Contact Professor Ralph Tatam

Areas of expertise

  • Aeronautical Systems
  • Aerospace Manufacturing
  • Biosensors & Diagnostics
  • Defence Sensors
  • Environment and Health
  • Food Quality
  • Gas Turbines & Propulsion
  • Instrumentation, Sensors and Measurement Science
  • Aerospace Materials
  • Nanotechnology
  • Power Systems & Turbines
  • Renewable Energy
  • Sensor Technologies
  • Smart Materials
  • Structures and Materials
  • Vehicle Aerodynamics


Following graduation from the University of Exeter (1981) with a Combined Hons. BSc in Chemistry and Physics, Professor Tatam was employed as a Research Assistant in the Physics Department at Sir John Cass College of Science and Technology, City of London Polytechnic. This research used dynamic laser light scattering to explore the motion of short chain flexible molecules in the liquid state and led to the award of a PhD (1986).

In 1985, he joined the Applied Optics Group in the Physics Laboratory at the University of Kent to work on optical fibre sensor technology, at that time a relatively new subject. He was appointed to a Lectureship in the same laboratory in 1987 during which time he was responsible for managing a Teaching Company Scheme with Sifam Ltd, developing a fibre optic electric current sensor for use in power transmission and distribution systems.

In 1989 he was appointed as a Lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering (now School of Engineering) at Cranfield Institute of Technology (now Cranfield University).

Since this time, he has led a team of researchers that develop novel optical instrumentation and sensors to solve a wide range of measurement challenges in engineering and biomedical applications.

He was promoted to a personal chair (Engineering Photonics) in 1998. From February 2008 to October 2011 he was the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering & Aerospace.

Professor Tatam had a key role in the preparation of the University submission to the Mechanical Aeronautical and Manufacturing (MAM) panel, Unit of Assessment 28, for the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008; Cranfield's submission was rated third in the country for power (profile x volume), with ~ 100 people submitted.

He has acted as a reviewer, and is currently a Monitoring Officer, for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) since 2005. He has been a member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) College of Peers continuously since its inception and has served on many assessment panels and chaired responsive mode and Platform Grant panels. He is a recognised assessor for many international agencies, for example, Enterprise Ireland, the Royal Society, the National Research Council of Canada, the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Foundation for Polish Science, the Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University System and Research, the Foundation for Polish Science, the Luxembourg National Research Council, the Croucher Foundation Hong Kong and the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong.

He was an elected member of the Board of Directors for SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, serving a 3 year term from 2010 to 2012. He is the past Chair of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Optical Group and until recently he served on the Board of the European Optical Society as the IOP representative.

He has published more than 400 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conferences, symposia and other meetings. He is a member of the editorial board of four international journals, and has been on the Technical Programme committee for numerous international conferences, including being invited to be the Symposium Chair for the SPIE Optical Metrology symposium, held in Munich in 2005 and 2007. He is currently the European Editor for the IOPP journal Measurement Science & Technology.

DSc (Exon), 2004

PhD (CNAA), 1986

BSc CHons (Exon), 1981

Fellow of the SPIE (the International Society for Optics and Photonics), 2005

Fellow of the Institute of Physics (IOP), 1996

CEng (2003), CPhys (1996), CSci (2004)

Current activities

Professor Tatam is the Head of Engineering Photonics at Cranfield leading an internationally recognised team that undertakes research into novel optical instrumentation and sensors to solve challenging measurement problems in engineering and biomedical applications.

Current research programmes are supported by the EPSRC, NERC, The Royal Society, TSB, EU and industry. Programmes include:

Optical coherence tomography instrumentation to measure microfluidic flows and to measure changes in tissue and plant cells.

Optical fibre sensor technology for point-of-care diagnostics in collaboration with the Open University, Addenbrookes Hospital, Kitakyushu University and Nottingham University.

Optical gas sensing technology for point-of-care diagnostics in collaboration with Cascade Technologies and Bedford Hospital.

Optical systems to measure strain, pressure and gases on airborne platforms.

Multi-wavelength tunable lasers for gas spectroscopy in collaboration with Southampton University.

These programmes are underpinned by an EPSRC Platform Grant - Engineering Photonics: Development and application of instrumentation and sensors.

Recently completed programmes include:

EU - FP7, Predicative Maintenance employing non-intrusive Inspection & Data Analysis (PMnIDEAs).

EPSRC, Fourier-domain full-field optical coherence tomography using imaging fibre bundles.

EU - FP7, ADVanced Integrated Composite TAilCone (ADVITAC).

EPSRC, Speckle velocimetry for high accuracy and multi-dimensional odometry.

In addition, Professor Tatam works closely with a number of companies and research organisations including:

Alphasense, a UK manufacturer of gas sensing instrumentation

Geotechnical Instruments, a UK manufacturer of gas sensing instrumentation

Oxford Instruments, a UK manufacturer of cryogenic magnet systems

Proctor & Gamble

EADS Astrium


Southampton University, UK

Kitakyushu University, Japan

Nottingham University

The Open University





Ralph's work has been supported by the Research Councils the EU and industry. He is the Principal Investigator of a second EPSRC Platform Grant, awarded to 'world leading research groups', that has underpinned his research activities since 2004.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Science Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

European Union (EU)

Royal Society

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

AEA Technology





AOS Technology


BAE Systems

Bedford Hospital

British Gas

British Technology Group (BTG)


Cascade Technologies

Casella Cel

Daher Aerospace


EADS Astrium


ERA Technology


Geotechnical Instruments,

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital


Holset Engineering



Proctor & Gamble (P&G)

Rolls Royce


Sheffield Stagecoach Supertram


Tata Steel

The Technology Partnership.


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers