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Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute

The Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute (SENTi) is a world-leading Centre of excellence for innovative research into atomistic and particulate based manufacturing techniques for the production of protective and active surface coating systems with a mission to transform innovative manufacturing research into engineered products. The Institute is led by Professor John Nicholls. 

The Institute works closely with industry, non-government organisations and government agencies to foster the use of coating systems and surface engineering as part of high-value manufacturing and operates across a range of sectors, including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, biomedical and mining with our client base varying from large multinational companies such as Rolls-Royce and Siemens to SMEs and micro-companies. 

SENTi fosters and accelerates development of emerging high value products through fundamental, strategic and applied research from the nanotechnology scale through to prototype component manufacture and integrates this knowledge base into related postgraduate studies.


  • Our impact and facilities

    The Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute (SENTi) performs world-class research and technological development through engagement with industry. It provides the critical mass of research staff and coating technologies to develop new surface engineering technologies, methods and practice through to prototype component manufacture. The Institute maintains a close relationship with industry through engagement with the OEMs and their supply chains. This ensures that the research carried out, whether at a fundamental, strategic or applied level, is of direct relevance to both industry and academia and demonstrates best surface engineering practice.

    The extensive research facilities are incorporated in two Centres of Excellence within SENTi:

    • The National High Temperature Surface Engineering Centre (NHTSEC)
      The Centre has established a worldwide reputation for its expertise in designing, testing and analysing coatings/surface treatments, especially for components subjected to extreme and hostile environments. The NHTSEC is a unique university centre in that it is 82% funded directly from industrially related contracts and is the only university centre worldwide that can deposit coatings that go directly into Rolls-Royce UK test engines. The Centre has experience and expertise in a range of coating techniques and can be called upon for surface engineering solutions from design of coatings through production, analysis and testing to lifeing of coating systems.
    • Cranfield Nano
      A founding member of the Piezo Institute undertaking nanofabrication and nanotechnology research. The gateway to engage with nanotechnology expertise at Cranfield and offers a proven track record of nanotechnology research. Research activities range from the development of new functional nanomaterials through to biosensors and atomistic simulation of nanostructures, encompassing such diverse areas as materials science, medicine, biology, physics and chemistry with applications in a broad range of industrial sectors; as diverse as aerospace, automotive, defence, energy, environment, healthcare, management, manufacturing and security.

    The Institute's world-class facilities include clean rooms, laboratories and test/fabrication services through to prototype component manufacture, with extensive analysis, modelling, synthesis and characterisation capability. We offer Surface Engineering Solutions that aDAPT to your needs (Design, Analysis, Production, Testing) within the theme of ‘Design for Process Excellence’.

  • Our people

    • Name: Dr Robert Dorey
      Job Title: Visiting Professor
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    • Name: Professor Jose Endrino
      Job Title: Professor of Functional Surface Engineering
      Areas of expertise:
      Manufacturing, Manufacturing of Functional Materials, Surface Engineering
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    • Name: Dr Zhaorong Huang
      Job Title: Senior Research Fellow
      Areas of expertise:
      Manufacturing, Manufacturing of Functional Materials, Nanotechnology, Sensor Technologies, Additional Area, Instrumentation, Sensors and Measurement Science, Structures and Materials
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    • Name: Dr Sue Impey
      Job Title: Senior Lecturer
      Areas of expertise:
      Aerospace, Materials for Aeronautical Applications, Health, Nanomaterials, Smart Materials, Manufacturing, Manufacturing of Functional Materials, Surface Engineering, Additional Area, Instrumentation, Sensors and Measurement Science
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    • Name: Dr Paul Jones
      Job Title: Research Fellow
      Areas of expertise:
      Energy, Environment, Health, Nanomaterials, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology
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    • Name: Dr Glenn Leighton
      Job Title: Research Fellow Microsystems & Nanotechn
      Areas of expertise:
      Manufacturing, Manufacturing of Functional Materials, Surface Engineering, Nanotechnology, Precision Engineering, Sensor Technologies, Additional Area, Computing, Simulation and modelling, Ultraprecision Technologies and Nano engineering, Structures and Materials
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    • Name: Professor John Nicholls
      Job Title: Professor of Coatings Technology
      Areas of expertise:
      Aerospace, Automotive, Energy, Manufacturing
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    • Name: Dr Christopher Shaw
      Job Title: Research Fellow In Functional Materials
      Areas of expertise:
      Health, Smart Materials, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology
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    • Name: Dr Qi Zhang
      Job Title: Senior Lecturer
      Areas of expertise:
      Energy, Manufacturing, Surface Engineering, Nanotechnology
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  • Working with us

    The Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute works closely with industry, non-government organisations and government agencies to foster the use of coating systems and surface engineering as part of high value manufacturing. This is achieved through focused research at four technology levels:

    • New knowledge, skills and technology (TRL 1-2): research and development at this level is undertaken using sponsored research student programmes at Masters and PhD/EngD levels with studentships provided directly by industry, through CASE awards or through government doctoral training account (DTA) programmes
    • Exploratory studies (TRL 2-3): Short term research consultancy contracts, usually 12 months or less, to explore the manufacturing feasibility or early system performance of new materials or coatings
    • Development of optimised manufacturing methods and coating systems performance validation (TRL 2-4): research undertaken by post-doctoral fellows, research staff and established, experienced technical teams. Often research funded at this technology level may be supported by EPSRC, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the European Commission and Industry. Programmes can be co-funded or directly funded by Industry as required
    • Pilot scale component manufacture and in-plant performance evaluation (TRL 4-5): Customer oriented research aimed at new product introduction where batches of components are manufactured at a pre-production pilot scale. Research and development at this level is designed to complement the remit of the TSB HVM Catapult Centres and will usually involve an OEM and their supply chain to provided the necessary manufacturing data to ensure rapid product replacement/insertion into the supply chain. At this level research is either directly funded by industry or funded by industry in conjunction with the TSB or European Commission.

    In addition to these four technology driven themes, studentships are available to undertake exploratory science that underpins coating manufacture and surface engineering, independent of any industrial sponsor. Likewise, it is possible to undertake 'commercial in confidence' consultancy directly for industry without the association with postgraduate student training.

  • Current research projects

  • Current research opportunities

  • Postgraduate degrees

    • Advanced Materials

      Cranfield University's MSc in Advanced Materials, accredited by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) on behalf of the UK Engineering Council.

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    • Aerospace Manufacturing

      The course combines Cranfield University's long-standing expertise for delivering high-quality Masters programmes in both aerospace and manufacturing.

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    • Aerospace Materials

      The course combines Cranfield University's long standing expertise for delivering high-quality Masters programmes in both aerospace and materials.

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    • Applied Nanotechnology

      Cranfield's MSc is suitable for graduates with science, engineering or related degrees keen to develop careers at the cutting-edge of micro-engineering; or graduates currently working in industry.

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    • Manufacturing Technology and Management

      The MSc in Manufacturing Technology and Management develops professionals with the ability to transform knowledge into action, providing students with the breadth of both technical and business skills

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    • PhD - School of Applied Sciences:

      Suitable for candidates wishing to combine the depth of a doctoral course with a broad foundation of knowledge and skills in your area of specialisation.

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  • Professional Development (CPD)

    • Online Learning – Principles of Engineering Integration

      13 October 2014

      In partnership with BAE Systems, the course provides understanding of the basic principles of engineering integration issues applied within business.

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    • Corrosion Training Programme

      24 November - 28 November 2014

      A series of one-day specialist training courses, that can be linked to form a five-day short course, covering corrosion, its monitoring and prevention covering offshore, water and aeronautical sectors

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  • Publications

    • Sansom CL, Jones P, Dorey RA, Beck C, Stanhope-Bosumpim A & Peterson J (2013) Synthesis and characterization of Mn0.5Zn0.5Fe2O4 and Fe3O4 nanoparticle ferrofluids for thermo-electric conversion, Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, 335 159-162.

    • Tillman M & Dorey RA (2013) Enhanced sintering and functional properties of PZT thick films processed using local infrared irradiation, Journal of Materials Science, 48 (2) 884-890.

    • View all publications

  • Case studies and clients

    Industrial clients with over five years continued support of collaborative research with the Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute (SENTi):

    • Daido Metals - five years; Novel bearing coatings
    • Meggitt:15 years - nanotechnology and functional materials
    • Proctor and Gamble - five years; Functional materials and thin film sensor technologies
    • Rolls-Royce plc - 35 years; Thermal barrier coating systems, new bondcoat technologies, corrosion resistant coating, oxidation, cyclic oxidation, hot corrosion, corrosion-fatigue, high temperature erosion
    • SCS Ltd - ten years; Sensing Thermal Barrier Coatings; Self-diagnostic TBCs
    • Sensata - five years; Thin film thermal and mass-flow sensors for automotive applications
    • Siemens IT - 19 years; Corrosion resistant coatings, Smart coating technologies, high temperature corrosion, corrosion-fatigue interactions
    • Teer Coatings - six years; Multi-layered wear resistant coatings, Supra-elastic wear resistant coatings.
    • There are currently no case studies listed in this area.