We are interviewing one of our contributors, Dr Saim Memon, Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at London South Bank University.
With over eight years of experience in the field of vacuum science research, we discuss his background, interest and work in the industry as well as how vacuum science has evolved over the years.
Dr Saim Memon
Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at London South Bank University.
Could you tell us a bit more about what your profession involves?
My profession involves both teaching and research around Electrical Engineering, Renewable Energy and Solar Thermal Vacuum Systems Engineering. I teach several BEng/MSc modules and supervise BEng/MSc/PhD students.
I am also the Project Manager of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Engineering Education Grant Scheme. This involves me promoting and delivering hands-on engineering activities to motivate local London college/school students. I develop and present my research findings in collaboration with leading scientists in the UK, Europe, USA, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, Peru, Russia and China.
How long have you been in vacuum science?
I have been in the field of vacuum science research for over eight years.
How has vacuum science evolved over the years?
Vacuum science has evolved rapidly over the last decade. For example, smart vacuum insulated windows and vacuum insulated panels are now used for sustainable, low-carbon buildings providing both energy efficiency and sound insulation.
In recent years, there has been an urge to improve the energy efficiency of electric vehicles using vacuum insulation to improve thermoelectric power generation efficiency. So, instead of wasting heat produced by the vehicle’s engine, it can instead be harvested into electrical energy using thermoelectric materials.
In food processing, vacuum has long been demonstrated and implemented. Today, industrialists are interested in improving the long-term stability of the packaged food for developing countries where high-vacuum insulated packaging is being applied.
Vacuum is a dynamic area and understanding it and its characteristics is complex, but it can certainly be applied to many applications.
How did you first get involved with vacuum science?
I got involved in vacuum science as a PhD student in October 2010. My PhD studentship was funded by EPSRC project EP/G000387/1 CALEBRE (Consumer Appealing Low Energy Technologies for Building Retrofitting) at Loughborough University. I started research from scratch on both developing vacuum systems and developing advanced vacuum insulated materials for the fabrication of vacuum insulated glazing.
What’s your favourite part?
I believe because it is complex and difficult to achieve high-vacuum pressure in a specimen. It is also because our universe is packed with vacuum and it fascinates me every time I research the fundamentals of vacuum.
What relation does your work have to vacuum science / technology?
Is there a particular area of vacuum technology you specialise in?
Vacuum Insulation to Smart Windows and Thermoelectric Generators.
What challenges do we face when it comes to utilising vacuum technology/getting more out of it?
Realistically, it is a difficult question to answer because it depends entirely on the application of vacuum technology. For example, when it comes to the application of vacuum science in smart windows, one of the key challenges is avoiding the degradation of high-vacuum pressure in a sample of vacuum insulated glazing. As degradation will open up an area that can handle less than one-millionth of the atmospheric pressure (less than 0.1 Pa), avoiding it is essential.
Degradation also leads to a challenge in simultaneous evacuation and sealing. This requires a sophisticated vacuum system design and the type of vacuum pump used plays a significant role in the process. In essence, if one minute part of the vacuum system – whether for evacuation and pump-out hole sealing or non-uniformity of the hermetic material – goes wrong, then the whole sample fails. One can almost say dealing with vacuum is harder than dealing with water and fire. Once the vacuum in a sample of smart windows is achieved, the benefits are immense: carbon emissions and wasted building heat are reduced and sound insulation is improved significantly.
Could you tell us about modern or predicted future applications of vacuum science?
There is a huge movement toward improving the energy efficiency of smart windows for sustainable, low-carbon buildings, as well as the energy efficiency of electric vehicles, by transforming wasted heat into electricity using vacuum-insulated thermoelectric materials.
Are there any barriers to its progression – what do you see being an issue in the years to come?
Advancement in high-vacuum sealing materials.
What’s the next big thing in vacuum science?
It is a difficult question to answer because vacuum science has been vastly used for insulation and understanding the science itself is a big thing. I anticipate that the next “big thing” in vacuum science will be the industrialisation of vacuum-based products – particularly where vacuum systems play significant part. Also, I expect improvements to be made to the performance of vacuum systems in achieving ultra-high vacuum, as it would be an industrial demand.
The website is meant to be a repository of information for both industry experts and those just getting involved with vacuum science – are there any resources or tips you would like to provide to help those people?
If you are interested in learning the fundamentals of vacuum, then I recommend the following book, in addition to the educational resources available in our vacuum science world forum:
Weston, G. F.1985. Ultrahigh vacuum practice. Butterworth & Co Publishers.
ISBN 0-408-01485-7, London.
If you are interested in learning about the complexity of vacuum science in smart windows, then I recommend the following articles:
Memon, S., Fang, Y., Eames, P. C. 2018. The influence of low-temperature surface induction on evacuation, pump-out hole sealing and thermal performance of composite edge-sealed vacuum insulated glazing. Renewable Energy, 135, 450-464. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2018.12.025.
Memon, S., Farukh, F., Kandan, K. 2018. Effect of Cavity Vacuum Pressure Diminution on Thermal Performance of Triple Vacuum Glazing Appl. Sci. 2018, 8(9), 1705; https://doi.org/10.3390/app8091705
Memon, S and Eames, P. C. 2017. Predicting the solar energy and space-heating energy performance for sold-wall detached house retrofitted with the composite edge-sealed triple vacuum glazing. Energy Procedia (122) 565-570, ISSN 1876-6102, doi: 10.1016/j.egypro.2017.07.419
Are you a researcher, engineer or scientist in the field of vacuum science? We are always on the lookout for industry experts to get involved and share their knowledge. Contact us to become a contributor today!