Imperial College London

Aeronautics Professor named RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies


Professor Emile Greenhalgh

Professor Emile Greenhalgh has been named RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies in support of his work on structural power composites.

This highly prestigious award is the first to be awarded to a Department of Aeronautics professor at Imperial College London. 

The chair sees £2.7 million awarded to Professor Greenhalgh over ten years, enabling him to focus on strategically advancing structural power composite technology through to various applications.

Structural Power

Professor Greenhalgh explains that the potential application areas of structural power are wide-ranging: “Potentially, structural power has application to basically anything that needs a battery. Therefore, this  emerging technology is likely to be everywhere: our phones, cars, computers, aircraft, medical devices, infrastructure will all be realised by structural power, so this engineering advance will absolutely be at the heart of society.”

Structural power composites, based on supercapacitors, are unique in that they have the capacity to both store and deliver electrical energy.  

In comparison, conventional batteries store a lot of electrical energy, but are unable to deliver energy quickly due to low power density. Normal capacitors have the opposite problem, providing very high power delivery but almost no energy storage. Supercapacitors fill in the gap, by providing a lot of power density and reasonable energy density. 

Furthermore, because structural composites store energy while performing a structural function, there are real opportunities for dramatic weight savings for devices and vehicles. For instance, due to its load, battery mass has hindered the development of electric vehicles and airliners. 

The implications for design are considerable: since the composite offers a completely new way to use engineering materials, there are significant opportunities for engineers to innovate and create. 

Emile adds “Even the fact that this technology provides an alternative way of storing energy means that it has the potential to have an effect on the design of things that never needed batteries before. By offering ‘massless energy’, structural power composites may eventually render conventional batteries redundant.”

The award underlines Professor Greenhalgh’s pedigree as a pioneer in this emerging technology, with an unmatched strategic vision to position the UK as a leader in developing structural power, and by extension to develop fully electric automotive and aerospace vehicles. Emile adds ”I am honoured to be given this excited opportunity by the Royal Academy of Engineering to expand this technology further.”

“I am honoured to be given this exciting opportunity by the Royal Academy to develop this technology” Professor Emile Greenhalgh Department of Aeronautics

You can keep up to date with the developments of Structural Power Composites Research Group on its website.


Tom Creese

Tom Creese
Department of Aeronautics

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