Emeritus Prof. Alan Roberts
|Work Phone||(02) 4921 6067|
|Fax||(02) 4921 6021|
My interest in Bulk Solids Handling as a research field commenced when I was a part time undergraduate student completing a BE (Mechanical) degree at the University of New South Wales. My final year undergraduate honours project dealt with the performance of screw conveyors handling grain. Having no formal education in granular mechanics, I became interested in this subject and used the library to read any reference book and research paper that could provided the background I needed. The field of Soil Mechanics was one such field of great interest. I was encouraged to follow up my undergraduate project work and enrolled for a PhD degree which I completed in 1962 whilst appointed as a member of the academic staff in Mechanical Engineering at Wollongong University College, now, since 1975, The University of Wollongong. Becoming conscious of the significant problems occurring in industry, the field of Bulk Materials Handling became an obvious and challenging field in which to devote my research. On moving to the Chair of Industrial Engineering at Newcastle in 1974, I was appointed in that year as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (a position I held for 11 years) and also in 1974 I was elected Dean of the Faculty of Engineering (a position I held for 19.5 years). In 1975, I established the research and consulting group, TUNRA Bulk Solids Handling Research Associates (TBS). Over the 31 years of its existence, (TBS) has provided a great service to industry and is internationally recognized for its contribution to research and its industrial interactions. Currently TBS is completing around 150 projects a year with a consulting turnover exceeding $1.6m. Apart from Australia, TBS has undertaken work for some 40 countries world wide. Over the years, the research has been supported by grants from such bodies as the Wheat Industry Research Council, Commonwealth Rural Credits Research Fund, the ARGC (a forerunner of the ARC), the ARC, AMIRA and ACARP. In 1995 we were awarded an ARC Key Centre for Teaching and Research in Bulk Solids and Particulate Technologies (CBSPT). (We were one of 7 Key Centres funded out of 96 applications). This was a joint Centre embracing the Universities of Newcastle and Wollongong. It was my initiative to apply for this Centre and I became the Director of the Centre in 1995. While the funding cycle from the ARC was 6 years, the Centre continues to operate in a self supporting mode. The interactive roles of TBS and CBSPT has proved to be very successful and, apart from the service provided to industry, the overriding benefit lies in the interaction with the Faculty of Engineering through teaching and support of undergraduate and post graduate students.
- PhD (Mechanical Engineering), University of New South Wales, 1962
- Honorary Doctor of Science -University Wollongong, University of Wollongong, 1999
- Honorary Doctorate - University of Newcastle, University of Newcastle, 1995
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of New South Wales, 1956
- Diploma - Sydney Technical College (Honours), Sydney Technical College, 1951
- Bulk Solids Handling Technology
- Conveying and Transportation
- Particle Technology
- Solids handling and processing
As indicated above, my research career, which now spans a period of some 45 years, has been in various aspects of the field of Bulk Solids technology. The following subject areas are included:
- Characterisation of bulk solids in terms of flow properties taking account of loading and environmental conditions
- Flow patterns in bins and silos during the initial filling and discharge modes
- Development of special testing equipment such as the large inverted shear cells and the flowability, unconfined compression, test and vibrated shear cell test
- Loads in bin and silo walls taking account of the flow patterns, symmetrical loading and discharge and eccentric discharge
- Loads on buried structures such as conveyor trestles and columns buried in stockpiles
- Analysis and measurement of pulse load conditions during silo discharge under silo quaking conditions
- Stockpile base pressures and live capacity prediction during gravity reclaim
- Influence of vibrations on the discharge flow of bulk materials
- Feeder and hopper interfacing for uniform draw-down and uniform, non segregated discharge and feed.
- Blending and mixing of powders and bulk solids
- Performance analysis optimization of the design of feeding equipment including belt, apron, vibratory, screw, tube, table rotary valve, oscillating plate and plough feeders
- Transfer chutes for optimum performance and dust control
- Belt conveyor performance and design
- Performance of mechanical conveyors such as screw, vibratory conveyors and bucket elevators
- Optimising the design and performance of reactor vessels for bio-degrading domestic waste
- Dust control in load-out chutes and conveyor transfers
During my research career, I have found my background in applied mechanics and systems theory to be of great assistance. For example my teaching in optimization theory using Calculus of Variations and extensions of that into the Control Systems through such applications embraced by Pontryagins Minimum Principle has, early in my research career, encouraged me to examine such problems as optimizing the flow of granular materials through transfer chutes. Such problems are an extension of Bernoullis, classical Brachistochrone problem, but in the chute case, friction and other resistive effects cannot be ignored. Another area of early interest involved the application of pseudo-random binary noise and on-line cross correlation to identify dynamic models for chute flow and conveyor vibrations.
In the main my research is characterized by combinations of experimental and analytical methods, the analytical work being largely based on the fundamentals of applied mechanics. The overriding factor that governs the research arises from the problems in industry. Through our extensive consultative experience, there is no doubt that the problems in industry are orders of magnitude more difficult than the level of research knowledge to solve those problems. So we apply the research knowledge we have gained, supplemented by practical experience and basic engineering know-how to achieve solutions. Since research has to play a catch up role, our industrial consulting experience is invaluable providing the research directions for the students associated with our Centre.
Fields of Research
|091499||Resources Engineering And Extractive Metallurgy Not Elsewhere Classified||50|
|091399||Mechanical Engineering Not Elsewhere Classified||45|
|091599||Interdisciplinary Engineering Not Elsewhere Classified||5|
Centres and Groups
- Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER)
- PRC - Priority Research Centre for Advanced Particle Processing and Transport
- Fellow - The Australian Academy of Technology Sciences and Engineering (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering)
Centenary Medal - Commonwealth of Australia
Commonwealth of Australia (Australia)
This follows the Order of Australia awarded in 1992.
5th World Congress on Particle Technology
Beckman-Coulter, United States (Invited Beckman-Coulter Plenary Speaker )
Bulk Europe Conference
Vogel Transtech, Spain (Invited Opening Keynote Speaker)
International Materials Handling Conference
BELTCON 12, Spain (Invited opening Keynote Speaker)
My administrative experience at the University of Newcastle embraces 11 years as Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering, almost 20 years as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and 7 years as Director of the School of Engineering and Architecture, the latter being linked to one of the Universitys re-organizational phases. I have served on some 25 University committees, in some cases as Chairman and in other cases as a committee member. Outside the University, I have been involved with several Australia wide committees, notably those of the Institution of Engineers Australia and was responsible for the establishment of the National Committee of Bulk Materials Handling. I was the foundation Chairman of that committee. I became the Director of the Key Centre (CBSPT) when it commenced in 1995. With regard to TUNRA, I have been a Director on the Board of TUNRA since 1974 and the Director of TBS since 1975.
I was on the interim Board and later the Board of the Industry Technology Centre and the Industry Development Centre (IDC), as it is now known, and played a major role in having the Centre built on the Campus despite the push to have the Centre located elsewhere in Newcastle. During this formative period, an opportunity arose to have the IDC Annexe building located in Engineering.
During the latter phase of my term as Dean before I retired the end of 1993, I had an active role in liaising with the CEO of Pacific Power to have the Advanced Technology Centre Building located on the University Campus. This building is now part of the University being occupied by Connell Wagner and the University.
- Applied Mechanics
- Bulk Solids Handling Technology
- Particle Technology
- Systems Theory
During my long academic career, I have taught almost every subject in the undergraduate degree program in Mechanical Engineering with my main focus on focused on Applied Mechanics, Vibration Theory and Control Systems. In addition, I have had extensive experience in teaching at the post graduate level. My teaching experience has been mainly at the University of Wollongong and the University of Newcastle. Also during periods of sabbatical leave, I have taught courses in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Twente in the Netherlands. I have presented a number of guest lectures and seminars at several Universities such as Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, University of Braunschweig, Germany, UMIST Manchester UK and Telemark Institute of Technology, Norway.
In recent years, my main teaching is in the various subject areas of Bulk Solids Technology. Through the Key Centre, CBSPT, a coursework Masters degree, Master of Engineering Practice(MEngPrac) in Bulk Solids Handling, was established. This was quite a successful operation with subjects being offered on a 5 day intensive lecture basis followed by period of 12 weeks for assignment work. A work related project was included as part of the degree requirements. Course modules were offered at various locations throughout Australia as well as in South Africa.
I am still involved in running professional development courses for industry in the various areas of Bulk Solids technology. Currently, around 5 courses a year are being run. On some occasions, the courses are offered on an in-house basis for specific companies.