Thursday, 27 January 2011

Astronomers discover coolest objects outside solar system

Our astronomers have measured the distances to 11 of the coolest objects ever discovered outside our solar system. The 11 cool objects – known as brown dwarfs – have masses intermediate between stars (more massive) and planets (less massive), and as a result do not burn hydrogen, making them extremely cool.

The work led by Federico Marocco, an astrophysicist in our Centre for Astrophysics Research was carried out as part of a collaboration between the University of Hertfordshire, the astronomical Observatory of Torino and a wider international group.

Astronomers call very cool brown dwarfs like the ones discovered ‘T dwarfs’ and Federico and his team have discovered many of the coolest known examples ever found.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Major savings for business through innovation

A system that dries bottles and cans which is more energy efficient than any other on the market and makes energy savings of up to 50 percent was developed by a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Hertfordshire and Secomak.

The University, which is the UK's leading business facing university, has built strong links with Secomak, the industry leader in air movement technologies and one of the outcomes of this collaboration is a total drying solution. (See KTP Blog).

The big advantage of this system is that the machine is equipped with sensors which sense when product needs to be dried, rather than the dryer working all the time.  This works in a similar way to energy-saving systems in hybrid vehicles and means that the energy consumption of our machine is directly proportional to the throughput of the product.

At the moment, the total drying solution is used primarily to dry bottles or cans, and the system can be customised to dry any container and also has potential to dry sheet metal or plastic extrusions.

Launch of Germ Genie to kill keyboard germs

Our scientists proved the effectiveness of Germ Genie, a tool to prevent infections from keyboards, a device that could be very useful for many sniffling workers at the moment.

Germ Genie, was developed by Falcon Innovations and tested at the University of Hertfordshire’s Biodet laboratory.

The results of the University’s tests on E.Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus and Bacillus Subtillis, reveal that Germ Genie kills ninety-nine percent of germs across most of the keyboard in just two minutes, and across the whole keyboard in ten minutes.

The Genie works by sensing finger movement on the computer keyboard, and after the user has finished it sanitises the keyboard with UV light. This treatment leaves the keyboard ready for the next user so they will not pick up microbes that would otherwise have posed a risk of passing on infections like Flu, MRSA and E.Coli. Unlike other solutions, it will sanitise the keyboard many times each day, at exactly the times it is needed – after each user.

For more information about this story

First UK cameras to scan the sky

One of our astronomy graduates set up the first UK camera which continuously scans the night sky and dictates the best conditions for surveys.

David Campbell, an Astrophysics graduate at the University, who collects meteorites as a hobby, set up the camera at Bayfordbury Observatory in October 2009 and has captured some interesting data since then.

The All-Sky camera records images of the entire sky continuously throughout the night. One of its main aims  is to detect clouds above the observatory so that researchers can monitor sky conditions and gauge the best time to scan the sky.

Visit the full press release




Robot to help children with autism

KASPAR, the University of Hertfordshire robot which was developed by Dr Kerstin Dautenhahn and her team to help children with autism was displayed recently at the Royal Society.

The Rise of the Machines event, which was held in conjunction with SCI-FI-London, questioned if robots have an important role as future human assistants, if they can be taught to be "social beings" and what uses could they have in human society.

Dr Dautenhahn and her team are European leaders in the field of developing robots as social companions and set up a new Robot House last year for this purpose.

One of these robots, KASPAR (Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robots) is a child-sized robot currently being used in human-robot interaction studies including studies of the possible therapeutic and educational benefits of "robotic mediators" for children with autism.

The next step is to equip KASPAR with 'human skin' and take it into another local school this autumn so that it can continue to engage with children with autism and the academics can develop it further.

Robots That Develop Emotions in Interaction with Humans

The first prototype robots capable of developing emotions as they interact with their human caregivers and expressing a range of emotions have been finalised by our researchers.

Led by Dr. Lola CaƱamero at the School of Computer Science, and in collaboration with a consortium of universities and robotic companies across Europe, these robots differ from others in the way that they form attachments, interact and express emotion through bodily expression.

Developed as part of the interdisciplinary project FEELIX GROWING (Feel, Interact, eXpress: a Global approach to development with Interdisciplinary Grounding) , funded by the European Commission and coordinated by Dr. CaƱamero, the robots have been developed so that they learn to interact with and respond to humans in a similar way as children learn to do it, and use the same types of expressive and behavioural cues that babies use to learn to interact socially and emotionally with others.

The robots have been created through modelling the early attachment process that human and chimpanzee infants undergo with their caregivers when they develop a preference for a primary caregiver.

They are programmed to learn to adapt to the actions and mood of their human caregivers, and to become particularly attached to an individual who interacts with the robot in a way that is particularly suited to its personality profile and learning needs. The more they interact, and are given the appropriate feedback and level of engagement from the human caregiver, the stronger the bond developed and the amount learned.

The robots are capable of expressing anger, fear, sadness, happiness, excitement and pride and will demonstrate very visible distress if the caregiver fails to provide them comfort when confronted by a stressful situation that they cannot cope with or to interact with them when they need it.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Welcome to the University of Hertfordshire Research Blog

Welcome to the University of Hertfordshire Research Blog

This blog is a snapshot of some of our research and shares the views of our researchers on global developments.

Our research is innovative, progressive and relevant to the needs of industry and society and in the latest Research Assessment Exercise over eighty-five percent was internationally recognised including forty-five percent as either world-leading and internationally excellent.

It is carried out across three Research Institutes:


  • Health and Human Sciences
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities
  • Our Centre for Astrophysics Research is one of the largest astronomy groups in the UK and is developing its international standing in key areas of astronomy research;
  • Our researchers are world leaders in the development of robots as social companions and in the use of robots to help children with autism and other disabilities to develop social skills.
  • We work with industry to reengineer business processes to reduce business costs and improve efficiency.
  • World-leading researchers in the Health and Human Sciences Research Institute (HHSRI) conduct research into new means of drug delivery and ways to enhance patient safety, which is being rolled out across Europe.



Our posts are archived within these categories, listed on the right.

We are world-leaders in a number of fields:

You are welcome to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog at http://feeds.feedburner.com/hertsresearch or via a feed reader, such as Google Reader.

We welcome your comments.

Please observe the usual rules of civility and courtesy. To comment, please complete the form at the bottom of each post and we aim to respond within 48 hours.

If you would like further information about any of the posts, please email us at: research-blog@herts.ac.uk