According to a recent analysis of
Essential Science Indicators from
Reuters, the work of Dr. Steve Beeby
has moved into thetop
1%in the field of Engineering. His
current record in this field includes 38 papers cited a
total of 251 times between January 1, 1998 and June 30,
2008. He also has a dozen additional papers in other
fields in the database.
Dr. Beeby is a Reader in the Electronic Systems & Devices
Group of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University
of Southampton in the UK.
In the interview below,
he talks with
about his highly cited work in
Please tell us a little about your research
and educational background.
I obtained a BEng Honours degree from the University of Portsmouth in 1992
and a Ph.D. from the University of Southampton in 1997. My Ph.D. research
was on the topic of micromachined silicon resonators, which provided an
excellent foundation in micromachining processes, micromechanical
structures, and MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) technologies
"Prosthetic limbs will without doubt
become more functional in the next few
I subsequently became involved in the development of smart materials
(primarily for MEMS applications) and their deposition by screen printing.
More recently I have led research activities at Southampton into vibration
What do you consider the main focus of your research,
and what drew your interest to this particular area?
Currently the main focus of my research is vibration energy harvesting.
This draws upon aspects of smart materials, electromagnetics, and
microfabrication processes and is a "hot" research topic at present. I was
lucky to be involved in this research at a very early stage (our first work
at Southampton started in 1998) and it is an exciting area to work in that
leads to many practical opportunities with external companies.
One of your most-cited papers in our database is the
1999 Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering article,
"Processing of PZT piezoelectric thick films on silicon for
micromechanical systems." Would you walk our readers through this
paper and its findings?
This paper considered the possibility of combining screen-printed
thick-film piezoelectric layers with micromachined silicon structures for
use in MEMS. It was an extensive practical exploration of the compatibility
of micromachining process with the deposited films. This included common
wet and dry etching processes and also investigated the influence of the
high firing temperature required for the piezoelectric film on the silicon
substrate and common electrode materials. This work identified a
fabrication process flow that does enable screen-printed piezoelectric
films to be used in MEMS as was demonstrated in subsequent publications.
Another of your highly cited papers is the 2004
Sensors and Actuators A-Physical paper, "An electromagnetic,
vibration-powered generator for intelligent sensor systems." Would you
please talk a little about this paper and its significance for the
"Currently the main focus of my
research is vibration energy
Our initial work at Southampton on vibration energy harvesting was based
upon piezoelectric thick-films but this did not deliver much power. We went
on to explore electromagnetic transduction mechanisms that are more
efficient at converting mechanical energy into electrical. This early paper
describes the design and performance of an electromagnetic circuit and
mechanical structure that together leads to an improved generator design
with significantly more output power. This work led to the formation of a
spin-off company from the University, called Perpetuum Ltd.
A couple of your papers discuss designs to improve the
functionality of a prosthetic hand device. Would you talk a little
about this aspect of your research?
Again this relates to screen printed thick-film sensors. Using the
screen-printing technology is a simple way of fabricating an array of
sensors that can detect grip force, object slip and temperature. The
resulting instrumented fingertip is very robust, low cost, and provides
additional functionality to the prosthetic hand. This functionality
includes the automated adjustment of grip should an object being held start
to slip, and provides a degree of control over grip force to help prevent
fragile object being broken.
Where do you see this research going in five to ten
Prosthetic limbs will without doubt become more functional in the next few
years. Time will tell if the thick-film sensors we demonstrated will be
exploited further but they certainly looked promising.
Dr. Steve Beeby
Electronic Systems & Devices Group
School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton