Hugo Williams: Biography & Research

Contact details and a list of publications are available on neighbouring pages.


Hugo studied Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol. He remained at Bristol to undertake a PhD in self-healing composite structures. Hugo's PhD demonstrated, for the first time, a sandwich structure designed and built with an effective self-healing system embedded. He also derived a biomimetic relationship for the optimum pipe diameter in engineering fluid distribution systems based on biological principle called Murray's Law.

On completion of his PhD, Hugo joined the Civil Nuclear Advanced Concept Team of a global power systems and service company. He was responsible for the initial technical and project management work required to mature ideas for new components or systems through the first stages of their 'lifecycle', in the process developing a broad understanding of nuclear reactor technology, safety systems, design and safety requirements. He also had a leading role in graduate engineer recruitment and training and uses this experience to enhance his teaching and student support.

In 2010, Hugo saw a rare opportunity to fuse his experience with aerospace and nuclear technologies and moved to the Space Research Centre within the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester to join a team led by Prof Richard Ambrosi initiating development of radioisotope power and thermal control systems for space applications.

Radioisotope power is a key 'enabling technology' for several future space missions. Hugo has played a leading role in the delivery of a number of successful research programmes including:

Hugo has also provided specialist polymer composite design and manufacturing support to the CFRP primary structural components of the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS) instrument. Development of this instrument has been led by the University of Leicester; it is due to launch in 2018 on ESA's BepiColombo mission to Mercury.



Current research

Hugo joined the Department of Engineering in October 2013. Hugo's particular research interests are multifunctional materials and systems - materials that do more than just perform a structural role. His current research activities are focussed on structural propeties of thermoelectric materials and modules, development of novel radioisotope ceramic surrogates and early-stage systems engineering of novel thermoelectric applications. This work forms part of the University of Leicester's leading role in the development of European capability in space radioisotope power systems.

He is currently PI of the European Space Agency funded Radioisotope Heater Unit Prototype Development contract.

Hugo has a number of active or recent collaborative projects or links with Universities (e.g. Queen Mary University of London), aerospace companies (e.g. Airbus Defence & Space, SEA Ltd), National Laboratories (e.g. NNL), SMEs and Space Agencies.



Memberships & professional activity

Hugo is a Chartered Engineer, Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

He has undertaken peer-reviews for leading international journals across a range of technical disciplines including: Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Journal of Intelligent Materials, Systems and Structures, Composites A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, Composites Science and Technology, Measurement, Advances in Space Research, Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers G: Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Annals of Nuclear Energy and Journal of Alloys and Compounds.

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