Labs and facilities

The University is served by a gigabit ethernet LAN and our School has its own gigabit backbone. Standard network connectivity is 100Mbit/second.

Computing labs

We provide six laboratories that are exclusively for computer science and electronic engineering students. Three are open 24/7. Students have free access to the labs except when there is a scheduled practical class in progress.

Our labs are managed by an experienced and dedicated team of technical support staff who can assist students with most practical aspects of the curriculum. The computers run either Windows 7 or are dual boot with Linux. Much software is common to both systems (e.g. Java, Prolog, C++, Perl, Mysql, Matlab, DB2), but there is also platform-specific software such as Microsoft Office, Visual Studio and Project. We also provide Linux systems for remote connection through either a secure shell (SSH) connection, or via a remote Xsession (a Windows-like graphical interface). There is also specialised software installed such as computer-aided design tools and simulators for chip design (Xilinx) and computer networks (OPNET).

In addition to our School's labs, students are entitled to use the University's IT labs. Research students are provided with office space and dedicated equipment so they do not need to use the labs.

Specialist labs

  • Brain-Computer Interfaces Laboratory

    Our Brain-Computer Interfaces Laboratory is one of the best-equipped for non-invasive BCI research in Europe, receiving more EPSRC funding than any other UK BCI lab as well as substantial support from other bodies. It includes:

    • eight EEG systems;
    • a near infra-red system;
    • a Nexus EMG system;
    • a Jazz eye tracker;
    • a MagStim BitStim transcranial magnetic stimulator;
    • many electrogoniometers and accelerometers;
    • two Edubot robotic manipulators;
    • three Lego NXT robots;
    • three VR systems;
    • four Bionics motorised medical chairs; and
    • a Viglen/Rocks cluster.

    We do not conduct any research with animals or with implanted devices in our lab.

  • Embedded and Intelligent Systems Laboratory

    Our Embedded and Intelligent Systems Laboratory has state-of-the-art design and prototyping facilities for embedded systems design and system-processing architectures. Its equipment includes:

    • several very high gate count top-end FPGA boards;
    • many processor architectures;
    • advanced development kits and iOS/Android devices; and
    • sensors and actuators to design real-world prototypes.

  • Intelligent Environments Laboratory

    Our Intelligent Environments Laboratory hosts an iSpace testbed for intelligent environments and pervasive computing, and the iClassroom testbed for intelligent learning environments. These testbeds house indoor localisation systems, smart boards, immersive displays, various sensors, actuators and computing equipment used in our EU, EPSCR and industrial funded projects.

  • Robotics Laboratory

    Our Robotics Laboratory offers dedicated space for indoor robots. Our Robot Arena is one hundred square meteres in area and has a six metre high ceiling to accommodate flying robots. It has one of the world's largest powered lab floors for long-duration experiments with mobile robots.

    We have invested over £1 million in equipping this state-of-the-art facility with robotic systems which include:

    • thirty wheeled mobile robots;
    • eight flying robots;
    • three robotic fish;
    • three intelligent wheelchairs;
    • one robotic arm; and
    • one robotic hand with five fingers.

    A VICON optic motion tracking system with nine infrared cameras is fixed on the ceiling and provides reliable location information so that the performance of the developed robots and navigation algorithms can be accurately evaluated.

Communications systems labs

  • Access Networks Laboratory

    Our Access Networks Laboratory has state-of-the-art wireless and system measurement tools. These include a top-of-the-range 100GHz sampling scope, a 40GHz real-time signal analyser, a 67GHz vector network analyser, a 40Gb/s data test-set and a 400Gb/s optical sampling head.

  • Network Convergence Laboratory

    Our Network Convergence Laboratory maintains a well-equipped research network testbed that consists of electrical and optical core networking technologies and heterogeneous wireless access networking technologies across our University campus and the surrounding areas. Facilities for software-defined networks (radio or wire) and sensor networks are also available.

  • Network Multimedia Laboratory

    Our Network Multimedia Laboratory operates as an interdisciplinary facility with a focus on research and development of efficient deployments of ultra-high-definition multimedia applications over networks. Its facilities include a set of 4K, 3D projectors and a set of high-resolution audio equipment associated with it, and a set of 8K projectors. Each is connected locally to a cluster of high-performance servers for video rendering and to the outside world via 10 gigabit ethernet and high-speed optical fibres.

  • Optoelectronics Laboratory

    Our Optoelectronics Laboratory houses:

    • lasers, detectors and optical components for optical spectroscopy of semiconductor devices from IR to UV wavelengths;
    • various cryostats and kits for electronic transport measurements in semiconductor devices from T=1.3k to 300k;
    • optical spectroscopy with 100 picosecond resolution;
    • electronic transport measurement facility with 1ns time resolution and up-to electric fields of 250 kV/cm;
    • a clean room; and
    • a micro-fabrication facility.

  • RF and Microwave Research Laboratory

    This laboratory is equipped with a wide range of specialised equipment for radio-frequency measurement and testing including network analysers (6GHz, 40GHz, 75GHz), a scalar analyser, a spectrum analyser, antenna test facilities (4 to 20GHz) and power meters (low frequency to 60GHz). There is also a powerful microscope and a computer-controlled scanner for material evaluation.

    Commercial software used in the laboratory includes ADS, HFSS, TLM, and Microwave Studio, and there is also in-house developed custom software for filter design. The laboratory makes use of the printed circuit milling facility for the production of microstrip circuits.

Research facilities

  • Printed circuit milling facility

    A facility to manufacture prototype printed circuit boards is essential for an electronics school, both for research and for student projects. In the past many departments have used a wet etching process, whereby unwanted areas of copper are etched away by corrosive chemicals. This is the same process used for mass production, as it is relatively quick. However, it is also environmentally undesirable.

    The method currently employed by our School uses a computer controlled milling machine, which creates isolation channels around tracks and devices. Larger areas of copper can also be removed to give a traditional look by using the appropriate tools. The milling machine also has the advantage of being able to drill multiple holes automatically, eliminating the lengthy process of drilling manually.

  • Semiconductor clean room

    The cleanroom has the essential equipment needed to create semiconductor devices such as light emitters and receivers from novel wafer structures. Electrical connections are made with gold wires thinner than a human hair using wirebonders and other bonding techniques used by worldwide semiconductor manufacturers.

    The devices made in the facility may have etched features with dimensions smaller than a micrometre. Thin film contacts and waveguides for the devices are deposited by a vacuum coating system. The contact metals (gold and dopants like germanium, tin, magnesium and zinc) are annealed to make the ohmic and Schottky contacts needed for devices like MESFETs.