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Bristol academics receive Wolfson Research Merit Awards

17 March 2015

Two Bristol academics are among the 19 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders.

Professor Jonathan Bamber in the School of Geographical Sciences and Professor Martin Kuball in the School of Physics have both received the award for their research projects.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Wolfson Research Merit Award scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

Professor Bamber’s project, ‘Global Ice Mass Balance and Sea Level’, aims to unravel the complex factors that affect how glaciers and ice sheets respond to climate change.

Understanding and being able to predict the impacts of future climate change is one of the most important challenges facing the scientific community. One of the most serious impacts of climate warming is sea level rise. Land ice, which includes the ice sheets but also mountain glaciers around the world, have contributed more to sea level rise over the past few decades than any other source. Over the past 20 years, scientists’ ability to monitor glaciers and ice sheets has improved dramatically through the launch of ground-breaking satellite missions carrying new instruments and new observing concepts. The project will make use of data from satellite and ground-based observations to allow scientists to identify the different factors that have influenced sea level rise over the recent past and help improve predictions.

Professor Kuball’s research, ‘Gallium Nitride Diamond Electronics – Novel Thermal Management Concepts’, focuses on semiconductor electronic devices, in particular microwave and power electronic devices.

Semiconductor electronic devices have a major impact on our everyday lives all over the world. Microwave devices are found in mobile phone base stations. Power electronic devices keep our laptop batteries charged and ensure that solar panels generate environmentally green energy for our homes. For the past 50 years, microwave and power electronic devices have relied on traditional semiconductor materials such as Silicon and Gallium Arsenide. Using novel semiconductor devices like Gallium Nitride would reduce weight, increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption. However, power densities in these semiconductor electronic devices nowadays can reach levels equal to the surface of the sun. The research focuses on how to keep these device as cool as possible, for example using their integration with the highest thermal conductivity material known to mankind, diamond, and the reliability and lifetime of these new technologies.    

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. Founded in 1660, the Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

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