior to current FISH tests as it has the benefits of: eliminating ambiguous results, increasing processing speed, analysing degraded patient samples and reducing the quantity of biopsy material needed for analysis.

 

The study of amplifications in circulating exosomes isolated from blood samples of Breast cancer and colorectal cancer patients provides the means to measure these prognostic markets at an early stage and in liquid biopsies that are readily available for screening at an affordable cost.  Exosomes from patients with amplifications such as HER2-enriched breast cancers shall be used as a proof of principle for detection of known biomarkers in exosomes. Isolation of exosomes also allows use of the technology during patient management taken routinely during therapy.

  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner:  Abertax Kemtronics Ltd
  • Funding:  € 199,137
  • Abstract:

Batteries are a part of our everyday lives. They store energy in a chemical form and can be charged, discharged and reused. With increasing emphasis on greener technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles, more electric aircraft and renewable energy generation, battery technology becomes more important. In electric vehicles, the battery pack is crucial to the range of the vehicle. In the field of renewable energy generation battery packs can be used to store energy for off peak use, while in modern aircraft batteries power up aircraft systems, provide backup power for critical avionics systems and can power ground support to reduce airport emissions. In each application, careful monitoring of the temperature and voltages of each battery cell is crucial to life and energy storage of the battery pack. Battery overheating is a main concern during repeated cycles of charging and discharging. Indeed, there have been a few cases in consumer electronics , , electric vehicles  and aviation  where battery packs overheated uncontrollably causing thermal runaway to the extent of catching fire.3,4 Such behaviour is a cause of health and safety concerns.

 

Conventional air cooling is inefficient. As the coolant passes over the battery cells, the fluid gradually warms up and its effectiveness to cool subsequent batteries deteriorates. Battery cells in the same pack would hence operate at different temperatures. As the battery chemistry is temperature sensitive, the battery cells would respond differently to dis/charging cycles. The battery cell with the highest temperature limits the dis/charging rates and the energy storage capacity. Moreover, the battery cell at the highest temperature degrades at a faster rate, dictating the life of the pack. While attempts to us liquid cooling proved to be more efficient than air cooling, the same characteristics persists. To counter this problem, the industry has developed complex and expensive electronic battery management systems that monitors the temperature of each cell and adjusts the charging rate. While this protects the cells, it limits the current flow during dis/charging rates causing long waiting times in between battery use.

 

This project addresses this problem by developing a novel evaporative cooling strategy. A liquid coolant with a low boiling point is introduced in the battery pack. As the battery cells warm up and reaches the boiling point of the coolant, it absorbs their latent heat and evaporates turning into gas. The gas travels to a cooler part of the battery pack (for example the casing), where it is allowed to reject heat to ambient and condense back to liquid in the process. The liquid condensate replenishes the liquid pool in the battery pack, creating a self-sustained cooling cycle. As the coolant within the entire battery pack boils at a single temperature, all the battery cells within the pack are kept at one uniform temperature. The project will investigate and develop alternative forms to implement this technology such as immersion cooling, wick assisted cooling and integration of heat pipes into the battery cell. This project promises an improved battery cooling technology which will in turn results in a longer life and higher dis/charging rates.

  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner:  Seasus Ltd
  • Funding:  €193,943.38
  • Abstract:

Eye movements have long been recognised to provide an alternative channel for communication with, or control of, a machine such as a computer, substituting traditional peripheral devices. The ample information inherent to the eye movements has attracted increasing interest through the years, leading to a host of eye-gaze tracking applications in several fields, including assistive communication, automotive engineering, and marketing and advertising research.

 

This project proposes a passive eye-gaze tracking platform aimed to provide an alternative communication channel for persons with physical disabilities, permitting them to perform mundane activities such as to operate a computer, hence improving their quality of life and independence, or for normal individuals as an additional access method, permitting an auxiliary control input for computer applications, such as games.

 

In the proposed platform, eye and head movements are captured in a stream of image frames acquired by a webcam, and subsequently processed by a computer (and possibly mobile devices) in order to estimate the gaze direction according to the eye and head pose components. Mapping the eye-gaze to a computer screen permits commands to be issued by the selection of icons on a suitably designed user interface. This project addresses challenges associated with eye-gaze tracking under uncontrolled daily life conditions, including handling of head and non-rigid face movements, and reduction or elimination of user calibration for more natural user interaction.

  • Coordinator : Scope Solutions (Scope)
  • Partner:  University of Malta
  • Funding:  € 200,000
  • Abstract:

An article published by the European Commission states that “the next big evolution for the internet is cloud computing, where everyone from individuals to major corporations and governments move their data storage and processing into remote data centres.”

 

The report continues “Cloud computing is where IT infrastructures, platforms and software are provided centrally and distributed to end users over a network. Centralising data storage and processing offers economies of scale even the largest organisations cannot achieve by themselves. Cloud computing therefore represents considerable savings in IT budgets, and the end of headaches linked to older computing methods.”

 

Yet for decades, SMEs have been working in their isolated setups using traditional software and legacy processes. In today’s world, such setups are being replaced by cloud-based software – or software as a service (SaaS). This move is the natural next step for any business including SMEs. For startups, this transition is relatively straightforward yet for established entities this step is more cumbersome. A number of researchers (such as the Open Group – http://www.opengroup.org/cloud/cloud/cloud_sme/benefits.htm) have established that one of reasons, SME delay to shifting their organisation to the SaaS model is due to the “deep existing business processes that are embedded in the day-to-day running of the operations especially when it comes to recording data for analysis and reporting”.

 

Research also shows that spreadsheet software is one of the most-used technologies for collecting, computing, and displaying data. Accountants and business owners are familiar with spreadsheet software. In spite of the risks associated of operating such a versatile tool, undoubtedly there are also various benefits of operating this flexible tool, if applied diligently (usually through experienced users).

 

The objective of the project is to create a series of innovative tools which help SMEs transition their business to the cloud:

  1. Without having to reinvent all their internal processes / reporting, and
  2. Whilst retaining the ability to push data in the cloud from familiar software such as existing spreadsheets.

This can be achieved by creating a bridge between the data in the cloud and the local machine. Data is typically stored in a database or in a spreadsheet with the latter being the most problematic. The proposed project therefore addresses the latter scenario by providing an application, which connects the spreadsheet to the SaaS application and facilitates this exchange of information in a controlled environment. One of the primary target markets for this product would be the professional accounting practitioners, who invariably have practiced with spreadsheets for a significant part of their career.

 

These tools need to be built using the same cloud principles to allow users to benefit from the related cloud-based advantages.

 

This concept has already been successfully prototyped for the last 2 years. Results are very encouraging hence the proposal aims to expand, finalise and commercialise these tools.

 

Scope have the necessary facilities to carry out this project including the office space and facilities.  Their offices at the Life Sciences Park are close to UOM premises so both teams can easily meet at either office when required.  Scope offices are already equipped with the necessary network and infrastructure for this project to commence immediately once it has been awarded.

  • Coordinator : University of Malta
  • Partner: 6PM
  • Funding:  €186,793.22
  • Abstract:

A Brain Computer Interface (BCI) gives a person the ability to communicate with and control machines using brain signals instead of peripheral muscles. BCIs allow people with severely restricted mobility to control devices around them, increasing level of independence and improving quality of life. BCIs may also be used by healthy individuals, e.g. in gaming, and are expected to become a ubiquitous alternative means of communication and control. Our BCI experience and growing interest in BCIs provide an opportunity to innovate and break new ground in BCIs.

 

This project proposes the development of a novel application controlled directly with brain signals, opening up accessibility to individuals suffering from motor disabilities, and providing alternative access methods to healthy individuals.

 

BCIs acquire the electrical brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes, relying on brain phenomena such as those evoked by flickering visual stimuli, known as steady state visually evoked potentials (SSVEP). In the proposed system, stimuli are associated to commands, and EEG signals are processed to detect the intent associated to the brain pattern. A BCI challenge is to have BCIs operating in real environments amidst the nuisance signals generated by normal user actions. The project proposes solutions to this challenge, operating in real-time at the user’s will. It also aims at addressing the annoyance factor of the flickering stimuli, ensuring that the system can be used comfortably for long periods of time, if necessary.